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Rose Masciello's Autobiography - Chapter Nineteen

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As usual, upon arriving home from summer vacation I could hardly wait to see my grandparents, uncles and
aunts again. At first sight of them I ran into their arms where I always felt secure and loved. Yet, something
was missing. I was the only grandchild in the family and wished there were another child for me to play with. I
believed my wish had come true when Aunt Anna and Uncle Nino announced the birth of their baby son.

It was the tradition in most Italian families to name their first son and daughter after the infant’s paternal grandparents.
The second son and daughter were named after the infant’s maternal grandparents. Babies that followed were named
after aunts and uncles. According to tradition my baby cousin was named Dominick.

I eagerly waited for the moment I’d meet my little playmate. When my parents and I went to see him I excitedly
stood on my tiptoes and peeked into the bassinet that Grandma Lucia had decorated for me when I was born. I looked
into a cute round face, eyes like two dark cherries and the curliest hair that I had ever seen. I knew at a glance that
until this “little bundle of joy” walked and talked I would not have a playmate. My twinge of impatience turned to
childish curiosity. I asked Aunt Anna, “Why were the pink ribbons and pink blanket on the bassinet changed to
blue ones?” Aunt Anna answered, “Rosie, we changed the colors because pink is for girls and blue is for boys.” With
the inquisitiveness of a two year old I asked again, “Aunt Anna, what is the difference between boys and girls?”
Aunt Anna hurriedly said, “Rosie, lunch is ready and I will answer your question right after we’ve eaten.”

We sat around the kitchen table; Aunt Anna, Uncle Nino, my parents and I. I’m sure I heard Aunt Anna’s suppressed
giggle as she tied a pink frilly bib around my neck. I also noticed a half smile on my mother’s face as she rolled her
eyes heavenward.

Lunch was over; the grownups had enjoyed their espresso coffee and biscotti and my parents were ready to leave.
Baby Dom had awakened from his short nap. I bid him “Arrivederci bambino.” I waved and blew a kiss to my little
playmate to be.

When I arrived home I started to play with my dolls and visualized myself playing “house” with Baby Dom. I hoped
it would be soon, but little did I know that he’d never become the least bit interested in playing with my dolls. If Aunt
Anna had remembered to answer my question I might have been better prepared to deal with a boy playmate.

While I was waiting for Baby Dom to grow out of his bassinet, two more babies were on their way to join the Palmeri
family. As I approached my fourth birthday my parents gave me one of the greatest gifts I had ever received; my
baby brother, Anthony, named after our paternal grandfather, Antonio. Now I had my very own playmate. Baby
Tony with his light wavy hair, large bright hazel eyes and sweet gurgling smile was the most adorable baby in the
whole world, at least in our whole neighborhood.  He was a strong healthy baby and I was proud to be his big
four-year-old sister. As we were growing up there were times I believed my baby brother was my parents’ favorite
child, never giving my parents a moment’s worry over his health. Whereas I felt my poor health had been a burden
to them. In later years I was saddened to learn Tony felt I was the favorite because of the attention I was given while
I was ill. In spite of the difference in our temperaments; he was reserved, I was outgoing, we always had fun as
children and had a great affection and respect for each other.  We never called each other Rose and Tony. It was
always Ro’ and To’.

On my nineteenth birthday Tony gave me a book, “This Is My Best”, an anthology of “America’s 93 Greatest Living
Authors.” On the first page was
Tony’s inscription.

Dear Ro’,

Good luck, good health, good judgment and happiness sprinkled with blue are my wishes for you on this, your
nineteenth birthday.

Your loving brother,    To’

I treasure the book and especially the inscription written by my fifteen-year-old brother.

When Tony was two months old Aunt Anna gave birth to her second son, my cousin Steve, named after
Grandpa Stefano. Steve was a handsome robust baby with the sweetest temperament imaginable.  Now I had three
potential playmates – all boys! My wish for playmates was coming true, but I did hope that a girl cousin would appear soon.

The Sunday family gatherings at my grandparents’ home grew larger and noisier. My brother and cousins were
growing up but they weren’t quite the playmates I’d expected them to be. While I played quietly with my dolls and
cardboard dollhouse they played “Cowboys and Indians”, hooted and jumped over toy trains and wooden toy
soldiers scattered across the floor.

One of my favorite toys was a set of little tin dishes.  They were colored sky blue with pink rosebuds around the edges.
One Sunday when the boys howled their Indian chants a little louder than usual they playfully twirled my tin dishes
in the air. One of the dishes clunked Uncle Pat smack right on his head. I sucked in my breath, and grabbed my
toy first aid kit. The boys roared with laughter at their own childish prank, but I didn’t find it funny. Pat had
joined in his nephew’s merrymaking while my teenaged aunts, Lena and Margaret, stood with clenched fists on
their hips and glared at their brother for encouraging the rowdiness. Why was getting hit on the head so hilarious to
the boys?  Now I was sure I had made a great discovery – the difference between boys and girls!

At times like this when the boys became rough and boisterous, Grandpa Stefano brought out the Lotto game and
beckoned the children to sit around the dining room table. We were given ten pennies each and were learning
our numbers as we played. The game was played like Bingo and we had fun even when the winners had to return
half of their winnings to Grandpa’s wooden cigar box. He may have taught us a lesson in finances – probably taxes!

Uncle Pat had outgrown us, and his bevy of playmates had increased - all girls of course. Just when it seemed
that he was having difficulty choosing just one girl from the many who clamored for his attention, he invited a
timid, auburn haired girl to one of our family gatherings. When Freda shyly walked in and was introduced to our
family they all sensed that love was in the air. My grandparents, overly protective of their only son, felt that twenty
two year old Pat was too young to marry and support a family.

However, Pat had grown tired of working in his father’s Produce Market. He followed in Giovanni’s footsteps, became
a barber and opened his own barbershop. He made it clear that he was ready to settle down with the starry eyed,
lovely young girl. She had captured his heart and they were truly in love.  “Romeo” had finally found his “Juliet.”
They married and in the next two years Aunt Freda gave birth to two sons; my handsome cousins Steve, named
after Grandpa Stefano and Joseph named after Aunt Freda’s father.

I was still the only granddaughter in the Palmeri Family. I was the “Princess” and the five grandsons were my
“Royal Subjects” each one a “Prince.” I loved them all, but I eagerly looked forward to start school – in kindergarten
I hoped to find all the girl playmates I’d been wishing for.