now mid-November, about two weeks away from Thanksgiving Day. The
weather was icy
cold and the spirit of the approaching Holiday
Season was in the air. However, Mamma Lucia
was not in a festive
mood. She had trudged her way to the factory early that morning and had
arrived there tired and disgruntled. She sat at her usual place
among the other women and started
her tedious work; sewing buttons
on the bundles of coats that had been assigned to her. Her job was
boring, but it left her mind free to sort out the indecisive thoughts
she was having.
had received another letter from her husband.
She detected a note of impatience as he asked
her if and when
she was bringing herself and their children to Brooklyn. He was doing
his brother Alfredo’s fruit and vegetable store and could
now afford to rent an apartment and furnish
it in preparation for
their arrival. He would rent another apartment for his daughter
husband and their baby, and send train tickets for all
of them if Giovanni was ready to resign
from his job at the
Department of Sanitation and move to Brooklyn.
As Mamma Lucia’s nimble fingers pulled her needle and heavy thread
through the thick fabric of
men’s winter coats she thought of her
husband’s closing words, “Pasquale is becoming even more
with our lady customers and Anichia is on the verge of becoming engaged
to a fine distant
With a twinge of guilt Mamma Lucia rolled her eyes and muttered
under her breath “When
the cat’s away, the mice will play.” She felt
a nudging warning to get herself to Brooklyn and soon!
picked up another coat, another button and glanced at the big clock on
the wall. “How strange
it is” she thought, “that the hours drag by
so slowly and yet time goes by so quickly.” Eight months
had gone by
since she and her daughters had been sidetracked to Rockford when their
had hit an iceberg. They were forced to take temporary residence with
cousins Vito and Sadie. Mamma Lucia was a conscientious woman
and was proud that she had been
able to contribute her share of
expenses to these generous relatives.
scattered thoughts were interrupted when she heard the factory workers
making plans for the
coming holidays. She thought of Thanksgiving
Day, which she called “Turkey Day.” Mamma Lucia
usually counted her
blessings but this holiday season did not inspire her spiritually. The
of Christmas, her favorite holy day, brought tears to her
eyes as she remembered Christmas Eve in
Sicily. In her mind’s eye
she saw her family gathered around the Nativity Scene. She could almost
hear the voices of her children as they sang their favorite
beautiful Christmas hymns.
thought of New Year’s Day and the beginning of another year, 1922, she
felt a strong yearning
for her husband and her other two children.
Suddenly her decision was made. She would be in
Christmas Day! She had stayed in Rockford waiting for Giovanna to give
she had waited for my Christening. Now it was time for
her to be at her husband’s side.
It was closing time at the factory. The sun had gone down and in that
cold twilight hour Mamma Lucia
started her walk back home with a
lighter step. A burden had been lifted from her heart. She felt no
uncertainty and no guilt. No matter what Giovanni decided to do she knew
that he was a level
headed young man; perhaps stubborn at times, in
order to prove his independence, but he would
do whatever was best
for his family.
She arrived home happier than she had been in a
long time. With her arms around her two
young daughters she joyfully
announced that they would be in Brooklyn by Christmas Day; just six
weeks away. She would write to their father the very next morning so
that he would prepare for their
The girls had mixed emotions. They were glad that they would be
joining their father, brother
and sister, but they would miss Sadie
and Vito, their teachers and the friends they had made at school.
Their biggest concern was me, Baby Rosa. They hoped that my father,
mother and I would be going
with them to be reunited with the rest
of the Palmeri family.
following day, a Sunday, Mamma Lucia and her two daughters walked the
three short blocks
to church. Mass ended with the priest’s blessing
“Peace be with you.” They returned home feeling
comforted by the
blessing. Now they prepared to take their weekly trip to visit my
parents and me.
They filled their canvas bags with food, a home
cooked meal, fruit and pastries, and of course there
was always a
small toy for me. I had already accumulated three pretty rattles and
five soft furry
animals in assorted colors for which I had no
appreciation since I was only three weeks old and
didn’t know which
planet I was on!
Grandmother Lucia and my two young aunts boarded a trolley car. It was a
short ride to my
parent’s small humble home. Mamma Lucia’s anxiety
had mounted; the moment finally arrived when
she tearfully told
Giovanna and Giovanni that she, Nina and Margarita would be in Brooklyn
Christmas Day. She hoped that Giovanni would leave Rockford and
move to Brooklyn with Giovanna
and the baby.
Padre Stefano was eager to have his family reunited.
He would rent another apartment
and send the train tickets.
He was also eager to meet me, his first grandchild.
Giovanni thanked Mamma Lucia and expressed his gratitude for Padre
Stefano’s generosity. He
regretted that he was unable to leave
Rockford at the present time. He wished to stay with the
of Sanitation until he had accumulated enough money to tide him over in
the event that
he did move to Brooklyn and had to spend some time
looking for another job.
young aunts pleaded with him to come to Brooklyn to spend the holidays
would be such fun with Baby Rosa. Giovanni’s
mind was made up, but he promised his nieces that
he, Giovanna and
their baby would join them as soon as possible.
Giovanna could not recall one day in her twenty years that she had ever
been separated from her
mother. Then she remembered her one week in
Taormina with Giovanni on their honeymoon. Now
she was no longer a
child. She was a wife and mother, so she held back her tears.
shopping bags were opened, but not eagerly. The food placed on the table
was eaten at a
slower pace than usual. Mamma Lucia tried to cheer up
her family by reminding them that their
cousin Vito had invited them
all to Thanksgiving Dinner at his home.
It would be a celebration for
God’s blessings and a “going
away” party for Mamma Lucia, Anichia and Margarita.
Giovanni noticed the tears in Giovanna’s eyes.
No one saw the tears in Mamma Lucia’s eyes
because she had
walked over to the bassinet. I was crying—I couldn’t possibly sense that
I would be
spending my first Christmas Day without my Grandma—or