Judith Thomas (Brownsville Recreation Center)
My name is Judith Thomas and I was born in Aruba. I grew up in Saint Vincent, West Indies. I’m married with four children—two born in Saint Vincent and two born in the United States. I lived in Saint Vincent my whole life until I migrated to this country in 1978. I went to Barbados to get my visa, and from Barbados I came to New York. Growing up, my father had a big impact on my life. He always let us know that education is the key. He’d always tell us to go to school. That’s why I always tell my kids, “Without education, you are nothing in this world. You all have to get an education.” Now my two daughters who were born in Saint Vincent are married and have two children each. My two sons are both married and I’m a grandmother of six grandchildren. My oldest grandchild is nineteen and my second oldest is eighteen. My youngest is one year and six months.
I never went back home, but I’m planning to go back home this year on a vacation. When I first came here, I lived in Prospect Heights, and then about fifteen years ago I moved to Crown Heights. I miss the fresh fruits and the water from back in St. Vincent. I’m freer back home because I can leave my windows open and go to the town and shop and come back. And everything is fresh—the mangoes, the guava, the plums, the sugar cane, the coconut water—you name it, everything we picked from a tree. We have a lot of fruit trees. Coming to New York, the snow and the cold were very different, because we have one climate back home. It’s hot, but we don’t have the humidity because there’re a lot of trees and a lot of river rapids. We call the rivers “rapids” back home because the water flows free from the mountains, and there are streams of water running fresh. So first, I had to get adjusted to the cold weather here. And then, back home we don’t have trains. Back home if someone got sick and had to go to the clinic, they got taken on a donkey. I will take my donkey out and I’ll put you on the back, and I’ll get in front and I’ll take you to the clinic on my donkey. We didn’t have a car, so we had a donkey. It was like a pet for all of us and that’s what we used in case somebody had to get somewhere. And in the night, where we were living, there was no electricity. I can remember when my mother was going to give birth to one of my brothers, I had to go with my father to get a flambé lamp.
I’m a Certified Nurse’s Aid. I’ve been working as a CNA for twenty-three years. I just resigned from one of my jobs after my son graduated, because I used to work two jobs to send him to college. When he graduated with his Bachelors in Biology, I resigned from one job and right now I’m doing the other job.
At first I didn’t want to go into nursing. But then after being a home health aid for a while, I started to see how important it is. I love love love to listen to my residents and I enjoy being with them so much. I will sit where you are and we will talk. And they have so much they will tell you about their lives—they’ll tell you everything about them. I just love caring and I love sharing; I love listening. So I enjoy my life, I enjoy my job, and I enjoy what I do. If I have to live my life all over again, I have to do something with patient care because I just love what I’m doing.