I had the privilege to interview Sara after she turned 104, as a staff writer for a local newspaper.
Sara’s brother taught her to dance the Charleston when he returned home from World War I, much to the chagrin of her very strict Italian immigrant parents. She never dated her husband Vito unchaperoned until she married him when she was 17, in what she hinted at was an arranged marriage.
And she spends her days reading romances.
In the days before e-readers, everyone knew what you were reading.
I really started to devour romances when my children were babies. I got disdainful looks from people at the beach, my daughter’s dance class and on airplanes after they glanced at the cover. I wrote a couple, had an agent for one year, but no success.
I finished college with my journalism major and got a job as staff writer where I’ve been for 17 years.
I got serious about writing romance again as our nest emptied. I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and got some real help, guidance and encouragement, and have eight books under contract with Black Opal Books. Four are out, “Under the Riptides,” “Reclaiming Lexi,” “Double Dare, and “In the Depths,” (just released) “Maybe your next one will be a mystery,” my 83-year-old mother has said more than once. And my father, also 83, says, “It’s not that I wouldn’t read a book with that content…it’s that my daughter wrote it.”
I get it.
Then I think of Sara.
She lives on her own in an apartment (not assisted living) throughout the week and her family takes her out on the weekends. I asked her how she spent her time, and what her favorite things were, did she watch TV?
“I don’t watch TV,” she said. “I read.”
“What?” I asked.
She held up the current one she was reading and pointed to a neat stack she had on a table in her tidy apartment.
She raised two daughters with Vito. When her daughters were teenagers, Sara worked for the war effort during World War II in a plant in Detroit that made airplanes.
“They call me Rosie the Riveter,” she said. “If you don’t put the rivets on the right place, the planes might have blown up. When the war was over, they fired everybody to call the former workers back, but they kept me. It was nice. I had a lot of friends there,” she said.
The company wanted her to work the night shift, but her husband didn’t want her to work nights, so she quit.
She was married to Vito for 56 years until he passed away in the 1985. She didn’t remarry.
And now she gets in lost love stories, as I do, reading them and writing them.
I don’t know that Sara will read my stories, or if she is still with us.
But she is still with me, with every word I write.