To Catherine Lathron, nothing that has happened since 1915 is really a big deal. Again and again she said she "thought nothing of it." But the scenes she remembers from her life are those that we understand only through books and The History Channel – and they seem like a big deal.
Lathron grew up in Rochester. Some things escape her memory after over 90 years of life, but she holds on to many things – vignettes in her memory that she relays with pride and spunk.
She remembers walking. Her father had an automobile, but the family couldn't afford to drive it away from the city and gas was three cents a gallon. "If we had to go anywhere out of the house, we walked," she said. "We were on the borderline between having a little and having nothing."
Financial hardship was an ever-present, if unwelcome companion, which explains why her father had to contract masonry work and run a farm. She remembers her family couldn't afford many animals. Instead, "You grew the fruit and sold that – that's what kept you alive, really … you accept these things and think nothing of it!"
She remembers the tomatoes on the farm especially, and the spaghetti that they made. At one point, Lathron asked my nationality, and I returned the question. "Italian!" she beamed, "All the way through!" Both of Lathron's parents were immigrants, and spaghetti was a staple for many families of the families she knew. "They all cooked it a little bit different, but they cooked it the way you liked it," she said.
Looking back, meals were important to Lathron's family. Today, she is solemnly grateful that her family came together to eat. "That makes a big difference," she said. "When you're home for lunch or any of the meals, that's the big thing because the little bit of talking you do, you do there. The little bit of arguing you do, you do there."
She also remembers school. She went to West High, and she and her three siblings were among the few white students there. This didn't bother her in the least. "They were all nice," she said. "I hope they thought the same of me." In those uncertain times, Lathron traded the worry and doubt surrounding her for hard work and baseball. "That's the only game I liked was baseball … I miss it too," she said.
She married her husband John after finishing school. A hard worker, John was good to her and their children and she recalled his clean-shaven face. After inspecting my attempt at facial hair, she asked, "Are you lettin' a beard grow?" I asked if I should shave it, and she said, "If you were mine you would! I really don't like beards."
When engaging in conversation, Lathron lets her entire life come through her eyes. You see segmented stories – pieces of a continuous narrative that end with a proud, feisty woman. Though such a view is a rare privilege, she will only say to "think nothing of it."