We have all seen President Obama’s ‘The Life of Julia’ and understand the editorial beauty of designing a life on paper that few if any will achieve. Another promise by a politician of the easy life which will never unfold. On the other hand is the reality of pride and self-reliance which has actually made America the great country it is today. At this time in our country’s history, we are in danger of losing that pride and self-reliance that fueled our parents, grand-parents and the generations before them to achieve their American Dream. Here is the story and achievements of one such woman…
The Life of Josephine
When Josephine is five years old, her mother dies unexpectedly leaving behind sixteen children including a new born baby. Josephine is raised by her father and her older sisters who take on not only her care but her education. In spite of the hole in her heart from the loss of her mother, Josephines childhood is happy one thanks to her loving father and brothers and sisters.
Josephine marries Louis-Phillipe at age 25. Children start to come and they are born at home. Louis-Phillipe pays off doctor bills through hard work, entailment’s and labor.
Josephine and Louis-Phillipe leave off farming and head for a new life on the coast. With six children in tow, they arrive at a relative’s house where they lodge temporarily. Louis-Phillipe takes a job as a longshoreman despite the fact that he is only 4’11”. Josephine secures housing for her family, once in a converted chicken coop, for a time in a Church hall, and finally in a rental house where Josephine misleads the landlord as to how many children she has. When the landlord makes an unexpected visit, he is impressed by the way Josephine maintains the home and her children. He allows them to stay.
Josephine sends her oldest son, Roger, to a Catholic school run by nuns. The school is in the heart of their little french community, but the nuns teach in English so that the children will learn the language. Roger doesn’t speak English, so he is sent back a grade. He is bullied and teased and learns how to take and give a punch. One particular kid teases him so much he eventually becomes his best friend and brother-in-law. Roger learns to speak English and develops a lifelong admiration for the sisters.
Louis Phillipe takes Roger down to the river on his days off and together they salvage wood which they use to build a house. Once finished, they sell the house and with the proceeds are able to buy another on a three acre property. Josephine maintains a garden for the family and keeps chickens and a cow that she milks herself. Louis-Phillipe fixes up and adds on to the house bit by bit as their finances allow.
Josephine gives birth to her 9th child. The baby is sick and must stay in the hospital. Josephine pumps milk at home and 12-year-old Roger takes the bottle to the hospital for his baby sister. Baby Genevieve passes away, Josephine and Louis-Phillipe bury their daughter.
Roger graduates high school and takes a job at the mill. He and his brothers and sisters work and contribute their paychecks to the family. One daughter shows an aptitude for college and with the family’s pooled resources they pay for her university education and she gets her teaching degree. Roger gets married, and when his first son is about to be born, he is laid off. It’s Christmas, so Roger sells Christmas trees to get by. Roger buys a backhoe and starts hiring himself out to construction companies. Eventually he starts his own company; working dawn to dusk six days a week begins to pay off. It is a good year when Roger is able to present his parents and his younger siblings with a color T.V. for Christmas.
Louis-Phillipe passes away when Josephine is 65. She lives on Louis-Phillipe’s longshoreman pension and her own Social Security. She sells off portions of her property to add to her income.
Children grown, Josephine uses her savings to travel. She keeps herself busy and attends daily Mass. Children and grandchildren fill the house for Sunday dinners. At Christmas, every grandchild gets a present, and no birthday passes without a small check from Grandma Josephine. Josephine buries another child, watches her grandchildren marry, and becomes a great-grandmother many times over. Her birthday celebrations are joyful events.
Josephine is getting old and the little house which has grown from two bedrooms to five is too big for her. Once set on the outskirts of town, the neighborhood has built up around it and it is now on a busy street. Josephine moves to a small apartment.
Josephine passes away at 89 with her surviving 9 children by her side. Her descendants number 99 when they gather to mourn and to celebrate the life of their revered matriarch. Amazingly, Josephine is able to leave something for each of her children and grandchildren. All of this accomplished without ever having received a welfare check.
Josephine is not a composite, nor is she fictional. Her blood runs in my veins. The number of her descendants is now over 150 and growing, and they still possess an enviable esprit de coeur. It is the Josephines of the world that we have to thank for forging great nations and showing us how to achieve lofty goals. Cradle to grave government dependents like the fictional Julia that we met this week would never board a rickety ship to an unknown land or trek across the country in a covered wagon to start a new life. Julias don’t toil and struggle for what they want, they are insulted even at the suggestion. They don’t leave rich legacies like the Josephines of the world, nor do they inspire or compel others to try and do better for themselves.
God help those who think we should aspire to become a nation of Julias.
J.C., May 4, 2012, Pasadena Ca.
President Obama wants to give you his version of an American Dream. I want my children and my grandchildren to learn about pride and self-reliance in order to have their own American Dream and this November I will be casting my vote for Josephine and not for Julia. What about you?