Genevieve Piturro and the Purpose of Pajamas

Article by Clarissa Burt and Mary L. Holden

The firstborn child in her Italian family, Genevieve Piturro’s father expected her and all of his children to complete their education, “but,” she says, “the girls [were] to get married and have kids.” While growing up, Genevieve watched “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV and decided that she “wanted to be a New York City corporate girl” and to climb the corporate ladder because she “wanted all the things that Mary had.” And she achieved it. “It’s what I thought I wanted. It felt fun,” she says. But, about 15 years in, she “heard a voice” that asked her if it would be “enough” to live like she was living for the next 30 years. “It stopped me because I realized I was just running so fast for this goal, the top floor. And really, what did it mean? It wasn’t changing lives. It didn’t have any importance, you know, in the greater good.” The next thing she knew was that she was thinking about “just having children.” And…she did. But not in the usual way. She was in her mid- to late- thirties and felt that having a child was not an option so she called some shelters to see if she could go in and read to the children at night. In the days before 9/11, that kind of thing could be done. So, once a week Genevieve went to read to children at night and “felt so at peace, so grounded” even though she could tell that all the children had suffered trauma. “They were there in this safe place because the people who were supposed to take care of them couldn’t. We sat on the floor in these shelters and I’d read story after story. One night I followed them to see where they were going to sleep. When I saw the bedroom, there were cots and futons and two or three kids up on one surface and some of them were crying and they were wearing the clothes they’d worn for I don’t know how many days, but clearly not clean clothes…and no pajamas.” She had flashback memories of her mother sitting on hers and her siblings’ beds…there were snacks…and stories…and pajamas. These kids had none of that. “I brought pajamas next week.” When she gave them to the children, she was met with shy silence, but they took the nightclothes. She says, “I was excited because this was a gift for them. I’d hoped that they would feel my arms hugging them.”