I think it would be good if I introduced you to most of the players who had an important role in this drama associated with our childhood. There is no doubt in my mind that these players were directly involved in forming who we are today as well as who we were back then.
Being of Italian heritage, I would think you are not surprised to hear that family played such a vital role in most, if not all, of the recollections relayed to you by Rob and I. You definitely will see the thread of family interwoven into most of our writings. So ,with that, let me introduce you to the starring and supporting cast of this odd little drama.
You have already met the starring cast of the play, as you have been introduced to Robert my brother, myself, of course, and mom and dad. From there, the family basically gets broken down into two sides: my mom’s side and my dad’s side. We always thought that was kind of odd there were my “moms people” and there were “Dads people.” When speaking of the family, one would always hear about Helen’s side, Helen being my mom’s name, and Tony’s side, Tony, or Anthony, being my dad’s name. Being little kids we never really understood the “side” thing. We just accepted it. Looking back, I am hard-pressed to find many occasions when the two sides of the family would actually gather together at the same time. This is not to say that there was any animosity or dis-like: it’s simply the way it was: Mom side/Dad side. So, here are all the players on mom’s team.
Sister Mary married to my uncle Richard.
Sister Filomena married to my uncle Jimmy.
Sister Flo married to my uncle Harry.
Brother Vincent married to my aunt Ruth.
Brother Joe married to aunt Marie.
Brother Santino, married to Aunt Mildred.
Brother Tony,married to aunt Agnes.
Dad’s side broke down as follows:
Sister Rose married to uncle Jim.
Sister Antoinette,married to uncle Joe.
Brother Frank married to aunt Virginia.
From there, of course, there were a vast number of cousins that will come into play as the narrative continues. In previous entries you have been introduced to some of these folks already, I just thought it was important that you have a scorecard as we move on and you hear some of these names referenced.
One of the things that was very obvious growing up amongst this pretty large family was the fact that we seemed to spend the majority of our time with mom’s side of family. I never quite understood that, other than the fact that her side was larger and perhaps we had more it common with her side of the family. I’m not really sure what that means but I don’t have a very good answer to my own question as to why that dynamic seemed to be in play.
Even as a child, I remember wondering if dad’s feelings were ever hurt because we spent so much more time with mom’s side of the family. I guess, for now, I just will not know the answer to that. I do suspect that one of the reasons is that mom’s side of the family was more “Americanized” then dads side of the family.
One could easily consider dad’s side of the family much more “old school Italian” than moms side. They still spoke Italian to each other as a primary language, they lived in very Italian neighborhoods of Brooklyn and worked laborer type jobs. They were a bit “rougher around the edges”, so to speak. Moms side blended in. Uncle Vincent didn’t even look Italian and many of moms siblings didn’t marry other Italians: Ie: Uncle Vincent, Aunt Fil, Aunt Flo and Uncle San. Moms family even changed their last name to make it sound more American. ( It may come as a shock to some younger readers, but yes, there was a time Italians were discriminated against in America.) but they loved this country and did whatever it took to assimilate.
Everyone on Dads side was Italian through and through and they married others who were Italian through and through. Hell, Aunt Antoinette’s husband Joe was actually part of Benito Mussolini’s’ notorious Black Shirts before the start of the Second World War.
Whatever, the reason , the majority of the major holidays and most “family gatherings” we’re spent with Moms side.
For me, and I believe I speak for Rob, we were probably closest with my uncle Vincent and Ruth and our cousin Chris. Chris was a few years older than me, and I am six years older than my brother Rob.Despite the age difference, the three of us were very close and spent a lot of fun times together. Memories include a car trip to the state of Maine, countless visits to Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, many wonderful Christmas memories and great times at their later home in Mountain Lakes, NJ. I was always in awe of my cousin Chris, as he seemed to be on top of everything and “very cool.” He was kind of the trendsetter for Rob and I. If Chris got into a certain music or band, Rob and I were close to follow. If Chris was interested in a particular TV show or movie, Rob and I were right there. I also must be honest , and I’m speaking only for myself here, that there was a bit of envy on my part for my cousin Chris. Chris’s dad, my uncle Vincent, had a pretty good job and made, by the days standards, good money. At holidays such as Christmas and birthdays, Chris always seem to get the best of the best. The most popular toys, the trendy clothes, you name it, Chris had it. He had a train set that I drooled over: it covered an entire ping-pong table.They were Lionel trains… The best money could buy at the time. He had a collection of model toy soldiers which was , to my eyes, the most incredible toy soldiers I had ever seen. As previously mentioned , money was tight in our family , so we didn’t enjoy some of the same things. Mom and Dad tried… Did their very best with what they had. They just could not afford the quality of toys and clothes that Chris had. My train”set” was one circular track with a no name brand. I remember it died on the very Christmas morning I received it. However, this is certainly not a “poor me” tirade..I am just trying to let you see things through the eyes of a small child. I wish I had the insight then that I have now as to what is important in life. Besides, my parents gave me a brother : Chris didn’t have that.
Despite this petty envy, all my memories ( again I think I speak for Rob) of times spent with these family members are all, ALL precious .
Between Rob, Chris and I, our imaginations were epic. We could imagine ourselves as adventuress traveling across the Country on Route 66 ( with the vastly popular Tv series , Route 66 as our backdrop. We could be the surviving members of the Alamo, bravely holding off Santa Anna’s’ superior army( inspired by Disney’s the legend of Davey Crockett. We were Civil War soldiers, defending Cemetery Ridge against Pickets brave, but ill-conceived charge at Gettysburg… We were spies and music stars and explorers ….and we were always together. At times we spent two weeks together every summer at Lake Hopatcong…. Morning to-night it was Chris, Don and Rob, saving the world in one way or another. How we loved those days and nights. Aunt Ruth taught us to swim and to canoe and all about various insects and flowers. I believe a good part of our mutual
love of animals came from her. Uncle Vincent was one of the kindest, genteelest men I have ever met, to this day, I don’t think there would ever be another war of all men who were like my uncle Vincent.
There are so many other family members to speak about, so many events to rely, I simply should not try to do it all in this one post.
This was meant as a brief introduction to the players… You will be hearing a lot more about the rest of the cast down the road…
“Will the circle be unbroken
By and by Lord, bye and bye
There’s a better home awaiting
In the sky Lord, in the sky”