Elusive Dreams of Youth
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
crunchy carpet of purple, red and gold leaves. As we shuffled
along, carrying our sharpened pencils and new notebooks,
said, “Rosie, last night I said a little prayer that we three would be
in the same class.”
my clasped hands up to the heavens and said, “I did too Tootsie.
I hope He heard us.”
skipped through the leaves and said, “Last night I looked at a sky full
of stars and wished that we would be in Miss
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,
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
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.
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
stars on my arithmetic homework and test papers.
Miss Anderson knew how proud the parents would be of their
when they brought home a galaxy of glittering gold stars.
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
that transported me to a foreign country or into the midst of a
family different from my own.
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.
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!
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?”
answered, “What? – tap dancing? No! There will be no tap dancing in this
answered meekly, “But Papa, I won’t tap dance in the house. I’ll only
tap dance at the studio.”
became more agitated and said, “You will not tap dance in this house,
not at the studio, or anywhere else. I forbid it.”
saw the start of tears in my eyes, and courageously spoke up, “Caro
Giovanni, there isa notheenga wronga with
a tapa danceeng.”
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.”
and I cried out simultaneously, “But this is America.”
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.”
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
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
that my mother used to sing.
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.
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.
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
Baby In A Five And Ten Cent Store.”
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
was more lady-like than dancing. My silent plea was “I