Local senior uses Christmas poetry to help others heal

Local senior uses Christmas poetry to help others heal

Irene Salvatore, 83, of Cortland Place, sits by the fireplace after reading her poem, “The Nativity,” about the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of Christ. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – During the bustle of the holidays, with mounting pressure to create the perfect Christmas experience, Irene Salvatore shared her Christmas poem with the members of Cortland Place assisted living and rehabilitation center as a reminder of the season’s meaning.

The 83-year old mother of three wrote “The Nativity” last Christmas season when she saw how busy everyone was with shopping and cooking.

“They forgot whose birthday it really is,” Salvatore said.

Her 52 verses tell the Nativity story of Mary and Joseph arriving at a manger to give birth to Jesus on Christmas Eve. Salvatore tells of how animals gave up their hay for a place for the baby to lie. Salvatore said her intention in writing the poem was to give the community a different perspective when it came to the meaning of Christmas.

Salvatore’s favorite line, “A star became so bright/That it temporarily blinded/Everything in sight,” carries meaning to the “tremendous” happenings that Christmas night. She said the birth was profound enough that no one could bear witness to the event.

She said she wrote the poem to help keep people grounded and humble during Christmas, and remind them that the holiday season is made for loving and giving, not for stress and receiving gifts.

A former jeweler and restaurateur, Salvatore said she did not begin writing poems until she came to Cortland Place more than three years ago. Surrounded by her new community of caring and helping individuals, Salvatore said she started writing poems to help heal and provide relief for people in pain or mourning.

“What I like best about poetry and writing is that it can help people feel better and soothe their pain,” she said.

Salvatore said she writes about anything that inspires her, from Christmas to Veterans Day. Some of her poems are deep and spiritual while others are fun and light-hearted.

“I wrote a funny one about having ‘senior moments’ we got to laugh at,” Salvatore said.

Her poems are usually featured monthly in the Cortland Place newsletter, much like “the Nativity.” Activities Director Donna Faria said the Cortland community enjoyed reading the poem, and she made extra printouts to be shared among residents.

Salvatore said she previously enjoyed creating high-end rhinestone jewelry and pins with such craftsmanship they were sold at Niemen-Marcus and featured in fashion magazines.

An Italian-American, Salvatore said her Christmas tradition of cooking for her family led to starting a pair of restaurants with her late husband, Ray, Ray’s Lunch on Manton Avenue in Providence and the Daily Grind on Douglas Avenue in Johnston.

Recalling a review where her restaurant was called a “Hidden Jewel,” Salvatore said her jewelry and her meals always represented her strongest skills.

Each Christmas, Salvatore said she would cook either the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes or roast a turkey with all the fixings for an American Christmas dinner.

“It’s what I miss most about the holidays – cooking all those delicious meals in the kitchen for my family,” she said.

“I did it all by myself. I cooked the dinner all on my own,” she said.

This year, she will spend Christmas at Cortland Place, which serves a traditional Christmas dinner. Though tasty, she said it is not as good as her home cooking.