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Rose Masciello's Autobiography - Chapter Twenty Five

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                 The Elusive Dreams of Youth

The summer of 1929 had ended, and the falling leaves of September reminded us that a new school term was about
to begin. When the day arrived, we children, accompanied by Mama and Aunt Annie, walked hand in hand over a
crunchy carpet of purple, red and gold leaves. As we shuffled along, carrying our sharpened pencils and new notebooks,
Tootsie said, “Rosie, last night I said a little prayer that we three would be in the same class.”

I held my clasped hands up to the heavens and said, “I did too Tootsie.  I hope He heard us.”

Sally skipped through the leaves and said, “Last night I looked at a sky full of stars and wished that we would be in Miss
Anderson’s class.”

With great anticipation we entered Public School 89.  We found ourselves in the midst of a group of children who were
waiting to be directed into the different classrooms. As I watched Tootsie nervously biting her nails our names were called,
and the three of us were led into the same classroom. I can still see the wide smiles on the twins’ faces as Miss
Anderson assigned us to our seats.

School days became “Golden Days.” The moment the children walked into Miss Anderson’s class we knew it would be
a fun day. She’d turn the lessons into games that we could hardly wait to play. Her enthusiasm made us eager to bring
home to our parents the homework papers that Miss Anderson had checked and decorated with gold stars.

My parents were unable to help me with most of my homework. However, my father had been a good student while
attending school in Italy, and one of his favorite subjects was mathematics. With his help I accumulated many
stars on my arithmetic homework and test papers. Miss Anderson knew how proud the parents would be of their
children when they brought home a galaxy of glittering gold stars.

I often did my homework with the twins. We each had our favorite subjects. Although I enjoyed solving arithmetic
problems, my favorite moments were when I opened a book, and as if by magic, I could read a story or a poem
that transported me to a foreign country or into the midst of a family different from my own.

I felt like a schoolteacher when I helped the twins with the multiplication table, and I found it funny when they almost
fell over each other in their eagerness to help me with my history and geography homework.

When we had a singing session, we agreed, with tongue in cheek, that someday we might become a popular singing
sister trio. Whenever the twins and I practiced our favorite songs, Louie covered his ears with his furry winter earmuffs,
even on a sweltering summer’s day!

One evening I waited for Papa to finish his dinner so that he would be in a good mood, and I asked “Papa, Sally and
Tootsie will start taking tap dancing lessons soon. May I take the lessons too?”

He answered, “What? – tap dancing? No! There will be no tap dancing in this house”

I answered meekly, “But Papa, I won’t tap dance in the house. I’ll only tap dance at the studio.”

Papa became more agitated and said, “You will not tap dance in this house, not at the studio, or anywhere else. I forbid it.”

Mama, saw the start of tears in my eyes, and courageously spoke up, “Caro Giovanni, there isa notheenga wronga with
a tapa danceeng.”

Papa, pointed a finger at Mama, lowered his voice and said, “Eh, Giovanna, did your Padre Stefano send you to dancing
school in Sicily? You learned to cook and to sew and you were lucky to learn how to read and write in your own language.”

Mamma and I cried out simultaneously, “But this is America.”

Papa answered, “What else do you want to do because we are in America? After you learn to tap dance do you want me
to buy you a ticket to Hollywood? Even if I were rich and could afford to pay for tap dancing lessons, my answer is a
final –NO! Stick to your singing.”

That was the end of the discussion. Papa still sang around the house trying to sound like an opera star.  He often played
phonograph records on our Victrola, and often hushed us up so that we could listen to the thrilling music of his favorite
operas.

When Papa was away cutting hair at the barbershop, Mama with her beautiful alto voice sang the most melodious
Neapolitan songs that I have ever heard.  Over the years, popular tenors have included in their classical concerts a few
songs that my mother used to sing.

Of course Sally and Tootsie were very disappointed that I was not allowed to take tap dancing lessons. I did learn a
few steps from them but I never dared to have taps put on my shoes, and Mama didn’t think it was a good idea either.

Later on, the twins took ballet lessons. I knew that Papa would not approve of my wearing a tutu, a short ruffled skirt
while dancing on my toes.

I accepted my fate and told myself I didn’t really miss the dance lessons because I was falling in love with Bing
Crosby. I listened to him singing on the radio and I knew the words to all the songs he sang.  Some were “Every Time It
Rains, It Rains Pennies From Heaven”, “In The Blue Of The Night, In The Gold Of The Day”, “I Found A Million Dollar
Baby In A Five And Ten Cent Store.”

I was so inspired that as I approached my teen-age years I decided that I’d become a vocalist with a Big Band – of
course with Papa’s approval. After all, both my parents liked to sing. I wondered if Papa believed that singing
was more lady-like than dancing. My silent plea was “I hope so!”