Shared Stories: Mama said

Dora Silvers recently celebrated her 90th birthday. In this piece, she recalls her mother and events in life by what by what her mother said. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Dora Silvers
I was living in New Jersey. When I was 14 years old, I went roller skating on the hill behind my house. I fell and hurt my knee. I took the skates off and went in my house.

Mama was in the kitchen. She said, “Sit down and I will give you a cookie. You will feel better.”

I modeled in a dress shop on Saturdays. The girls I went to high school with went to Vassar College. Their mothers came to buy them clothes. I modeled sweaters and skirts. I would tell them the sweaters came in pink, blue, and yellow. They would buy them all. I got a commission.

The owner of the shop was my girlfriend’s aunt. Mrs. Stein gave me money to go to New York to the Barbizon School for modeling. You had to be 5’8’’ or taller. I was 5’4’’.  

I was disappointed. Mara said, “Be a model in the dress shops. You get commissions.” My daughter Nancy is 5’2”. She was a Wendy Wold model.

Then I went to work as a secretary for engineers at American Can Company. The engineers taught me to read blueprints and plan jobs. They just returned from the army and went to school under the GI Bill. The engineers collected $200 so I could go to college.

The next day I went to the college. They said they would not accept women in 1946. Mama said, “Be a secretary.”

I was sweeping the kitchen floor when my girlfriend Sylvia came in. I swept the dust behind the pantry door.

Mama said, “Your boyfriend will leave you behind the door.”

When I met Jack, he told Mama that he did not cook. He lived with his married sister.

Mama said, “How will he take care of you if he can’t cook?” Well, he bought TV dinners and chow mein – enough for two days.

Mama listened to the soap operas on the radio. The only thig I remember was Rinso White, Rinso Blue. One day she dialed a different station and heard the song “Que sera, sera, what will be, will be.”  

Then Mama said, “What will be, will be.”  

Sadly, Mama is gone. The song lingers on. “Que sera, sera, what will be, will be.”