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,
was missing. I was the only grandchild in the family and
wished there were another child for me to play with. I
wish had come true when Aunt Anna and Uncle Nino announced the birth of
their baby son.
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.
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
until this “little bundle of joy” walked and talked I would not
have a playmate. My twinge of impatience turned to
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
the inquisitiveness of a two year old I asked again,
“Aunt Anna, what is the difference between boys and girls?”
Anna hurriedly said, “Rosie, lunch is ready and I will answer your
question right after we’ve eaten.”
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
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
playmate to be.
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.
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
baby brother, Anthony, named after our paternal
grandfather, Antonio. Now I had my very own playmate. Baby
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
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
to them. In later years I was saddened to learn Tony felt I
was the favorite because of the attention I was given while
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
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
Good luck, good health, good judgment and happiness sprinkled with blue
are my wishes for you on this, your
Your loving brother,
treasure the book and especially the inscription written by my
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
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
across the floor.
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
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
Now I was sure I had made a great discovery – the difference
between boys and girls!
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
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!
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
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,
after Grandpa Stefano and Joseph named after Aunt Freda’s
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.