Aunt Lily

May 3, 2016

She married when I was 7 years old, breaking my heart. More a mother to me than my mother, she was not only leaving home, but moving with her new husband to Boston—which for me was some vague place as far-away as the moon. She said I would visit her, she said it would be the same, she said we would still be close. But even at the age of 7, I knew better. She would have her own children and a different life. I couldn’t stop weeping.

 

Born in 1894 she was placed with her sisters—my mother, Florence, and Mabel—in The Jewish Orphan Home in Cleveland, Ohio. Florence was 3, Lily 4 and Mabel, 6. Separated from her sisters, she was shorn and scrubbed in a scalding- hot pool, put into a dress that itched summer and winter and assigned a bed in the dormitory. Awakened at 5:45 every morning and called by her row to the washroom, she saw twenty faucets which shot ice cold water. Breakfast was a kind of gruel without milk or sugar, stale coffee, a slice of bread covered lightly with margarine. 

 

She worked in the kitchen, dormitory, and laundry, sweeping, scrubbing, washing, ironing. Carefully prepared along with the other girls to be a wife and mother and, if unmarried, a domestic servant. She was warned against being a stenographer or saleslady where temptation and corruption lurked to lead her astray...

 

 

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