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Rose Masciello's Autobiography - Chapter Nine

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                Birth Rights!


The summer of 1921 in Rockford, was blazing hot. Wearing his lightweight uniform, Giovanni boarded the trolley
car to the Department of Sanitation every day, and with broom in hand began his very important job of sweeping the hot,
dusty streets of Rockford.

Every once in a while, as the beads of perspiration trickled down from his blond eyebrows into his fiery blue eyes, he
would take out his handkerchief and patiently wipe his face. He wondered if someday he would be doing something else
to earn a living.

That morning he had left Giovanna at their kitchen table drinking her second cup of coffee and finishing up her home baked
biscotti. She had a great appetite; she was pregnant and was eating for two, and sometimes for three! These hot summer days
she did little more than sit and gaze out of her open kitchen window. The room was hot, but luckily a breeze was blowing in.
She watched two elderly ladies walk slowly by, an open parasol protecting them from the scorching sun. Schools were closed;
it was vacation time. Enjoying the freedom of summer days, a few children ran and skipped along on their way to the nearby

Giovanna’s thoughts turned to her own child that would be born in a few months. She lifted herself out of her chair and walked
over to the calendar on the wall. “Dio Mio”, she cried out with clasped hands as she noticed that July had raced by so
quickly. Little five foot two Giovanna laughed at her own clumsiness as she stood on her tip toes to turn the page to
August. She had never had a problem with that calendar before, but neither had she ever been this big before!

The little mother-to-be had a good sense of humor and that evening, after Giovanni had been well fed of course—
Mamma Lucia had taught her daughters that  timing was important in a marriage— Giovanna acted out for her husband, like
a female Charlie Chaplin, how awkwardly she had managed to “fix” the calendar by standing on her toes with her “watermelon
belly” getting in her way. Then she smiled enticingly and said, “Pleeza Giovanni, make-a the calendario mora lowa so I
canna reacha betta”. Giovanni lowered the calendar on the wall, just as he would have brought down the stars for Giovanna if
he could.

During these past summer months Mamma Lucia had fewer coats to work on at the factory. Nina and Margaret were off from
school, so they spent many enjoyable hours with Giovanna. Mamma Lucia was eagerly awaiting her first grandchild. The
girls, Lena who was now eleven years old and Margaret who was ten, giggled at the thought that the new baby would be
calling them Aunt Lena and Aunt Margaret.

August was almost over. It had been just as hot as July. September was refreshingly cool; October was aglow with color.
Giovanni was now sweeping up the autumn leaves. His artistic soul saw a precious jewel in every leaf. Different shades
of purple, yellow, red and  orange were scattered on the palette of his imagination. His baby would be born during this magical

It was early morning of October 26, 1921. Giovanna nervously nudged her sleeping husband. She  was having labor pains.
Back in Sicily midwives were in abundance, but here in Rockford she would have to go to the local hospital. A well-to-do
neighbor with a car kindly drove Giovanna and Giovanni straight to the Maternity Ward of the Hospital. It was the first time
they had ever been in such a large medical building. Giovanna was wheeled through the halls while her pains steadily increased.
Giovanni, practically running, kept pace with his Giovanna while holding her hand tightly. When they arrived at the
Delivery Room, Giovanni was asked to wait outside. Husbands at that time were not allowed in the Delivery Room;
Giovanni would not leave his wife’s side. The doctors and nurses tried to explain to him in plain English that they had rules
and regulations. Giovanni, in plain Italian, explained that he had heard about hospital errors, and he was going to make
sure that he and Giovanna were given the right baby.

When it seemed as if Giovanna was about to deliver her baby outside of the Delivery Room rather than inside, the doctors
gave up in exasperation. Giovanni won the “Battle of the Bulge” and with cap and gown and a mask hastily thrown over his
flushed face, he marched into the Delivery Room closely behind the attending doctors. Within minutes after Giovanna’s
loud moaning and groaning had stopped, he saw his tiny baby girl arrive into his world. Her cries were miraculous and
more melodious than the highest notes sung by Giovanni’s favorite opera stars, of which he had many.

Now, with tears of joy in his eyes, he embraced his Giovanna. He had to bet back to work, and would return in the evening.
He proudly spread the good news to the whole Department Of Sanitation and, after being warmly congratulated on becoming
a father, Giovanni was back to gathering the October leaves. They seemed to him more colorful than ever. As he pushed the
broom along the streets, he sang the songs he knew from  “Cavalaria Rustica”, his favorite opera.

Mamma Lucia had been called at the factory. Her employer drove her to the hospital to see her daughter Giovanna and her
very first grandchild, me! I was named Rosa after my paternal grandmother. Baby Rosa never noticed her maternal grandmother,
Mamma Lucia, hovering over her because she was busy feeding herself at her mother’s breast.