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Rose Masciello's Autobiography - Chapter Fourteen

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                           Happy Holidays

 

It was the morning of Thanksgiving Day. Cousin Sadie and Mamma Lucia had just finished stuffing the turkey. Now they needed
someone to admire their handiwork. Nina and Margarita who were busy creating a mountain of salad, were summoned to come
look at the plump turkey before it was plopped into the hot oven. Margarita with a whimsical smile exclaimed “Oh, the poor
bird!” Nina, her eyes twinkling as usual, playfully groaned, “I’m starving! When will dinner be ready?” As the turkey disappeared
into the oven, Mamma Lucia being the most experienced cook, estimated the time that the turkey would be served, and added
proudly “It will be succulent and cooked to perfection.” They laughed, sang and scurried around the kitchen as they put their “Turkey
Day” feast together.

Sadie noticed snowflakes sticking to her kitchen window and cautioned her husband Vito to go pick up Giovanna, Giovanni and
the baby before the snow piled up any higher. He was also reminded to stop at the local Italian bakery to pick up the cannoli and
other pastries they had ordered.

When Vito arrived at my parents’ home Giovanni wrapped me up in warm blankets, Giovanna picked up a basket filled with her
delicious home baked biscotti, and out into the falling snow we went.

Vito remembered to stop at the bakery and after he had gingerly placed the pastries in the trunk of his car he carefully drove
along the snow-covered streets. As we rode along Giovanna admired the trees with their outstretched white glistening
branches while Giovanni wondered how much snow he would have to shovel the next day to keep the Rockford streets safe and clean.

Giovanna was looking forward to spending the day with her mother and sisters. She decided that today she would be happy. By
the time they arrived at Vito’s house, and stepped out of the car, a blanket of snow had transformed the old neighborhood into
a scrapbook of lovely winter scenes. Giovanna had never seen snow while she was growing up in sunny Sicily. This was her first
winter in America. She wondered if the trees in Brooklyn were as pretty as these in Rockford.

I was snuggled into my father’s arms and quickly carried into the house. Now I was surrounded by my loving relatives who took
turns bouncing me up and down. I laughed, I am told, until they put me into my tiny crib. The room resounded with happy
voices, and mouth-watering aromas streamed in from the kitchen. Appetites had reached their peak when Mamma Lucia announced
Tutti a Tavola.”  All were beckoned to the table. After a heartfelt prayer of thanks, dinner was served.

It was a lovely Thanksgiving Day and “Going Away” celebration; eight souls under one roof. They enjoyed each others’ closeness
and quietly wished that they would all be together again very soon.

Sadie and Vito had grown accustomed to having Lucia and her two lively young daughters living with them for the past several
months. The childless couple had enjoyed helping the girls with their homework, taking them to concerts in the park and to an
occasional movie. They would miss Nina and Margarita coming home from school every day, singing, giggling and happily
pronouncing the new English phrases that they had learned that day.

The feasting continued; the meal was delicious of course. Sadie and Vito had learned about the typical American Thanksgiving
Day dinner: the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and even a pumpkin pie. Just to make sure that something had
not been left out, a large pan of lasagna had also been served. It seemed to remind these Italian immigrants that their old traditions
could easily mix with the new.

I was just a month old then and had no teeth yet, so I didn’t get to taste the turkey that was cooked to perfection and as
succulent as my grandmother promised it would be.  However, I smacked my lips hungrily when my mother fed me a few
teaspoons full of the cannoli cream!

The snow had stopped falling. Vito drove my parents and me home, but not before Mamma Lucia had promised Giovanna that
she would come to visit her as often as possible during the four remaining weeks before Christmas.

The next morning Giovanni arrived early as usual, at the Department of Sanitation. Instead of holding a broom he now maneuvered
a shovel, piling snow up at the curbs. It was a crystal clear day, cold but sunny. He felt vigorous and confident that by working
hard and being frugal he would make Giovanna happy by saving enough money to risk leaving his job and moving to Brooklyn.

The day arrived when Mamma Lucia and her two young daughters, suitcases in hand, were ready for their trip to Brooklyn. The
farewells with Giovanna had not been easy. They all cried, but they had faith and were comforted by Giovanni’s promise that it
would not be too long before the family would be reunited.

Vito and Sadie drove Mamma Lucia and her daughters to the train station. Again there were tears, and many good wishes
were exchanged. Vito and Sadie promised that they would visit the Palmeri family very soon.

The train ride was pleasant. The young girls chatted and looked forward to being with the rest of their family. They wondered
what Brooklyn would be like.  Mamma Lucia prayed that Giovanni would decide to leave Rockford in the near future. 

Padre Stefano had made the newly rented apartment as comfortable as possible for his family and waited eagerly for their arrival.
Anichia and Pasquale were also eager to be reunited with their mother and sisters again. Anichia had postponed her engagement;
Pasquale knew he’d be forgiven for his adolescent escapades.

It was an exciting and truly heartwarming reunion.  The tears were of joy. This was the beginning of their lives together in this new
country, America.  The only ones missing now were Giovanna, her husband and their first and only grandchild, me, Baby Rosa.
They would have to wait patiently for the day when their family would truly be reunited.

In the meantime, the Palmeri family counted their blessings. They were together for Christmas Day and spent a most wonderful Buon
Natale
. Padre Stefano now owned and operated his own fruit and vegetable store. Pasquale was a great help to his father. Mamma
Lucia was content to work as a seamstress and occasionally was asked to do fine embroidery at a nearby boutique. Anichia
became engaged to a distant relative, a fine young man, Anthony Bertone. Nina and Margarita were enrolled in the local elementary
school.

Back in Rockford, Giovanna, Giovanni and I spent Christmas Day with cousins, Vito and Sadie. It wasn’t exactly a “Merry Christmas”
for Giovanna, but she knew the true meaning of Christmas. It was a holy and joyful day. She felt a loving gratitude towards
Sadie and Vito for their kindness and generosity. She loved her darling little Baby Rosa and of course Giovanni would always
be her “Adonis”; so like the Palmeri family in Brooklyn, we too had a
Buon Natale.