I grew up in Pennsylvania coal country. My maiden name is Tauter; my family is from Lithuania. My mother was only fifteen when she had me. I called my mother "Scarlett O'Hara"--she got married three times and had five or six boyfriends. I was very very little when my father died--all I remember is his funeral, when they had the horse and carriage carrying his coffin.

I came to New York to be a nanny for a family that lived up by Columbia University. When I first came to New York, a friend of mine, a fellow but not a boyfriend, wrote a book about me: Mary of the Anthracite.

When I was a girl, my grandmother killed her own chickens and ducks and she drained the blood out and made blood soup. “Yuki,” they called it. She boiled the blood with prunes and a little vinegar. I used to love it!

We’d make potato baloney. You mix grated potatoes, onion, and lard and stuff it into sausage casings. We ate a lot of potatoes and a lot of pork. Pork chops! Sauerkraut! Ham, cabbage and potatoes—that was a big meal!

My grandmother made her own wine—dandelion wine with elderberries. My grandfather made moonshine and my mother made beer. This was Prohibition time, so if you wanted to drink, you had to make it yourself!

We’d go to Midnight Mass and then go home and eat “kuchi” for Christmas Eve. No meat! We’d have herring and sauerkraut and prunes and chick peas and boiled potatoes. You leave a plate on the table for Santa Claus, but really it was meant for the Lord.

This is a piece of hair from my first haircut. I have the braid. I saved it all these years.

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