Is It Sunday Yet?
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
centered in the welfare of their children and in the
unity of the family.
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
her older sister. In spite of the difference in their
personalities, they enjoyed a close sisterly companionship.
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
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,
and honeyed words the lady customers grew in numbers.
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
and Mamma Lucia would have kept all their “chicks” under
their wings and under their roof forever—if only they could.
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
usual Sunday meal. The shape of the pasta varied, but the
magic ingredients in the sauce remained about the
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
The men, already in good spirits, dealt out the cards and
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
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
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
few bottles of wine on special holidays.
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
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
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
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
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
entered the room, carrying a large platter of delectable
pastries. Good food was one of the joys of life to these
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
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
My father picked me up from the warm soft spot on
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
air. My mother trailed behind us carrying a covered dish that
Mamma Lucia was in the habit of giving each of her
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
of the windows of my grandparents’ railroad flat and asking, “Is it