What follows is a short story from Rosemary’s past. After talking with her, I have taken our discussion and turned it into a series of small stories highlighting the incredible life that she has led. Direct quotes from our discussion are highlighted in quotation marks. All else is a retelling written by yours truly.
The first real move, the first real time you uproot your life, is never easy. Taking your memories and your belongings and sending them to a whole new country, a strange new world with a different language and customs. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a few hours flight away or halfway across the world.
No, the first real move was never easy. And to add to all the new of this first move to Sicily, Rosemary had another new that she had to come to grips with.
She was pregnant.
It was her first pregnancy and she had no idea what to do.
The trouble was that Rosemary was in her early twenties and – in her own words – immature. She was like many of us at that age. She lived in the moment, not really worrying about what came next and what the next challenge would be. She just sort of moved through life.
Talk about a trial by fire. There was an English-speaking doctor in Palermo and the plan was to go there for the baby to be delivered. But plans don’t always work out, especially when your baby arrives two weeks early. So when the time came, neither Bill nor Rosemary knew what to do. Bill went to talk to the landlord to see if they could help and the landlord promptly summoned the local midwife.
“This was about 4 in the morning. They [the landlords] were such nice people. They were like grandparents to us and I’m sure we were grandkids to them. Clueless. Not all grandkids are clueless but we were. He called the midwife and she came. She didn’t speak a word of English and she was huge and she was dressed all in black and she said ‘well, it’s going to be here by nine in the morning’.”
At the time it was believed that home births were the natural thing and Rosemary remembers reading a book – she forgot the name – about why it is so important. But as she reflects on that day she realises how lucky she was, how God was with her and protecting her. Everything went smoothly. But if there were any hiccups, any complications, things would have changed very quickly. Years later, the general understanding would change and she would be required to go to hospital to give birth.
So with no family – and only Bill who spoke any real English – Rosemary gave birth in her tiny little apartment in Sicily. It was a boy, her first child, and she had no idea what to do. She was told she had to stay in bed for twelve days and so she did. A local girl that they knew was hired as a carer for Rosemary, to help her around the house while she raised her new-born.
A month later she was on a plane back to the UK. Their time in Sicily had come to an end and Rosemary, who wasn’t well – she had lost a lot of weight after spending twelve days in bed and had contracted Colitis–, was looking forward to coming back to the family and the help that she desperately needed.
It was a challenging time for Rosemary. As she talked to me about her experience she told me how much things had changed, how back in the day there was much that you weren’t taught growing up and that you couldn’t learn by just looking it up on your phone. You were taught by your parents when the time came.
“Well that’s alright in some ways but when you’re not with your parents when you grow up you still don’t know anything. So it was a steep learning curve, but one I badly needed.”
Life from here on out would be a series of steep learning curves. While never fun, they would be experiences that she would face and adapt to as the time came.
Rosemary is now a great-grandmother with children and grandchildren – and great-grandchildren – spread around the world.
Stay tuned for more stories from the life of Rosemary. Please note: these stories will not necessarily hold any chronological grounding. They are designed as snippets of understanding into the life of Rosemary and while some will hold chronology, others may not.