Brooklyn for Easter or some occasion, there were certain things that were accepted, yet seemed out of the ordinary. One of those things was a long goodbye. We didn’t know that goodbye meant goodbye in other families. The Tulewskies said goodbye and went home, the Liebermans said goodbye and they went home. We said goodbye and pulled up a chair, poured coffee and made ourselves comfortable!
You could spend the whole Sunday, talking to an unt or Grandma, as she cooked, ate and cleaned up after, over the cannolis and espresso coffee with anisette, and not had enough time to say goodbye! Not only Granny needed to speak, but also so did my aunts and uncles. Saying goodbye meant that the women were breaking up the pinochle game and
I remember as a young kid, being tired from playing with my cousins from Patchogue, wanting to go home to bed and having to wait another hour as my mother and father spent it continuing conversations, and in Italian. I would put two chairs together and fall asleep lying across the chairs, the Italian droning on in a tempo that lured me to the edge of sleep.
In my family, when someone greeted a kid, it wasn’t with a ‘Hello’, no, instead it was with a: “My how you have grown!” Fortunately, we had no midgets in the family, so they could get away with it. Usually there was a test accompanied by the greeting: “How much is 2 and 2?” I’d tell them and they wouldn’t answer, which got me wondering if they didn’t believe me, or I didn’t give them the right answer.
There were some relatives I looked for, like my Aunt Angie. Aunt Angie could win the presidency of the US if kids could vote. She would buy you ice cream or slip you a dollar, tell her she was beautiful and you stayed for dinner! She had a way with kids that no other aunt had. She made you feel special and never betrayed you. What happened in Patchogue, stayed in: Patchogue.
Italian pastry was a staple, something that somehow went along with the pasta and meatballs, the chicken and bracciola. at the end there was nuts, red wine with red wine stains on the tablecloth, and Italian pastry., with balcony seats. You could sit at one end of the table and someone on the other end would not be able to hear you, so everyone yelled. If yelling wasn’t enough, the constant waving of hands and manipulation of the fingers conveyed your message.
Grandma’s kitchen was about the size of Madison Square Garden; we needed to yell. We even had a Communist who visited, an we yelled at him. Through the course of the morning, the doorbell would ring and you had to ring the person through, and in would come a stream of endless visitors, all with respectful greetings to grandma, and a request or two. Some came to make a payment for a bus trip or a flight to Italy that Grandma was sponsoring and running.
I once tried to speak to my grandmother’s friend without using my hands, she looked at my father and asked: “Watza he say?” Fortunately, there is no sarcasm running in my family, so I never said a word in response.