Inside the _____ Relationships

Inside the Open Doors of Nancy Diorio

woman holding serving platter that has a fruit design
Written by Adam Bowles

This is one of a series of stories we are sharing to show what’s inside CubeSmart. You not only get a peek inside our customer’s storage unit, but also a peek inside what is important to them. Thank you to Nancy Diorio, customer of our CubeSmart store in Boston,  for sharing her story with us.

Nancy Diorio has a simple prescription for the needs of the many young people who have come in and out of her home over the years — "Sometimes a hug is the best medicine."

She adds to that: "just talking, listening, food, home life, understanding, non-judgment, loving."

Nancy, who lives in East Boston and grew up in the North End, takes pride in her Italian heritage. She has worked as a receptionist for Don Orione Adult Day Health Care Center for 16 years. She has two children — Kathleen, 44, and Deborah, 43, — and four grandchildren, all of whom also live in Boston.

But to Nancy, family goes beyond blood.

"I had many kids come into my life who considered me their mother," she said during a visit to our Boston store at 150 William F. McClellan Highway near Logan International Airport. "Their own families were dysfunctional. A lot of them were my kids' friends. Now they are professional women or men."

Some of these informally adopted children battled drugs. Nancy sometimes confronted them. "They say, ‘If it wasn't for ma I'd probably be out on the streets or dead,'" she said.

Nancy recalled a particular incident in her home with a woman who now lives in Texas.

"She came in not in her right capacity," Nancy said. "I told her in non-English words to get out. I gave her tough love. ‘You don't disrespect my home.' She came back a year or two later clean and sober."

Among the items Nancy stores at CubeSmart are fruit-decorated serving platters, which represent to her the warm, close-knit gatherings in her home.

"Many years ago when I was younger and the kids were babies I started getting stuff for my home. I saw these platters and I thought it would be a great thing to serve holiday meals on," she said. "These platters are representative of many years of struggle and of great food served.

"It reminds me of my culture — Italian," she said. "It could be just a bowl, but you could put macaronis or raviolis in it, and what a dish can come out of them. We like to cook, we love to eat."

She kept an open-door policy every Thanksgiving.

Nancy said she is known for "my gravy and meatballs. My Italian cookies. My lasagna. My stuffed chicken with ricotta cheese and the cheese is made with Pignoli nuts. They would come in and say, ‘Ma, what do you have to eat?'"

Nancy, who is separated, is moving to another apartment. In the meantime, she will alternate living with both daughters.

"Very Italian," is how she described the neighborhood where she hosted meals informal for children and teenagers. "Everybody knew you. But East Boston has changed."

"One year, many years ago, all these children came to my apartment with their stories and with their families," Nancy said. "My home was a safe haven. You have to have understanding and compassion because they are going through a lot."

One of the guests was the woman from Texas. She thanked Nancy for her tough love.

About the author

Adam Bowles

Adam Bowles is the owner of Not With Ink, a digital media company in Jewett City, Conn. He spent 15 years as a reporter and editor for The Bulletin in Norwich, Conn., and has freelanced for such publications as The New York Times. His latest project is called The World in One Square Mile, a series of on-the-spot interviews for short profiles that demonstrate the need to take interest in others, listen to their stories and discover what unites us all. He and his wife, Luisa, have two daughters.

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