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Of all the people in my family, there is one person who has seen,
heard, smelled, watched, and felt the most. Her name is Anna Difatta Bourgeois, and she is my great-grandmother. She was born on August 25, 1911, which means she is almost 99 years old. She is this little bitty 100% Italian woman with blondish white hair and blue eyes and boy does she have spunk. Ask her anything, if her hearing aids are in, and she’ll answer as best as she can. Due to her age, she has a little trouble articulating details, so some information may be brief.
She lives in her own condo, and she takes care of herself. When I first asked her to tell about her life, she started off explaining her everyday life. She likes to cook for herself and watch the television. She always has sweets lying around and she loves to play cards.
Next, Anna told about her childhood. She is a born and raised New Orleanian, of course. Growing up, she lived with her mother, father, and sister. Anna’s mother was from a little town right above Sicily called Ithaca, and her father was from Northern Italy. Anna’s sister, Dominica, was three years younger than her. Anna said, “We didn’t fight, we had our differences at times, but we didn’t fight. I loved her and she loved me.” She explained that her sister was always kind and sweet. Ana recalls that when Dominica bought something that she liked, she’d always get Anna one too. There was one gift in particular Anna loved that her sister had bought for her. This treasure that she adores is a light up tree, perched in a special place of in Anna’s apartment. Dominica had a green one, and had given Anna a white one. When the milk man was selling ceramic plates Anna also liked that her sister bought her one as well.
As a child, Anna remembers traveling to Memphis once a year with her aunt. She recalls Mami (Dominica’s nickname) being a “Momma’s Girl” and not wanting to leave her mom. The only time Mami would go on a visit would be if her mom was going too. So, Ana’s aunt would come pick Ana up for the visit. Asking Ana if she was also a “Momma’s Girl”, she responded with, “I wasn’t anyone’s girl, I was just my plain self!”
Hampton Benjamin Bourgeois, Sr. is the name of her husband, also my great-grandfather. They met when she was in her early 20’s because he would play baseball with her neighbor at the Pelican Stadium in New Orleans. Anna loves to watch baseball; she claims to not be athletic though. Anna would meet her girlfriend after she got off work to watch the local baseball game. They would sit right behind the catcher. She said her neighbor used to tell her, “Don’t fall in love with my pitcher now!” (Hampton was the pitcher on the team.)
Hampton also loved to bowl. When Hampton would go bowling with the guys on Friday nights, Anna and her girl friends would get together and play Canasta, which at the time, was the “style”. Anna and her friend, Audrey, would play another card game on every Tuesday or Wednesday in addition to the game on Friday. They would play for $2 a game. When they had enough money, they would treat their husbands on a Saturday night. Anna and Hampton bore one child, Hampton “Junior”, my grandfather. It was love at first site that lasted almost sixty-seven years until early 2002, when he passed away at the age of 94.
Anna’s son, Junior, gave her five grandchildren: Julie, Hampton III (Benjie), Debra, David, and Daryl. Ana always spoiled her grandchildren. On Saturday nights, Grammaw Anna and Grampaw Hampton would take the burger orders, stop to pick them up, and arrive for their weekly visit with all the grandkids offering the favorite hamburgers of the day. The kids looked forward to the weekly burger night. When the kids would go to Grammaw Ana’s house, Sunday mornings would consist of doughnuts for everyone. (My mother and her siblings were not taught how to pronounce grandma and grandpa correctly. Grammaw and Grampaw was what they used to say.)
Anna remembers taking Julie, my mother, to dance practice and watching her dance recitals. People had told Anna that Julie looks like Ana because they both have blonde hair and blue eyes. Most would think that an Italian woman would be tanned skin and dark features, but Anna’s father and father’s whole family had blonde hair.
Asking her about her great-grandchildren, at first, was kind of difficult. Since she was already in her late 80’s when most of us were born, it’s harder to recall details. I thought quickly, and asked, “Do you remember when Grandpa called me Colleen?”
She immediately responded, “Yeah, he used to tease you, and you would respond, ‘MY NAME IS CORRIN NOT COLLEEN! C-O-R-R-I-N!’ You used to get so mad.” And man was that the truth.
I would go see Grandpa in his chair, and he would say, “Hey Colleen”. I would throw a fit!
“My name is CORRIN, CORRIN. Not Colleen, Coreena, or any other name you can think of, it’s CORRIN!”
His response back, “Okay Colleen.”Anna remembered this in detail. She exclaimed to me that I would put
my little had on my hip and I would complain to her with the best of them. Her response to me would be, “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
As Anna thought more and more about this account, she laughed more and more. Till this day she can’t get over this reoccurring incident. For being an old woman, she really has a strong mind and a great sense of humor. Even after the interview was finished, she went on and on about Great-Grandpa and me. Every time I see Great Grandma, I tell her she will live long enough to go to my wedding. I bet she will and still be in great shape too. She shall hold the world record one day. I guarantee you, she’ll out-live us all!