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Sunday, September 13, 2015

WHEN IT CAME TO GREAT UNCLES…


Grandma Frances had a brother, who we called “Uncle Zio Felice”. OK, we were redundant, but then again, we didn’t know it at first. When you are young and being introduced to a new language, it takes a while. (Just ask my Spanish teacher)

Uncle Zio Felice was the oldest of the brood that immigrated to America. He was about 4’5’’, had a long Jerry Colonna mustache and wore it when he stepped off the boat at Ellis Island in a white shirt, black fedora, black suit and brown shoes. Halfway across the ocean, someone told him there was NO MACARONI in America! Uncle Zio Felice made a dash for the rail to swim back to Italy. Fortunately they convinced him to stay on the boat until it docked.

One day in our new house since we moved from Brooklyn, on a Saturday morning Mom and Dad were out grocery shopping. The phone rang, and since I had nothing to do at the moment, I answered. It was my Aunt Angie, my father’s younger sister telling me she was coming over with two special guests, Grandma and Uncle Zio Felice! He wanted to see the house. Uncle Zio Felice considered himself important, more important than the President (after all, Eisenhower didn’t speak Italian and the Pope wore a dress.) Alone by the front door I awaited, and soon the cortege arrived. Actually it was only Aunt Angie’s car, a nice used Ford, nothing fancy but she happened to be following a neighbor, Uncle Zio Felice sat in the back with Grandma. Not being able to drive him self (His feet couldn’t reach the gas pedal, or more importantly the brake and the driver’s learning permit test was in English), I go out to greet them as protocol calls for.

Jerry Colonna
With his black fedora and brown shoes, squinting in the noonday sun, I couldn’t help but conjure up images of Emiliano Zapata the Mexican bandito! Getting the tour of the house, my aunt in Italian gave him all the pertinent information including the location of the cesspool, which I would have skipped.

Suddenly he turns to me squinting and says:

“Ah comma witha me.” Leading me to the center of the front lawn he draws a circle with the toe of his shoe. He puts his hands on his hips and says:

“Now a hover here (pointing to the line he drew,) hew putta da brick, anice. Then you digga holea and planta da flagga pole. Pointing upward. anice!”

Under my voice I think:
“Can I plant a picture of Garibaldi at the foot of the pole?”

I think the accents were so special. They took the time to learn the language and insisted their children speak English, so that not only could they learn the language with their kids but to survive, after all, there was no accommodating the new immigrants as there is now. God bless everyone of them.

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