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2 sisters remember who gave them the love they were missing in foster care

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. And today, we have a conversation between sisters Irene Montoya and Linda Garcia. In the 1950s, their mother was hospitalized for tuberculosis. Linda was 8. Irene was an infant. And for years, they were passed between a series of neglectful foster homes.

LINDA GARCIA: A lot of the nights, you would wake up crying because you were hungry. And I'd go rock you, and I'd sing to you a song that mom used to sing to you. And I would pray, please, God, make my mother well. Bring her home.

INSKEEP: Finally, they arrived in the home of an older couple, Belen and Joe Moreno. The girls called them Nino and Nina.

IRENE MONTOYA: When you met Nino and Nina, what was your first impression?

GARCIA: When I saw them for the first time, I was scared. I didn't trust too many people, and I surely didn't trust them either. But we were having dinner, and Nina comes up with this cake. And she goes, it's your birthday. I didn't know it was my birthday. And that night when we went to bed, I remember she took my socks off, and she tickled my nose with my socks. And, of course, I laughed. And I thought to myself, I know she wants me to love her like my mom, but I'm not going to love her like I love my mom. But they were very kindhearted.

MONTOYA: Well, I think it's because we were so cute.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTOYA: No. Nino was very gentle, very quiet, very calm. Nina - she was a tough cookie. She was hard but loving. My first memory of her is they had me in a crib, and I would put my hand through the crib. And she would hold my hand till I fell asleep. So I think they just felt such compassion. They even helped the transition when our mother came home. I was so attached to them. They told me I could stay, but you left. Once our mother got settled with you, I would go visit every weekend, and I liked her. I thought she was beautiful (laughter). She was young. But to me, honestly, it was like visiting my aunt, you know?

GARCIA: Do you know that I asked our mother why she didn't bring you home with us? And she said whenever you visited, as soon as it would get dark, she would see you sitting at the window, waiting for Nino to come pick you up. So she let them adopt you.

MONTOYA: I remember - when I was adopted, I remember going to the courthouse. And when I came back, I had a new name (laughter), and it made it official - home was with Nino and Nina.

GARCIA: You had a good life because of them.

MONTOYA: Yeah. I always used to tell people, I'm so lucky I have two moms (laughter). And I see the influence of both Nina and my mom in you.

GARCIA: I think we've helped each other be strong.

MONTOYA: Yeah. We come from strong roots.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Irene Montoya and Linda Garcia in Yuma, Ariz. Their interview is archived to the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Max Jungreis
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