Friday, October 02, 2015


Grandma was a remarkable woman: she had the spirit of America in all her Italian genes. She was brave, coming to America at the age of 15 without speaking English, she was enterprising, owning a restaurant, a fruit and vegetable stand and four apartments and a home on Long Island that she rented to 2 families since it was a duplex. Oh, she also had a day job in a clothing factory and at night sewed buttons of coats to make extra money.
She was the matriarch in a real sense, everyone was afraid of her! She raised my father, two aunts and another son, plus a niece who came to America as a teenager. Her first husband, my real grandfather died when the youngest child was born from Spanish Flu!
The cousin smoked, but you couldn’t tell Zia Francesca, she wouldn’t approve; WOMEN DON’T SMOKE! So the big dummies would go into the back bedroom and smoke out of sight.
Then there was the issue of interfaith marriage. You think gay marriage is an issue; my oldest cousin had the audacity to marry a Lutheran! Yes, a Lutheran!!! This sent shock waves up and down the family tree: dead aunts and uncles were climbing out of their graves, coming to America to protest the Protestant! DON’T TELL ZIA FRANCESCA!!!
Then of course there was THE Divorcé! Sin of sins, someone had a divorce, breaking the tenets of the Holy Roman Catholic Church??? No, what they imagined Zia Francesca would think.
Finally it all came out, the whole ugly business, smoking, Protestants AND divorce! They decided they couldn’t handle all this pressure, and their husbands advised them to come clean with Zia Francesca. They sat her down at the head of her kitchen table one day. In Italian they told her: “Ma, we have a few things you need to be told, we can’t hide this any more.”
From what I hear, Grandma sat there and asked a question; "is this about you “signore della sera” smoking in the back bedroom? YOU KNOW I CAN SMELL IT, BUT GO AHEAD, KILL YOURSELVES!
“Well Ma, my daughter is marrying a non-Catholic!”
“And? Times have changed, this is America and besides, Sonny is a nice boy.”
“Ma, my daughter got a divorce!” another daughter spoke up.
“Good I didn’t like that bastard anyway!”
That was Grandma, miles ahead of her children.


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