September 2nd, 2015
The Unsinkable Carole Ann


By: Debra Dylan

At the end of her maritime memoir, Dreamseeker’s Daughter, Carole Ann Borges was 19, married, and pregnant. She was also a high school drop-out due to her family’s lengthy aquatic adventure. After obtaining her GED, college would be many years away. In their early marriage, the young couple suffered the devastating loss of three babies.

Josh was born during the commune days.

Years later, brighter days were ahead when the family, now with four healthy children, moved to a commune. “We all loved living in the country and growing most of our food. The commune was the first place I learned that a woman could stick up for herself.” Later, she put her foot down when the family was living in a small docked boat during a harsh winter.


Borges reinvented herself as the owner of a small vintage store in Massachusetts. Her husband’s refusal to let her go to college ended their marriage. Her children lived with her and she had to pay rent. “I went to a bank to apply for a loan to expand my business. I was told, ‘You’ll never get a loan. There isn’t a woman on the loan committee. You have no assets and you are single.’ I was depressed. I went to a welfare office and was told, ‘You’re never going to make it with four children. You need to sell your store.’” Her ex-husband and children moved to Amherst while she struggled to get back on her feet.


Borges remarried and was barely scraping by when she received a phone call that her youngest son was the victim of a heinous crime. He moved back in with her and his step-father. Four days before Borges was to begin community college, her son accidently set a fire that burned down the rooming house where they lived. No one was injured but everything was destroyed. “My son had a breakdown and needed to be hospitalized. I was frantic. My husband left me. I had to hitch-hike to visit my son. The hospital moved him closer to me, but they said they could not return him to me until my life was stable.” She was living on a friend’s screened in porch when she started college.


“My son needed to be in a residential program, but it was expensive. Neither the school system nor welfare would pay for it. I learned only a judge could make the school system pay. I was studying Aristotle in college. I appeared alone in front of a judge and the school board’s seven attorneys. I presented each of them with my letter, based on Aristotle’s logic, about why they needed to provide this service to my son. The judge was the only one who read the letter. He said, ‘I think this makes a perfect argument. I mandate one year of residential services.’”


Borges was now living in a subsidized apartment. She excelled in community college and transferred to a university before she finished her associate’s degree. After a few semesters, for the first time in her life, she shared her poetry. The following week, “One professor said there’s nothing we can teach you about poetry.” She was told, “You have kids and are not getting younger. You need to start making a living. With a masters’ you can teach. You need to be in a low residency Master’s program.” Without a B.A., she was accepted into Vermont College of Norwich University. She reconciled with her estranged husband and she had her son back. Two years later, she graduated with an M.A., and Alice James Books published her manuscript, “Disciplining the Devil’s Country.”


Borges loved teaching college English Composition and a poetry workshop, but the pay was not enough to support herself and her son. She had to work a second job at another school. “It was winter it was difficult getting to the different schools. I had a broken down car and it was a long drive between schools.” She quit teaching to work with homeless women. After a move to Florida, and a divorce, Borges floundered working menial labor jobs until she returned to Massachusetts.


“I eventually got a job at a GED program as an Adult Education Teacher. I fell in love with the students. After a while I became the curriculum coordinator at that school. I taught teachers how to be creative with standards. I had great success with the barely literate adult students. Because they had limited life experiences, I took them on many field trips. Simple things were important life lessons for them.” They practiced asking service workers questions. They wrote food reviews. “I taught them to be descriptive, and they wrote paragraphs loaded with adjectives and adverbs. It was my most successful job.”


Carole Ann Borges writes for Knoxzine. If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy The Unlimited Universe of a Lady Trucker.


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