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Sunday, November 01, 2015

UNCLE JOHNNY


If you were Italian, you might have had an Aunt Mary. You could have an Aunt Marie, but you needed an Aunt Mary.

Now Aunt Mary wasn’t rally an aunt, but a second cousin. She was a beautiful woman and quite a character, filled with emotion and the Italian way of demonstrating her emotions, with her hands.

Aunt Mary had a wonderful husband named Uncle Johnny and he died too soon. He was an entertainer and he took the time to entertain me. One day he had a trick tie, and as any youngster around 5 or 6, his audience was easy to work. I sat on his lap and he took a glass of water, and dumped it into his tie! Imagine that! He dumped a whole glass of water into his tie, then put the water back into the glass it came from! How did he do it? Like I said, it was magic.

Aunt Mary loved to talk and talk she did, as I was mesmerized by the manual ballet her hands performed, expressing herself so eloquently. By a show of her hands she could stress a point, name someone a son of a bitch and tell you how happy she was for you. She was cool.

Aunt Mary was one of these short ladies that did everything quickly, and you better be on your toes or you fell into her whirlwind. She was my Godmother’s neice and had two children, a lot older than I was. I had two cousins I really loved, because I didn’t have an older brother, one was my cousin Victor, and one was Aunt Mary’s son, Anthony. They were glorified in my mind and probably bigger than life too. She also had a wonderfully beautiful daughter named Marie, a daughter who was her best friend later in life. Italian families had great mother-daughter relationships, and Aunt Mary and her daughter Marie were the prototype. They both died within days of each other.

Aunt Mary came to this country from Naples early in her life, I think in her teens and grew up in my Grandmother’s home. She was treated like a daughter and sister in the household. Dad had a sister Angie, Victor’s mom and a sister Theresa or Tessie or Chi-Chi, named by my cousin Victor because he couldn’t say Tessie as a baby.

Aunt Mary worked in a factory that made children’s play clothes, operating a sewing machine, and she was so fast they couldn’t afford to let her be a supervisor. She loved my Dad who ran the shipping department, and would often come after work at night and visit. It was a visit I made sure to be near by for, because she was hysterical, saying things that were in her own vernacular, yet so true and at the same time funny, waving her arms as she spoke, filled with life. She was beautiful!

If you ever saw an over-zealous conductor in front of an orchestra, this was Aunt Mary. She stood to talk to give herself room, she could conduct the conversation a few doors away, she gave it body English or was it body Italian, every word, conducted with physical precision and carried by the high and low of her speech pattern. She was named 9.5, by whom else but me! Her right index finger was missing, someone said she lost it in a vacuum cleaner, which I once tested and don’t buy the notion.

When I look back at all my relatives, I realize how very special they all were, how they had so much to offer me, in good memories, love and happiness. I miss those days and wish I could have them back again, even if just for a moment.

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