Filomena Lorenti

June 23, 2019 Share

Growing Up

My Family

My father was Emilio, and my mother was Rose. My father came from Italy, and my mother was born here. He made grain for animals and she was a housewife.

I remember my parents, how good they are. They raised me up to what I am today and I thank them for it. They were a little bit on the strict side, but I’m grateful for it because I grew up to be respectful. When you were told something, you would have to do it. If we didn’t behave, oh, we’d get a good spanking.

Despite having strict parents, Filomena once skipped school to see Gone with Wind while it was still in theaters. At the time, it only cost a nickel. Source: Wikimedia Commons

I was treated very fairly in my family. If I got a penny, everyone would get a penny. In my day, for a penny you bought a cup of lemon ice. You could get a cup for 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents – the more money you had, the more ice you’d get. Lemon ice was delicious in those days. They always came in fresh. They were so good. I wish I could have them again.

The best gift I received was a doll my father gave me during the holidays. I brought her everywhere, and she had wavy black hair like me. My favorite color was blue so she wore a blue dress.



Cooking with Grandma

My grandmother also used to live with us. My mother was a sick woman, and it was hard for her to take care of me, my sisters, and brother. But my grandmother was there for us and I thank her so much for that. I loved her so much.

I used to do so much with her. I would say, “Grandma, can we go to the store?” She was Italian, and I spoke Italian very well then, and we used to go out together and go shopping.

I used to help her with cooking. That’s what made me a great cook today. I saved mostly her pasta recipes. My favorite childhood food was pasta!

Making pasta helped Filomena connect with her Italian heritage. Source: Pixabay

My favorite pasta dish to make is lasagna. We used to make it layer by layer, with sausage filling, or meatball filling. You baked it until it was high. You’d cut it piece by piece. I really didn’t have a recipe, I would just cook on my own.

I just cook what I want to cook, and how I want to cook.

The pies she used to make, I could never make. She used to make a lot of pies for Easter. Grain pie, egg pie, sausage pie. She’d do at least 4 pies and she’d do them all herself.

Grain pie, also called pastiera napoletana, is a traditional Italian tart made with wheat, eggs, ricotta, and orange flower water. It is typically eaten at Easter. Source: Mattia Luigi Nappi

For Christmas, we used to make chicken, ham, and a roast beef. And of course all types of vegetables and potatoes. We’d make some feast. Our holidays with the family, they had to be done the right way. We did so much cooking, when you have to cook for a whole family.

It’s because of my grandmother too that I became who I am today. She taught me respect. That was the most important thing. I taught my children the same values. I also grew them up to respect each other and all people.



Sweet Work

When I was of age to go to work, I worked in a candy factory. It was a big candy company at the time. I did the packing of the orders that need to be shipped out. It was 9 to 5, with a lunch break. You’d get 10-15 minutes in the afternoon and then you were back on the job.

If you work on the belt, you gotta be fast. Packing that candy, I would think, “Why can’t I take a piece?” But don’t be caught eating a candy because you would be fired! On the spot! You had to be smart enough not to touch that candy.

I liked my job, I didn’t want to lose it. I discovered that I was very good at my work. My foreman would tell me I was doing well, and I enjoyed my job. We were all young – he was good-lookin’ too! Man was he good-lookin! He wasn’t one of those tough guys, he was lenient and made our job easy .

The crimping department of the Elmer Candy Company Factory in New Orleans. C. 1917. Source: LSU Digital Library

Who you work with means a lot. We were only about 3 girls. There weren’t too many working there, but we used to go out for lunch together. We also helped one another. We would go out bowling after work. We used to get out on Fridays at 3 o’clock, because it was a Jewish company.

I really enjoyed working, believe it or not. It was very nice. I had a good time when I was young.

Money plays an important role in your life. If you don’t have money, you can’t buy a loaf a bread. During my time it was terrible because you went to work, made maybe $25 a week. And once they took this out and that out – union, state tax, city tax, I would come home with $20.

That doesn’t go a long way, even in my time. It was very hard during those time. And that played an important role in my life, because it was very hard to buy things that I wanted, things that I needed. My husband also worked, and I did some work, and we put our money together.

The Love of My Life

I was so happy the day when I was introduced to my husband through my sister’s husband. They worked together. She was bringing food to her husband, and my future husband was there. And he tips his hat and says, “Good morning Miss.” Such a gentleman, he sure charmed me. I had told my sister, “That’s my future husband.” She had said, “What! What’s the matter with you?”

Well, I said I know what’s the matter with me! I said, alright, I’m getting a hold of him! And I did! I got him! I set my goal on him and I got him. I don’t think they were trying to set me up. But since they worked together I was introduced to him. 

The day I got married was a beautiful day. March 31, 1951. I remember it well, it was the greatest day of my life. I had a beautiful white gown. We had a nice house wedding, we couldn’t afford a venue. All my friends and relatives had a good time. I had plenty of food, plenty of soda. No liquor, because me and my husband didn’t drink. You want liquor, you bring it because I got nothing in my house! I had a beautiful cake ordered. Beautiful cream all around, a sponge inside, with strawberry filling.

Although this wedding dress is from 1948, similar styles lasted well into the 1950s. Source: GadoImages

When I got married, my husband and I moved into our own apartment. I think it was on 72nd street. I loved that apartment. It had a living room on one side, a dining room on another. My bedroom was in the back, away from the kitchen and dining room. It was private and quiet. We were very happy there. I raised my firstborn there. Then when I moved, I had my other two. A home is what you make of it. And I made it. I made it my home, my husband’s home, and my children. But it got too crowded with 3 children, my husband and I!



A Wonderful Man

My husband made me laugh. I remember when we were on our honeymoon. It was April Fool’s Day. I didn’t know it was April Fool’s Day. So he says to me, “Hurry up! Jump out of bed! There are bed bugs in there!” I jumped out of bed, and screamed “Oh my God!” He said, “It’s April Fool’s Day you know!” And I said, “You scared me to death!” He was great. We had almost 60 years together and he would always make me laugh. He was always fooling around, a very happy easy-going man. He’d always try to make sure things didn’t bother him. I always think about that day when April comes! I think I jumped into the ceiling! We had a good laugh.

My husband was a very nice and gentle man. He helped me with everything. He was the most wonderful man you could ever meet. We did everything together, we walked together, we shopped together, we went to church together, and we sat down and ate together. We’d go to Dunkin’ Donuts maybe two or three times a week. Usually we would split a donut and have coffee. It would make a nice morning and afternoon. Not one of us sat without the other. He helped me with housework! He would even help me mop my floors, clean furniture.

Source: Pixabay

He was so wonderful for his children. Never said no to them, if they asked help from their dad, he was there. If the grandchildren asked him for help, he was there for them. No matter what time of day or night, he was there for them. He was a real family man. He was so good to anybody who needed him.

We had a good life, 60 years together. I never found a day boring with my husband. I loved him and he loved me. We had a real romantic love together. God was good to me. And I thank Him for every day that we were together.

My husband was a very sick man before he died. He had a blood infection. My doctors didn’t understand where he got it from. He had no IV, no blood transfusion, he had nothing, but my doctors could not understand it. It got so bad, that’s what made him pass away. You know I’m almost glad that God took him, because I couldn’t stand to see him that way. One day I’m going to meet him again and I’m going to ask him “Why did you leave me?” But he was such a wonderful man and God was good to us.

I keep dreaming of my husband. I see him and we’re talking. We’re doing things that we used to do. I always dream of my husband. I loved him very much and he loved me. When I sleep, he’s always in my room. I just can’t let him go. One day I will see him. I pray to God that he is at peace now. And he knows how much I love him.

I don’t know why I lived longer but I guess it’s up to God when he wants you! He’s given me 93 years and many days. And I thank him for it.



A Mother’s Love

The happiest day of my life was the day of my firstborn came into this world. When they bring that little thing in your arms, oh what a happy day that is. And you know he’s well and healthy. They make you hold him, you know, let you hold him for a little while. And they let you feed him. Oh that was the happiest day. Outside of my husband, and getting married, this was the happiest day. I had a happy life thank God. When they put that little bundle in your arms, oh there’s nothing like it, believe me. You look down, “Oh I gave birth to this one! I finally got rid of it!” Now I have 4 grandchildren and 1 great-granddaughter.

Children playing with toys in a store. 1960. Source: Wikimedia Commons

My children have great personalities. We’ve done so much together. It’s easing up a little now because we’re not as young as we used to be. But I do see them. My daughter called me from Pennsylvania only yesterday. We talked for a while. Then my little angel, my great granddaughter came on the phone. She says, “Hi Gigi! How are you doing?” I said “I’m doing great sweetheart.” “Oh good Gigi.” I think she’s going to be 6 years old. She’s a very smart little girl, and she loves school. She’s doing well too! Thank God she likes school and she’s doing well.



September 11, 2001

The greatest historical even I lived through was the bombing of the Twin Towers. I lost a lot of friends and I almost lost my daughter. She was on the 95th floor at the time. There was no way of her of getting down because the stairs were gone. It was dark, there was no way of getting out. So what they did was they picked her up by helicopter. She was four months pregnant at the time, and they put her down onto the street.

South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Source: Wikimedia Commons

After that, my daughter had to find her way home. She had to walk all the way home, from there to Brooklyn. We were all waiting for her, crowding all around the television, hoping for good news about her.

When we saw her coming down that street, that was the greatest day of my life – that I have my daughter.

I lost a cousin, and I lost friends. They all worked at the Twin Towers. It seemed like everybody worked there. It was a horrible day.

But I thank God my daughter was safe and they got her home. The baby was safe. It was a day to remember and not to remember. I must say the firefighters, the police, and the aides all did a great job. We had to live through the loss, but luckily I was able to wait for the day my granddaughter was born.

I think I have a good personality. I like to be friendly, with my friends, my neighbors. Even with my aides, I am very friendly so they’re very nice to me and we’re on good terms. I try to be as nice as possible. I’ve had a very good life. Thank God.

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