My Mother’s Date of Birth: My Backward Glance At Alice Rogers Connolly

My parents have passed away. On the date of their birth I spend time thinking of them. I usually do it in private. I decided this year to put some of my thoughts into this blog about my mother Alice Rogers Connolly the daughter of two Irish immigrants.

My first memories of her is when she would come into my room in the middle of the night. She had in her hand a very little bottle probably about a one ounce container which was a very dark cobalt blue. It had an eye dropper in it. She would have me turn to each side and put one drop of the warm liquid into each of my ears.

I next recall her visiting me at Children’s Hospital in Boston where I went to have my eardrums lanced.  I was there eleven days. She and my father duly arrived with ice cream each evening. Never was ice cream more appreciated. Because I was hospitalized I have the records that show my earliest memories were when I was one year and ten months old.

I was the second child. The first was my sister Kathleen. When my mother was on her death bed she said to me: “I’m dying for a second time.” I learned that she almost died upon giving birth to my sister Kathleen. I never knew it until then. I cannot imagine her trepidations awaiting my birth.

I also learned at that time something that threw me for a loop. She said to me: “Every family must have its Matty” suggesting I was not quite like the others. It’s a mystery that lives on. Was it a compliment or was she telling me I gave her a lot of grief? If it was the latter I wrongly believed in her eyes that I was the perfect child because she never treated me otherwise. Perhaps she was aware of more of my shenanigans than I thought she knew.

There were others after me, three more boys and the youngest a girl. We lived  in Old Harbor Village a federally constructed housing project. Eight of us tightly fit into two rooms on the first floor, a main room and the kitchen. We had two bedrooms on the second floor with a bathroom at the top of the stairs.

It was especially tight because the main room held my mother’s baby grand  piano. She was the first and only one among her nine siblings to attend college. She became a teacher in the Boston Public Schools. She had to hide her marriage. At that time married women unlike married men were not allowed to be teachers. She could not hide her pregnancy so she stopped teaching other children and taught us.

The piano she put to good use playing songs for us. I would always ask for the one where the lower keys were the evil forces and the upper keys the angels who came to save us. She loved to teach us poetry and would recited poem after poem – even sad ones like Da Leetla Boy by Thomas Daly and Little Boy Blue by Eugene Fields  – which taught me compassion and the transience of life.  She recited Trees by Kilmer making me appreciate God and Colin Kelly by John Gaffney – the latter because Kelly like her brother James died in a B-17 bomber during WWII.

She was Catholic, attended weekly mass, but was more secular than religious. She did not send her children to Catholic grammar schools. She let me become an altar boy but not in the local parish but in the Jesuit Church the Immaculate Conception in the South End. I believe that was because her sister, Honey, had her two boys my age, Jimmy and Roger, as altar boys there. Her sister Margie came to our house and taught me the Latin that was required .

She communicated by telephone with her sisters Margie and Honey on an almost daily basis. I know one thing my mother did not like was my taciturnity. My refrain when asked about my activities was I went nowhere and did nothing. Honey through her sons would know more about what I was doing than she and I assume passed it on.

I was lucky she took wonderful care of me. If I disappointed her she never let on. I could not have asked for a better mother; unfortunately she probably could have asked for a better son.



  1. Hi Matt-
    We were so lucky to have had Alice Rogers Connolly as our Mother. She was such a brilliant and kind hearted woman. With Alice as our Mother and Matt as our Father we were the luckiest kids in the world! They taught us to persevere in all aspects of our lives. They taught us to love our neighbors with the best example being how they cared for each member of their respective families. They taught us how to laugh at human foibles. I always remember them laughing at old stories told over and over again with their dear friends – Alice and Neal , Bill and Lillian as well as their siblings. A song or a poem deemed to help us solve all our dilemmas,
    Mother had holy books in her nightstand that she read every night Dad was on his knees every night praying to God to thank him and asking for His protection for his children and for guidance in his work and caring for others.
    I am thinking all day of Grammy as I am waiting to hear that my ninth grandchild to be born. Kate and Robby are at Newton Wellesley Hospital as Kate is in Labor. I am hoping Rowan will be born on Grammy’s birthday as she loved us all so much, loved God and the Saints and loved her neighbors, starting with her extended families. She was so smart and struggled for her education, loved our Dad and brought us up in a household full of love. As she said every day to us God Be With You-

  2. Matt, I take my hat off to you, your reminiscing of extremely meaningful feelings and
    thoughts of your mother and family is a tribute to all of you. Those were the days when
    everything meant something to us. All our footsteps weren’t far apart. Loyalty to FAMILY
    and Friends was solid and meaningful. You are a good man and SON. I have just one
    question are you sure Roger was a altar boy?

    • 251

      Good question. Was Roger an altar boy? I remember that he was because of a trip we made to Salibury Beach. He and I sat in the same seat for the roller coaster ride. I also recall his mother talking to my mother outside the Immaculate Conception church in the South End waiting for him to come out. (I think she thought he was delated because he was saying extra prayers which was not the case.) They were sisters. His mother (Honey) said that she hoped Roger would be the first American pope.

      Anyone who knew Roger would have liked to imagine how that would have happened. The Church would have become unrecognizable.

  3. Matt, regarding your last sentence–
    The both of you have been blessed.