Growing up in our neighborhood there were four ways to get the news. (Believe it or not, TV didn’t exist then). There were the three city newspapers: The Cleveland News, The Plain Dealer, The Cleveland Press and…Carmelle.
Carmelle handled the “local news” of the neighborhood that included everything from births, deaths and all things in between. The most serious and scandalous news being shared in the local Italian dialect – Coronese. Normal news was dispensed in broken English. And all news was punctuated with the appropriate hand gestures for which Italians are famous.
Carmelle started her morning round of news gathering after 6:30 Mass much to the annoyance of the Black Widows who had to wait for her to arrive before serving morning cake and coffee at Grandma Margharite’s kitchen. Unless it was summer, then conversations were held under the grape arbor in the backyard. Or as my grandmother would say: “The back-a-yard.”
For years I always thought that the phrase heard it through the grapevine originated with these early morning gossip sessions.
I remember one particular summer morning, Carmelle wasn’t just late. She was really late. I could hear the ladies chatting outside my bedroom window. They all agreed that today must have been a really busy news day. Or something bad had happened. The latter being the most likely scenario in their superstitious minds.
“Where’s Carmelle? Where’s Carmelle? Everyone wondered. No one had heard or seen her.
Should they be worried? Did something happen?
My uncle, “Zi’Michel’, who happened to be passing through the back-a-yard on his way to work took a more practical approach. He thought that Carmelle stumbled upon some juicy gossip and couldn’t tear herself away. So he decided to reassure the ladies.
“Ma dai…don’ worry. If Carmelle died today, even Jesus couldn’t find her.”