Many different types of things get passed down in families from one generation to the next. In this week’s episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we share stories about gifts shared with loved ones by those who care about them the most.
Our first story is about a business that is now run by a father and son. Phil Mortillaro and Philip Mortillaro Jr. (pictured in the player above) own a locksmith shop in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village that is distinctive to those who pass by for the intricate art that covers its exterior—made entirely of keys. Phil began working with locks and keys as a summer job when he was a young boy, and later, after leaving school following the eighth grade, he became a fulltime locksmith.
All five of his children grew up in and around the shop, but it was his youngest son, Philip, who decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. Father and son came to StoryCorps to have a conversation about running a family business.
One of the first gifts a parent gives a child is his or her name. Sadly, for 10-year-old Ibukun Owolabi, his mother, Rosemary Owolabi, died suddenly and unexpectedly when Ibukun was just two weeks old.
Ibukun’s teenage sister, Alice (pictured together above), was left to help raise him, and at StoryCorps, Alice explains why their mother chose the name Ibukun for him, and they talk for the first time about losing their mother.
Our next story comes from Chloe Longfellow (pictured above), whose father died when she was just three years old. In order to support her family, Chloe’s mother, Dorsey Romano, took on a variety of jobs, some of which required her to work the night shift.
With her mother away, Chloe spent a great deal of time at her grandparents’ home becoming especially close with her grandmother, Doris Louise Rolison, who maintained a lush garden of herbs and vegetables. Chloe would help harvest the garden and make dishes from recipes found in one of her grandmother’s treasured cookbooks.
Doris died in 1988 when Chloe was just 5 years old, and when she misses her, Chloe just has to open up one of her grandmother’s old cookbooks because it still smells like her “even all these years later.”
Our last story is about gifts that are given with the best of intentions, but in the end turn out not to be worth the trouble they cause. Betty Jenkins (pictured below) received one of these when her mother gifted her an inflatable bra. At the time, Betty was in her 30s and single, which troubled her mother greatly. Betty’s mother thought the bra might help her daughter attract some male attention.
Unfortunately, Betty was wearing the bra while she was on an airplane flying near the Andes Mountains while on a trip in South America. The plane’s cabin was not pressurized and the bra, whose pads could inflate up to size 48, began to expand on its own. Once it reached maximum pressure, one of the cups burst, making a noise so loud that the copilot, anticipating trouble, came out of the cockpit wielding a gun. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing, and Betty was then handed over to the police who ordered her to strip as they looked for what they assumed was a bomb.
Betty’s mother, who passed away in 1967, enjoyed the story so much that she kept the broken bra, which has now unfortunately been lost to time. And while Betty, 94, did end up receiving additional male attention, it wasn’t the kind her mother had hoped for.