And She’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun…


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Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about Baby’s First Christmas. Well that baby quickly grew up and wanted to learn how to drive. And so she took lessons after school, got her learner’s permit, and tried to practice as much as possible before taking her driving test.

One Sunday my husband, who I should add isn’t the most patient man, offered to take her driving in Sears’s parking lot. Back in those days, the stores were closed on Sundays so there was no danger of her hitting anyone or anything.

My daughter,  is a lot like her father in lots of ways including her lack of patience and Irish temper. But who could blame her as she’s a redhead, the oldest of seven and just likes to get things “done.”

I wasn’t sure how this combustible mix of personalities was going to work out especially without me there to referee. But you have to let them go sometime  and trust they will do the right thing – I mean my husband and not my daughter.

Now mind you, I wasn’t there so no one really knows the truth,  but from what I gather my husband didn’t like the way my daughter was driving. Or my daughter didn’t like the way my husband was supervising. In any case, my husband wanted to take over the wheel.

So he got out of the car and walked around the back of it, expecting my daughter to slide over so he could show her how it was “done.”

Unfortunately, he never got the chance. Just as soon as he closed the passenger door and walked to the rear of the car, my daughter took off leaving her father stranded in Sears’s parking lot. The Sears store was several miles away and there were no cell phones back in those days.

Naturally when she pulled into the driveway without him I could only guess what happened.  And so I went into rescue mode and told her to go and stay at her grandmother’s and not to  come home until I called her.

I then went and picked up my husband who had managed to cool down enough to even laugh about it on the ride back. It will be a long time be for she sees these again, and he jingled  his set of car keys. She had fun, fun, fun till her daddy took the T-bird away. 

Red, Red Wine


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Sometimes, there is a certain myth-like quality surrounding some of the well-known stories in my family.

Take my great grandfather Antonio for example – he was my grandmother Margharite’s father.  Tonino they called him or “Little Tony.”  And what he lacked in height he made up for in longevity – or so they say.

My grandmother used to love telling us this story. And if she told us once, she told us a thousand times.  Each time she’d start with the same beginning. As she poured herself a glass of red wine we knew what was coming.

It was hard for us not to roll our eyes, or elbow each other in the ribs.  We knew the story so well; we’d often finish her sentences for her.

She’d say…”You know, your great grandfather lived to be…
“One hundred and six!” Tony would interject.

She would stare daggers at him for stealing her thunder.  I gave Tony a dirty look.

And then she’d continue to extol his virtues about how smart he was, and how good he was at fixing things, and his skill at morra.

“And you know what he would drink every day since he was a little boy?”

Carmen was about to open his mouth when I shook my head and mouthed the word “don’t”.

Because to steal her thunder a second time would have meant a schiafe to the head.

“Red wine,” she said with an air of satisfaction.

And from here she moved on to the climax of her story – which we all knew was coming.

But it gave her so much pleasure to come to the incredible conclusion of her story – we didn’t dare interrupt her.

“And do you know how he died?” She asked.

Of course we all knew how he died but that wasn’t the point. The point was to be a good listener and ask.

“No, Nonna,” I’d said as I made a face behind her back at Tony and Carmen.

“How did he die?”  I asked.

“He fell of off a roof he was fixing!” she concluded with pride.

A salut!

I Just Called to Say…


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Several years ago my favorite uncle Roberto was in a bit of a jackpot. Not the kind where you win money, that’s the dictionary definition. Rather it was the opposite. The slang definition that means you’re in a bad spot.

Apparently, he had miscalculated on a few horse races and found himself short of cash and he didn’t have to heart to tell his wife, my Aunt Rita. He thought it best to keep it quiet and not upset her. He opted for a payday loan from Etna instead.

It was a good solution except that in order to get the loan he needed a cosigner. And so he asked my mother Vicenza to co-sign. Mom had no problem co-signing but she swore Roberto to secrecy. No sense having Rita mad at them both.

My mother knew that Roberto would bear the brunt of Rita’s anger for asking her to co-sign. Better to keep it between them.

Now everything would have been just fine, if Roberto didn’t have a hot streak at the racetrack. He hit the jackpot (the good kind).

With money in his pocket, he wanted  to maximize his investment. So he only made regular steady payments to Etna while using the extra money to fund more trips to the track. He was sandbagging.

Things were going just fine. In fact, Etna was so pleased with him as a customer, they wanted to grant him additional credit. Well back in those days, they didn’t send you an email they called your house.

And guess who answered the phone on the day Etna called the house. That’s right, my Aunt Rita.

My uncle was once again in a jackpot but not the kind he wanted.

When he walked into the kitchen after work that day, my aunt mentioned he had a phone call.

“Oh, who was it?” He asked.

“You’re Aunt Etna,” she said.

“What did she want,” he gulped.

“She said you ‘finished in the money‘.” Then she held out her hand, and my uncle filled it with all of his winnings.

Hello Jesus…

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It’s me, your friend Tony. I wanted to thank you for all of the times you were there for me. Even though I couldn’t see you, I could always feel your presence. You never left me. And believe me there were times when I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

You always believed in me. The problem was I never believed in myself. You knew there was hope for me but I never realized it until it was almost too late.

You see there were lots of near misses and different roads that were often dead ends but each was like the piece of a puzzle – the puzzle of my life. Sometimes the pieces fit and other times not. And for as much as I like to think I was putting all of the pieces in place, it was really You. You were in charge of creating the big picture.

I, in turn, made my own painting  of You with Mother Theresa, and Padre Pio. It always accompanied me wherever I went, either folded up in my pocket or in a frame at “home” – wherever home was.

The picture only represents the story for me. The reality is You are my friend. You shared that bumpy road of life with me – the ups and downs. Some beautiful places some not.

In the end you taught me how to love. “Love one another as I have loved you.” You said.  And so I did.   And it was on the wave of that love that you called me home. I heard your voice that fateful day in April 1985 when you called my name.

“Here I am, Jesus, ” I said.

“Hello Tony, this is your friend Jesus.” You said. “It’s time to come home.”

There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by when I don’t think of  my brother Tony. The picture he drew is in my kitchen. It keeps me company. It reminds me that even on my worst day I have a friend watching over me, helping move to move those puzzle pieces into place into a beautiful big picture. Hello Tony, it’s me – Louisa

One More From the Road


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Visiting prisoners is considered by the Catholic Church a Corporal Act of Mercy. It stems back from the time of the early church when Jesus, Peter, and Paul as well as many early saints were considered outlaws.

As Oscar Wilde once said, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

I guess that’s why, no matter where Tony or my cousin Dickie Vee, ended up we, my husband and I, would go and visit them. One such trip was to the Atlanta penitentiary in the 70s where they were doing time.

I guess when you have that much time on your hands; it gives you the opportunity to reflect on your life and the possibility redemption. At least I hoped it did.

Tony promised me this would be his last “trip” and that when he returned home it would be to stay. But I knew given the kind of “business” he was in – that there was only one way out. You were in for life – or until you died. It made me sad to think about it.

Changing the subject to something on a lighter note, Dickie Vee handed me a newly finished drawing he’d completed of the Weeping Virgin. It was beautiful to behold.

At the time there were lots of articles in the Catholic newspapers on a miraculous statue of the Weeping Virgin. I had longed to see it but it was somewhere in Europe. So I put it out of my mind.

Oddly enough, I was to have another encounter with this Weeping Virgin but I didn’t know it at the time.

Several months after our visit to Atlanta, we learned the Weeping Virgin was coming to America. And not only that, there was a scheduled visit at our church. But to top it off – literally – they selected my daughter Maddy to place a crown of roses on her head. We were honored.

(Guido would also like me to mention that he was an altar boy at this Mass – head altar boy to be precise.)

I guess it was because I saw the drawing of the Weeping Virgin while visiting Tony and Dickie Vee, and now I had a personal tie with the statue, it made me think that somehow the Virgin was sent to watch over all of her children – even the wayward ones.

Amen!

Post-Christmas Blues

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It seems like I’ve been focusing a lot on my sons at the expense of my four amazing daughters. And since it’s Christmas time, I’d like to share with you one of my favorite Christmas stories involving one of my daughters.

As every parent knows, it’s children who create Christmas magic. My husband, my mother, and I would stay up till three or four in the morning assembling and wrapping gifts. That may seem late to you, but keep in mind, we have seven children. And that’s a lot of wrapping paper! Also my husband was not exactly a handy man with tools. He put everything together using a butter knife.

We barely got to sleep when three little people burst into our room ready to open presents. It was my three younger children, Aldo, Debbie and Maria, their ages ranging between two to five years old. The other four kids, the older ones, made up the balance of the sleepy conga line that snaked its way down the stairs, through the living room and into the den where piles of presents awaited them.

Besides who could sleep anyway?  I was as excited as they were. After all I had picked the perfect gifts. If there’s one thing I know – it’s my kids. Or so I thought.

In a matter of minutes the floor was waist deep in wrapping paper, boxes and bows. My children were now busy playing with toys or trying on clothes – all except for one. Debbie. She disappeared . We found her sitting in the clothes basket in the dining room. She was not a happy camper.

I was worried. Did I miss something? Did I buy the wrong the wrong thing? Didn’t she like the Mrs. Beasley doll?

It turns out, she did not! She was sure she told Santa she wanted Dressy Bessy.

“You can’t dress Mrs. Beasley,” she cried.

“Oh yes, you can,” I said. “We can dress her plenty if you just get out of the laundry basket!”

Baby’s First Christmas

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Christmas Eve celebrations in Italian families are legendary for the amount of food, fun and of course faith. And by faith, I mean a trip to church for Midnight Mass. But let’s get back to the food. With the exception of an Italian wedding, you’ll not see this much food at any other time of the year.

It’s a pescatarian feast with every kind of fish and seafood known to man. It’s known as Il Cenone di Vigilia, the feast of the seven fishes, but there are often more than seven courses. In my family, everyone’s favorite dish was always the salted cod called Baccala. And boy could it stink up your house.

You can imagine my Irish-American husband’s reaction at his first Christmas Eve dinner “tra famiglia” at my mother’s house with all of this strange and exotic food.

It was also our first Christmas as a family, as we  had our first daughter who was about nine months old at the time. And boy was she energized by all the festivities. She sat on my lap watching the comings and goings of friends and family throughout the night. She ripped open presents, she clapped and she sang. But she didn’t eat a thing.

It was then I knew that she was definitely her father’s daughter as she turned up her nose at every appetizer I put before her. My husband looked at her and nodded in sympathy as he waited trepidatiously for the main course of stuffed lobster.

But my mother was adamant about not putting out any main dishes until my brother Tony arrived. After all she said this was “his day.”

Carmen looked at her skeptically as he just finished his second bowl of calamari in brodo. It was getting late and we were still waiting for the guest of honor. It was strange that he wasn’t home yet. My mother finally gave in and gave the nod to proceed as the food was getting cold.

And just as we were about to dig into the main dishes, the front, back and side doors burst open. And we all jumped as three men entered the house. I’d like to tell you they were the three wise men but they were not – it was law enforcement.

Up until this time I had no idea that my brother was involved in anything other than a floating crap game. My husband and brother Carmen, however, were a bit wiser but thought it best not to worry me.

My mom, my daughter and I couldn’t be more surprised if St. Nick popped out of the chimney tap dancing.. I presumed they were Federal Marshals from the six pointed stars they wore. The irony of it made me laugh as I looked at the star on top of the Christmas tree.

Then they asked my mother if she knew the whereabouts of my brother. My mother was as stunned as I was. And so she said the first thing that came to her head, “Try church.”

The men, satisfied that Tony was not in the house, left as abruptly as they came. Our festa was ruined. Tony was missing and everyone was upset – everyone except for my daughter who didn’t have a clue as to what had just happened and didn’t care.

Many years later she and I were talking about all of the fuss that goes into making baby’s first Christmas a special event these days. And even though she doesn’t remember it, she laughs when she thinks about her first Christmas. And to make me feel better she likes to tell me, “I’d rather have a good story than some silly ornament that puts in an appearance once a year.”

I never needed an ornament to tell her that to me she was a star. Shine on!