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Rose Masciello's Autobiography - Chapter Seventeen

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                                            Is It Sunday Yet?

Mamma Lucia and Padre Stefano were enjoying one of the happiest times of their lives. They were living a dream
come true. Their vision of emigrating to America had become a reality. They found their deepest contentment
centered in the welfare of their children and in the unity of the family.

Aunt Anna had postponed her wedding until my parents and I had finally joined the rest of the family. Now she
was a new bride, blissfully married to Uncle Nino. 

Adding to my grandparents’ joy and delight were my two young aunts; Lena, bubbly and full of fun would burst
into the house, wave her report card, flaunting the high grades she had received at school. Margaret, a quiet child
with an iron will, presented her card with a proud smile on her face, satisfied with herself for having kept pace with
her older sister. In spite of the difference in their personalities, they enjoyed a close sisterly companionship.

Padre Stefano was proud of his family and did his utmost to provide for them. In order to attract more customers
to his produce business, he had a striped, bright yellow and green awning installed over his store’s front window.
Above the eye-catching yellow fringe it read “PALMERI’S CHOICE  FRUIT & VEGETABLE  MARKET.” Uncle Pat seemed
content as he assisted his father in their growing business venture. Charmed by Pat’s boyish good looks, his wit
and honeyed words the lady customers grew in numbers.

My grandparents worshipped “Prince Pasquale”, their only son, and chose to ignore the few romantic distractions
that prevented young Pat to pursue another line of work outside of the family business.  They needed his help and
believed that he was not mature enough to leave the family “nest.” Like a rooster and mother hen, Padre Stefano
and Mamma Lucia would have kept all their “chicks” under their wings and under their roof forever—if only they could.

It became a Sunday ritual for the Palmeri family to congregate at my grandparents’ home. They lived on the first floor
of a tenement building in an Italian neighborhood. Upon entering the hallway, there was no escaping the mouth-watering
aroma of meatballs and tomato sauce simmering on the stoves in the kitchens of most Italian homes. It was their
usual Sunday meal. The shape of the pasta varied, but the magic ingredients in the sauce remained about the
same from generation to generation. 

Mamma Lucia was in her glory when she was surrounded by her daughters, hustling and bustling in her kitchen. They
peeled the onions and garlic while Mamma Lucia measured, in her hand, the salt, pepper, basil, oregano and
her secret ingredient, a teaspoonful of sugar. As they stirred the sauce and waited for the pasta to reach the al dente
stage, they related to each other their events of the past week, which were usually comically embellished. The sound
of their laughter boomed out into the parlor where Padre Stefano, Giovanni, and Uncle Nino had settled down to
play popular Italian card games
, Briscola and Tre Sette. The men, already in good spirits, dealt out the cards and
laughingly assured each other that a meal cooked by cheerful women would be
delizioso and truly a “labor of love.” 

Uncle Pat played cards with the other men until he was sent to Ferrari’s Bakery for the family’s favorite pastries.
The moment he entered the store the young girls behind the counter elbowed each other and giggled nervously.
He was their idol. They all had a “crush” on the eighteen year old  “Prince Charming” and he knew it. He returned
home with an impish grin on his face, and emphatically declared “Those Ferrari girls are even sweeter than the
pastries they sell.” His sisters teased him relentlessly until Mamma Lucia came to the rescue. She announced
that it was dinner time and summoned her hungry brood to sit around the table.

I was placed in a high chair and clumsily dug into my dish of lasagna, oblivious of Padre Stefano who was solemnly
thanking God for the food set before us. They feasted and drank the wine made by my grandfather in the wine
cellar that the landlord had graciously allowed him to use. Of course grandpa never failed to give the landlord a
few bottles of wine on special holidays.

Twenty one years later, this very same dingy and cold wine cellar was decorated with hanging balloons and colorful
crepe paper strips strung up high from beam to beam. It became the scene of an unforgettable birthday party and
an occasion that opened upon a new phase of my life.  But I have digressed.  Allow me to return to those Sundays
spent leisurely at my grandparents’ home. 

It was their day of rest. My fun loving relatives sat at the table for hours, enjoying each other’s stories and
anecdotes, most of which they had heard many times before. I can remember Padre Stefano’s hearty laugh as he
sipped his favorite drink; a glass of red wine in which he had delicately sliced a fresh luscious peach. I can
hear the echo of nutcrackers, cracking walnuts and almonds while the aroma of espresso coffee streamed in from
the kitchen.

Their conversation eventually turned from reminiscing about their growing up years in Sicily to the plans they
hoped would materialize for them in the future. Their dreams were temporarily put on hold when Mamma Lucia
entered the room, carrying a large platter of delectable pastries. Good food was one of the joys of life to these
grateful immigrants and warranted each one’s complete attention. Coffee was served and the delicacies were
savored with gusto. When Lena and Margaret bit into their pastries they resumed teasing their brother, “Oh Pat,
these pastries are much sweeter and more delicious than your Ferrari girls.” Pat laughed and replied, “You don’t
know them as well as I do.” My young aunts shook their heads and agreed that their brother “Romeo” was incorrigible.

The time came for the family to bid each other
Buona Notte. My father picked me up from the warm soft spot on
my grandparents’ huge four poster bed where I was surrounded by fluffy pillows so that I would not roll off the bed.
I can still remember how I fussed and whimpered as I was wrapped up in a blanket and carried into the cold night
air. My mother trailed behind us carrying a covered dish that Mamma Lucia was in the habit of giving each of her
married daughters as they were leaving. Giovanni drove us home in our old Ford. Soon I was in my own little bed,
dreaming of being rocked gently in loving arms to the rhythm of mingled sounds of laughter and music drifting
out of the windows of my grandparents’ railroad flat and asking, “Is it Sunday yet?”