Maria's childhood ended with her father's death. When Assunta had to work in the field, Maria took over her mother's place in the home, and was her mother's strength and consolation. This nine-year-old not only cared for her own family's needs, but also for those of the Serenellis, cleaning the house and even washing the clothes. Her mother at times was quite exhausted from her labors and would often lose her temper with Maria for no reason. Not only would Maria not make excuses, she would even take the blame for what her younger brothers and sisters had done. Her brothers and sisters: Angelo, 12, Mariano, 7, Alessandro, 5, Ersilia, 2 and the baby Teresa, born three months before her father's death, regarded Maria as a second mother. When scolded by Assunta, the children would run to Maria for protection - so much so that even after Maria's death they called to her in their illnesses and troubles. Maria truly had taken on a woman's cares. This second mother in the house had not time for friends. She didn't seem to mind though, for she noticed that many children whom she knew often spoke in a way that she did not like to hear.
Sometimes Assunta's burdens and trials found relief only in tears, and Maria would attempt to cheer her by assuring her mother that God would provide and care for them. "Now, Mama, we'll soon be grown up and you'll see how we will help you!" Maria continued her endearing words until she saw her mother smile.<< Previous chapter | Next chapter >>