Pittsburgh Oral Histories Pennsylvania Department Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

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1 Pennsylvania Department Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh MB Interviewed by Barry Chad Interviewed over tea at her home in Hazelwood Transcribed Reviewed by mail and by phone Interviewer s Note This young woman has not had a simple or an easy life. It has been a life colored by adversities but matched by resilience. Adversity has not dampened her lifeaffirming attitude that she herself typifies as a glow. A glow which is perceived by many who come in contact with her, she emphasizes. The hospitality of her charming new home was pronounced. She has not been dismayed, over the years, by numerous changes of address and less-than-ideal living situations. This is a young lady who has one foot in the everyday world and another foot in the world of dreams, which speak to her of her mother, of a beloved pet and which sustain and support her in a less-than-compassionate, less-than-understanding world. With a strong, outgoing personality, she admits to being a deep person who is still feeling her way in this world. Interview bc: We re in Hazelwood now, right? MB: Yes. bc: Have you always lived in Hazelwood? MB: No. bc: Where have you lived? MB: Well, the first place I ever lived was in the Hill District by the Civic Arena [also known as Mellon Arena]. I lived there [for only] a few months and then I moved to Westgate Westgate Village, that s Broadhead Manor. I moved there and I stayed there for a number of years. I think I was seven when I moved out there. I left when I was 13. [And then I lived a number of different places due to family difficulties.] And then my first apartment I was living on Semple Street [in Oakland]. That was my very first apartment. I was 19 or 20 when I moved there. It was a good experience for me. I finally lived on my own. It was kind of scary, but kind of exciting too. And then I moved from there. (I didn t stay there that long.) I moved to Bloomfield and it was a house, like a house apartment. And I had the first floor so it was kind of like I had my own house cause in the front it was all mine. And that was pretty neat. I had a porch swing. And I had a little yard. It was pretty exciting living there. (But, since I was still too young, I didn t stay there long. I always moved around. I never stayed in one place for too long.) Page 1 of 5

2 But, now that I m older I m 31-years-old now I m a little more stable. Once I moved from Bloomfield, I moved to Shadyside on Fifth Avenue, the main drag between Fifth Avenue and South Aiken. I lived there for ten years. Everybody was so friendly and helpful and encouraging. And D. has been my friend for over 13 years well, it will be 13 years this July. [Also, I ve traveled to Philadelphia to visit my brother and I stayed there briefly. I also stayed briefly in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.] [This interviewer takes note of MB s two cats. She replies:] I had my first pet as an adult. His name was Junior. He was a cat. He was like a brownish, blackish, grayish type cat. He was pretty nice: he was like a person. He would show affection--something like and even perhaps more so like these two cats that I have here, Cuddles and Lydia. He was kind of more like a person-type cat: he had a person-type of personality. And it was really pretty neat. But I couldn t have him in my apartment in Shadyside. My landlord, when I moved in, said that I couldn t have pets, but I wanted one so bad. So I snuck him in anyway. [She chuckles.] And the landlord finally saw him so I had to give him away. It was sad. But I got over it cause he s only a cat. Cats are not like people. You lose a cat, you get another one. People are more like you lose a person, you can t find another one like them. You have to hold on to the one you have. After that, I got a rabbit even though the landlord said no more pets. (You see, the reason the landlord saw the cat is because he was in a window.) And rabbits don t like to do that; they stay in the cage. The rabbit s name was Daisy. She was brown and white. She was so beautiful! But, she was not a friendly rabbit. She wasn t very loving. When I [gave her away], I got another cat. His name was Boris and he is now with my friend D. [Boris s name has been changed to Fluffy. Now, I didn t name him Fluffy when I got him, I named him Boris. D. changed his name cause he didn t look like a Boris. He looked more like a Fluffy. ] When I left Shadyside, I came here next. I left Shadyside April 23, I moved out. I bought this house. bc: You ve lived all over the city. MB: Yes, yes I have. bc: You started out as a small child in the Hill District. MB: I lived on what used to be called Roberts Street. My mother and father, they owned a home there. From the age of two I lived with my aunt, my mother s sister. And I lived with my aunt til I was 13. bc: And where did you go to school? MB: The first school I ever went to was Fairywood, that s in Westgate Village. (It used to be called Fairywood.) I went straight to first grade; I didn t even go to kindergarten or preschool. I went straight to first grade. After that I went to Thaddeus Stevens, which is also out in Westgate. I met my best friend there J.S. she s a white female. Dark hair, brown eyes. She was the best friend. I love her. We did everything together. We used to skip classes. [She laughs.] And Page 2 of 5

3 it was so fun; it was so fun skipping classes with her. It was really fun. (I know that s not good, but it was kind of fun.) [At Thaddeus Stevens] I ended up joining the music classes. The music class was great. I was in the chorus. It was so good; it was so nice. [Especially the Holiday presentation that we put on.] bc: Are you still involved in singing? MB: No, I can t carry a tune now. [She laughs.] When I was younger, I used to have a nice voice. I used to be able to hit those high notes. Not anymore. But the music class was fun and it was exciting. [And, I went on with my schooling and, eventually, I gained a high school diploma. There s my high school diploma on the wall behind you.] bc: What has your work experience been like? MB: I used to work at Christopher s on Mount Washington. It was a fancy, classy restaurant. They had one of those elevators where you could see the view. I was a dishwasher when I worked there. [Eventually they went bankrupt.] They fed us before we started working and it was so fancy and classy. I loved it. I ve also helped out old folks. [That goes back to when I was five-years-old.] An old woman, blind and with one leg--she was my Godmother s grandmother. No one asked me to do this; I volunteered. I was looking forward to helping her out. I stayed with her for a while. (That also was in the Hill District. On Elmer Square.) I d help her in her wheelchair get back and forth to the bathroom. And also, I used to do her hair. I used to sit on the top of the couch behind her and do her hair put little pony tails in her hair like a little kid. We would chat about a lot of things. And she would give me snuff too! [MB laughs.] She would put snuff down in her mouth. And I d say, What is that, grandma? And she says, Oh that s snuff. And I d say, Can I have some? And she d say, Oh sure. Hold your mouth open. Hold your bottom lip open. And I didn t like it. [I guess that early experience led me, as an adult, to volunteer at a nursing home in Shadyside.] bc: What else has involved your time and your energies over the years? MB: I was working on a book about myself. I have yet to finish it. bc: How much did you get done? MB: I got to when I was 15 and I stopped. bc: If you could get wrapped up in some kind of a career, what would you like to do? MB: I would like to be a lawyer, a criminal lawyer. bc: You re very well spoken; you could probably make a presence in court. MB: I would defend criminals--instead of putting them in jail or giving them the electric chair. bc: Have you thought about Social Work as a career? MB: Yes, I like to talk to people try to fix things. I m always solving other people s problems instead of my own. bc: So how did you find this charming house? Page 3 of 5

4 MB: Well, actually, my friend D. found this house in the Greenfield Grapevine newspaper. And I fell in love with it the first moment I saw it. [Thank God for placing me in a house on a nice street, a quiet street.] For shopping, the closest Giant Eagle is in Greenfield. bc: Do you have hobbies? MB: Yes, I like writing poems. Here s a poem here in my book that I have. This is my poem. bc: I m looking at a hardbound book titled Dance Upon the Shore: The National Library of Poetry, Richard Schaub, editor, published in 1997 and MB has a poem included in this volume and I am going to read that aloud: I Looked Into Her Eyes As I looked into her eyes I saw a tear crawl down her face I asked her what s the problem she said he got away I said please tell me what happened because I just don t understand She said I thought I had survived it but the pain won t disappear Well if you look inside your heart the answers are with you The tears you feel must fall at last to heal your shattered dreams Did you find yourself in trouble more alone than you can bear She was on her way to catch a plane and fly up in the air And then I ran up to catch her to tell her it s okay She said no one has my answers and turned and walked away After many years of struggling she learned to accept the past She moved on to the future she was happy at last The man she thought would marry her he said she is the best MB: I have another poem, which is not in that book. I know it by heart. bc: Please, recite it if you will. MB: As time goes on my love will lift For you inside I present this gift My love is forever and will never end And so is this gift I m about to send So when it looks at you I hope you will see Which really there is really me Like any other there are two sides of me One you observe and one you can t see So look at them both as you read each line And feel the sense that I have in mind For I am no master with the gift of love But know what I seek and search for above For I do not look in a manner of lust But simply a man I know I can trust As I pass by and see you each day Page 4 of 5

5 I ll wait for the moment that you might say With all your compassion you look for one too So offer your love as I do to you Pittsburgh Oral Histories MB: The title is Precious Love. bc: Do you write a lot? MB: No, not recently or lately. I have this Gameboy that seems to be my life now. bc: From things you ve said and from the way your home is decorated, religion seems to be very important to you? Would you care to talk about that? MB: Yes, but I m not overly religious. I do believe. And I go to church every Sunday. East Suburban Community Church. I get into my moments where I sing to God different songs. It doesn t have to be Christian or religious songs. It could be any song. And I don t sing out loud: I sing in my head. (It s kind of like you re reading to yourself. Cause God can hear your thoughts.) I was 27 when I wanted to turn my life around. bc: What was it like before then? MB: It was kind of rough, but I was led to turn my life around. [A closing poem by MB titled:] Love from Above Did you ever love a person, but know they didn t care? Did you ever feel like crying, though from it you d get nowhere? Did you ever look into their eyes and say a little prayer? Did you ever look into their heart and hoped that you were there? Did you ever feel like crying with the lights way down low, and whisper, God, I love you, and never want to let you go? My hope for those and those like those is that their hearts of stone, God will change to be the hearts of flesh, for love comes from God alone. Yes, God is love and love is patient, Love is kind, love is different than what one will find, in this evil world that is fueled by hatred, greed, vanity and lust; It s lamentable when we forget who we are mud, dirt, clay, physical dust. Despite of what is going on, Our motive for our attitudes, for what we think, say and do, our motive has to be love. Love from above. Page 5 of 5

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