About Terry Marotta

My name is Terry Sheehy Marotta and this is me now, in what I hope will turn out to be midlife, with the hat I wear when I give book talks and speeches.

The picture on the front ‘page’ is me when I was two and perched on my mother’s lap .

Our people were Famine Irish who came here and dropped like flies of the illnesses that best people in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Every one of them had a long memory and I do too.

Maybe my memory is long just from having listened to them. My mom, my sister Nan and I lived with our grandfather in the house he bought in 1913 – lived there until he broke a hip, had a stroke, then turned up in a coffin looking nothing like the twinkly man who gave us all those Hershey bars. He was born in 1874 if you can believe it. Then Mom came in 1907 and lasted long enough in the world to hate both Nixon and Reagan. Oh and we also lived with two great aunts both born in the 1860s.

The result of all having all these long-memoried people around is that I remember lot of stuff I wasn’t even here for, like about the ice man and the rag men with their houses clopping down the streets mornings, or the guy with the ladder who came to light the lamps on the streets come twilight.

Mom would be 108 now if she hadn’t died so suddenly in my living room, all for the lack of a defibrillator, such a simple thing now.. And I still miss her as much now as I did that night she exited the party early, leaving behind only her wedding ring and a hearing aid that emitted a series of intermittent forlorn bleats on top of my bureau until it too fell permanently silent.

Speaking of falling, I fell for this older boy named David Marotta when I was 19 and he 21 and the two of us are still slugging it out together with the kids grown and gone, still happily bickering away about who left the front burner flaming away all night with nary a pot in sight.

I used to paint my light bulbs pink so I could look as good as people in funeral parlors but now these same kids of ours are trying to wreck my fun, telling me I have to stop; telling me I have to start buying those ugly yellowish bulbs that look like IUDs but I say the heck with that. I also dye all the lampshades.

I know people cuss and carry on with bad language on blogs every day. I can’t seem to do that; I used to be a teacher is maybe why.

So maybe I’m ladylike, if you can be ladylike in a sort of blunt and earthy way. I know that back in college when everyone hitchhiked I was careful to do so in white gloves so people could tell I was a nice girl.

You can call me anytime at all at 617-512-2264 – that’s my cell – but if you ring my doorbell and I’m not expecting you I might duck behind the curtains and pretend I’m not home because I don’t do well with the unexpected:  My sister and I almost killed our mother by throwing her a surprise 75th birthday party. She walked into the house, saw everyone she knew there and yelled “Gad! Am I DEAD?!”

Then, five years later we had a birthday party that wasn’t a surprise and what do you think? She died at it.

Go figure. Life: what a mystery.

36 thoughts on “About Terry Marotta

  1. You’re incredible, the way you write. I too had Irish grandparents and great grandparents. I also remember the rag man plying his wares on the streets of Holyoke back in ’57 or ’58, outside my grandmother’s house in the early morning. “Rags for Sale” is what he would say.

    1. My gosh — MY Irish grandparents (and great grandparents and aunts and uncles) lived in Holyoke too, and I remember from the 50’s (OK, 40’s too) the ragman in the back alley yelling “Hey, rags” — at least that’s what it sounded like to me — as he and his horse and wagon went by. This was on Walnut Street. What street did your grandmother live on?

    2. Dan, I remember from the 40’s in Somerville the vendors with carts calling “Any old rags” “Need scissors or knives sharpened? And I remember meeting Terry and knocking that hat off her when I hugged her goodbye after our first meeting. I had requested going to her book signing as my birthday gift from my son and have cared about her ever since.

    3. Ah Dan! I remember the rag man too, dragging is wagon and rasping out just the single word “Raaaags! Raaaags!” They also collected them didn’t they ? My bis sister born at the tail end of ’46 remembers the lamplighter coming at dusk in the 50s in our little corner of Boston . CAN THAT EVEN BE? I think, but Nan’s memory is flawless. That old world huh?

    4. The ragman used to board his wagon and horse at my grandfather, George Bissonnette’s “City Garage” at the corner of Ely and Bowers Street in Holyoke. I’m still trying to find out what was the ragman’s name and what became of him. I left Holyoke in 1962 at the age of 14. He also used to carry a cardboard carton on the seat next to him and pick up stray cats. He took some out of my grandmother’s fallen garage at her house at 1465 Dwight Street. Her house was next to a block on the corner of Parker Street.

  2. Tes,
    This backgrounditude is just hilarious. i love your style on the blogsite! it is so conversational (“is why” you might add!) and the part about dearest Callie, gad am I dead, is dead on perfect.also, Juddy “filled us in on what we missed” …just perfect. What a pleasure to read you. can I ever do this when my practice is up and running??
    sheila beila

  3. I, too, had an Irish father, with an Italian mother, who is 90 years young. My mother spoke very little Italian, which was odd since both of her parents came from Italy. My Irish father could speak it fluently, which puzzled all of us. I asked him one day, how did you learn to speak Italian, and mom doesn’t speak any at all. His response was that his Uncle Sam sent him on a vacation in the early 40’s to look for a man by the name of Gerhing, who was menacing Europe, along with his German brothers. He picked up the language easily. Crazy, isn’t it?

  4. Dear “T”,

    How nice it was this morning to read your tribute to MJ and others – my heart became full. How could you know that I needed all these words? As always, you just do.

    I am deeply saddened by Michael Jackson’s death, among the others that have left me, and your words are a comfort

    1. Hey Laila! What could be nicer that this! You know I can’t drive by the place without stopping and digging out a pair of shorts and sitting a while under one of the trees. No one looks at me funny. I think I must look familiar somehow. I mean we’re all sisters, however many years between right?

  5. So you were born in 1949, and your grandfather in 1874. Did you know him?
    My Grandfather was born in 1896 and my grandmother in 1900. She came to Oklahoma in a covered wagon with her family in 1903. Her mother (my great grandmother) died in 1969, so I got to know her fairly well I was born in 1951). My grandmother died in 1976, but I was fortunate enough to have lived next door to her through the early days of my childhood, and to have lived about 6 blocks away during the last couple of years of her life and my tenure in medical school. I went by there every day unless I was on call. What a gift. Anyway, not trying to make any point (obviously), just wondering if you had time with your grandfather and were able to learn from him.

  6. I did know him Steve. He took us in – well, he took my mother in when her marriage failed. I lived in his house until he died when he was 83 and I was just turning 9. Of course I thought he was sent to earth to play with me in those early years. He called me Blackberry Top because I had these shiny black curls, tight together all over my head… He was born here but was the child of immigrant Irish who were lucky enough to buy up land when farmers in Western Massachusetts died in the ‘war of northern aggression’ (you might not put that in quotes I realize.)

    It’s amazing to me that your grandmother was born just 7 years before my mother! You are younger than I am but so far all those dance classes at the Y and color by Ronaldo keep me in the game (ha!)

    Anyway I love hearing a story like this. Covered wagon, imagine! Oklahoma too, what associations the mind calls up there!

    1. you did! Been writing a weekly column every week since 1980. It goes all over the country now but it started in Winchester!
      You live in Concord still Miz Alcott? Here I thought you lay under that rafter of satin as Emily Dickinson called it, on Authors’ Ridge …

      1. Hi Terry,

        Yes, the first iteration of me is comfortably settled in Sleepy Hollow, Now I’m back as Louisa May Alcatt, a tortie carrying on my earlier mission of empowering girls and women. My publicist lives in Concord, but my owner, MAD, lives in Watertown. Hope you stop by often and comment from time to time, xo LMA

  7. Hello I am descended from the Irish Moratta family and I found your information about them as being famine Irish interesting as many were poor farmers after they made the trip here my ancestors huddling with other Irish Catholic families in Indiana and marrying into these families. Church records have provided me with happiness as I read about their marriages, baptisms, etc. giving me a small glimpse of what it must have been like with such large families poor but happy. You have a great spark for life!

    1. Celeste thanks for this lovely note coming before my eyes just now! We’ll be fine if we take joy in such simple things as the tales of others’ lives won’t we? what a joy to be part of the human family !

      Blessing on you and yours tonight …


  8. Well, life is full of synchronicity! I discovered your writing some 20 years ago in our local paper! I have your book “I Thought He Was a Speedbump”. And now I find you here on WP, through a mutual friend,Nancye Davies Tuttle. So great to read your work again!

      1. No, I actually grew up in Reading, moved way out to Winchendon, but I taught in Acton for many years. Nancye’s daughter was my colleague, and her grandson Jack is one of my all time favorite kids!

  9. Hi there, just found this blog, goodness knows how, in the Reader, I think. I love your writing style. Where are you from? You describe your life and relatives like something in an old Wild West movie, I love it! We probably have nothing in common – I’m a 60 yr old grey haired crazy lady who lives on a yacht in Greece with my husband and a cat – oh hang on, we both like blogging!

  10. you don’t sound like much o fan old granny to me! Plus, you’re a veritable child, born in ’55 or ’56 then?
    I think we have more in common than either of us guesses! So glad to be ‘found’ by you. 🙂

  11. My mother was born in 1911 and lived to hate not only Nixon and Reagan but also Bush. Toward the end of her life, when she’d had a series of strokes, a doctor asked her the year, the day of the week, and who the president was.

    “I can’t remember his name,” she said. “But I do remember he’s a son of a bitch.”

    1. Ellen, this made me laugh out loud. I wonder if we are twins separated at birth. My mother was born in 1907 and she got so disgusted with Richard Nixon watching the Watergate hearings that she looked down at her Camel cigarette and said He is disgusting – and this is disgusting too! She snuffed it out and never smoked again after having been a smoker for more than 50 years. She was right there with your mom on the bushes to and had most contempt for the man she called “that aging actor in the White House.” She loved to get the laugh is mostly what it was; she had the great spirit.
      Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It made my day!

  12. 1. Great hat.

    2. I think I’d have liked your mother. Late in her life, after a number of strokes, mine (b. 1911) was asked by a doctor if she remembered who the president was. “I don’t remember his name,” she said, “but I do remember that he’s a son of a bitch.”

    It was George W., and she still had a good grasp of the basics.

  13. wow now THAT is funny! But poor W as people seem to call him. But he distinguished himself the this past week didn’t he with his remarks about international cooperation? I’m happy to see his humanity as it revealed now that he’s a private citizen .

  14. oh the hat, thanks! I would wear that mostly for courage when I gave talks . It helped me feel jaunty and signaled to the audience that we would be taking ourselves lightly for the next 40 minutes. 🙂

  15. I have been really enjoying your blogs. There needs to be more upbeat honest and funny blogs like this. I also enjoyed your Boston accent youtube clips. Driving the Cah an all that jazz. Love it. What a great accent. Keep up the good work!

    1. well thanks so much Lee! I was fixing to write something about our own Candle in the Wind Marilyn but maybe I will comb the mental attic to find something more smile-worthy 🙂 True about the Boston accent! When I say the word ‘Sharpie’ nobody east of Worcester can tell what I’m referring to.

      1. The accent is fascinating actually. I am trying ti nail it for an audio play but being a Brit it is tough to get right!! Look forward to smile worthy writing real soon!

  16. This is especially kind of you and I hope your researches yield helpful results. The trouble with the Boston accent is it’s often rendered as it is seen in Mark Wahlberg’s The Fighter or in films like Mystic River or Good Will Hunting. Even Robin Williams didn’t the most common kind quite right in that movie. Good luck to you! Acting is, to me, a sacred calling!

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