NANCY P. - AGE 96
I was born in Lansing, Michigan and my father taught chemistry at Michigan State, which at that time was Michigan Agricultural College. I lived in the same house until I left home. My brother and I roamed the campus, which was right across the street from my house. My father was also the organist and choir director at the Episcopal Church in town.
I went to Oberlin College where I was an art major. I always like to say, thats where coeducation began. Oberlin was also the first college to allow Black people in. I came to NY when I was 23 and single. I was a file clerk for a publishing company. I lived at a Y that was all women. For seven dollars a week you got a room and two meals.
I finally got back into art after my children were older and I started to take adult school art courses. I belonged to the Fair Lawn Art Association, which in those days was a pretty active group. I studied with Mel Stabin, and it became a love affairany time he is giving classes I take them. Its so convenient because he teaches in a room at the Unitarian Church across the street. I dont make too much effort to sell my work but I have had several exhibits at the churchthis is going to be the eighth year. I make small watercolors since it is more of a craft show. I usually create about 30 of them, right here at my desk.
I have lived here for six years now and I find it very interesting. It
is reasonably priced since it is non-profit. It is not a nursing home;
it is for people who can still function well. We have a chef who cooks
lunch and dinner, and we can make our own breakfast. We have a system
of cooperation, where once a week we get kitchen duty. There are 14 people.
When I hear people complaining I think, what are they complaining about?
They dont have anything to do! They watch television.
Well, I have been connected with the church since 1958. I am the oldest member there. Everybody gives me great applause in a manner of speaking. They have a lot of activities there, but what I like best of all, which I hope I can do for as long as I live, is English Country Dancing. I go twice a month. I go to all the church activities and by this time I know a lot of people there. Services are always very interesting and we have beautiful music. And I should mention that I spent 30 years as a secretary in the office! I enjoyed that because I got to write the newsletter. We have a writing group that gets together every Thursday night, and a book group once a month. Weve gotten to be very great friends.
I had three children and two of them have died. One daughter in Oregon died of a brain tumor. My son was mentally deficient and they called it brain injury; now it would be called neurological impairment. He ended up living in an institution. He really didnt have a life and he died at 26. That was a very sad occasion. You never forget these things but they get less; I dont dwell on it. I am a positive person. My daughter who is still alive is wonderful. She visits, but not too frequently, which I appreciate. She doesnt hover. She teaches piano and her husband is a college librarian who plays the French horn.
The thing I want most now is just to live here. I feel like I definitely have peace of mind now. It has taken me a long time to get here, going through stuff with my kids. But I learned a lot through living. You get a lot of help along the way, through other people.
I was brought up Episcopalian. But when I learned about the Unitarians, I said theyre for me, because they are open-minded and they accept everybody. If people dont like it they dont stay. But the people who do come are terrific people, and thats why I go for over there, for the wonderful people. They are intelligent, they are nice people to be with, they are very helpful, they do a lot of good work. They are really out there to do the right thing.
When I think back on my life, I wish I had not been so timid about things, had taken more risks. My sins were more the sins of omission rather than the sins of commission.
What do I enjoy about being this age? Well, I enjoy not having much responsibility.
I am past all the big heavy stuff of life. I like to be by myself. I get
along with myself; I like myself. I have also learned that if you look
for the humor in a situation you will find it and it makes life easier.
Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax
for this exhibition.