Saturday, July 23, 2016


--> San Genaro was the time every year when Brooklyn came alive. It was the proof that the Church was the cornerstone of most Italian and Italian/American’s lives. It took everyone out of their apartments and brought them on into the streets. Like a church bazaar, one would with children in hand, traverse the closed off streets and visit each tent, stand and group, searching out things to eat and buy for the kids. There was always the puppet, a sword carrying string controlled old knight of ancient Italy, that was traditionally sold and got the attention of little boys, as did the toy sword and scabbard.

I particularly loved the atmosphere, as twilight graduated into darkness, bringing a greater illumination to the feast, the colors highlighting the joy and pleasure of something different. The smells of the peppers and sausage, the zeppole and even the hot dogs filled your need to go insane if you didn’t partake, even after a pasta dinner an hour before! Pizza, pizza, pizza, and the storefront pizzeria or the portable ovens, selling by the slice with coke in hand! After all, this was a party, and Dad took his mind off of his day at the factory while Mom closed her kitchen for the night to bask in the idea that someone was going to wait on her for a change.

The local parish priest, walking along in his long black cloak, getting requests to have cannoli, or slice of pizza, on the house, after all, he was next to God! Grandmas, given the right of way, as they stepped along the crowds, who deferred to them in space and time, giving them an arm or sweet word or two about how great they were.

There was the Neapolitan dance, the Tarantella that exploded throughout the festivities, the music captivating and enticing, as young and old ladies danced, often together. There was the  warm glow of happy hearts and smiling faces, faces that always welcomed and pleaded with you to eat, enjoy life. The fuel for the fire of love was often held in a wine glass, red and made from pride and love of heritage, it said: La dolce e vita!

There was a particular side of the feast that made me forget Sister Hairy Mary my third-grade teacher: the rides. Not just rides, but rides that came out of a truck, one you would see from time to time for 5 cents as it traveled through the neighborhood in the summer.

Then when things got dark, there were the fireworks, lighting up the night sky, a wondrous explosion of color, formation and noise, all wrapped into one, sending awe and shudders through my body. And when it finally ended, there was the parade, a religious procession, reminding us all of who we are and where we come from.

These are some of the memories I have still implanted in my brain, or memory channel in my old age, an age filled with many stages of recollection of a time long gone and loved.


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