This short entry does not directly relate to my brother and me growing up in New York City. However, it certainly relates indirectly, as it pre-dates our birth and deals with our Mom and Dad before we were the proverbial “twinkling in their eye”.
The photo I posted with this entry is one of our mom when she was roughly 22-24 years old. I trust you will agree that she was quite attractive. This obvious fact was not lost on a young Marine returning from the horrors of the Second World War. That young Marine was our Dad. There is somewhat of a humorous backdrop to this part of the story that even predates the moment that Dad was taken aback by her beauty.
Our Dads family and my Moms family both lived in New York City. Their parents were Italian immigrants who, like many others, settled in the New York area. As fate would have it, our dad, and mom’s brother (Vincent) were friends before the war. They were both music lovers and both played the clarinet. Music was their bond and they did many things together and enjoyed each other’s company. Both came from large families with many brothers and sisters, which was again, not uncommon in that day. Vincent had a younger sister, Helen. Dad knew Helen before the war and had met her a few times. Helen was still young and had not yet arrived at what we can call full womanhood, so Dad never really took notice. When Dad went to their apartment to get his friend Vincent, he would say Hi to Helen and she would simply say hi back and that was about it. Then came the War. Many things changed. Dad and Vincent lost track of each other, with Dad opting to join the Marines. By the grace of God, dad survived the war, and after four long years, he returned to his home in New York. One of the first things he did was to look up his old friend Vincent and they planned to get together as soon as possible. On the day that dad went to visit Vincent, it was “little Helen” who answered the door; except she wasn’t little Helen any longer. In the four years since they had last seen each other, she had blossomed into the woman you see in the photo. Dad was taken aback. An eternity later, he would love to tell Rob and me how, at first, he didn’t even recognize her. Once he realized that this was “little Helen”, all he could think of was; “What a DOLL!!”
The rest, as they say, is history.
There is also another storyline associated with the photo. The top that Mom is wearing is one that Dad bought for her when they were dating. As Rob and I have alluded to in many other posts, dad was all about clothes and looking sharp at all times. He loved buying mom clothes that she could wear when they went out on dates and they both loved this one so much that they made sure it was used in the photo.
It was also the top that mom wore when he took mom and her mom out (I believe for a Mother’s Day dinner) as their courtship was moving quickly toward marriage. Dad was a firm believer in always “doing the right thing”, a term Rob and I became more than familiar with after we came on the scene many years later. Making sure he honored, respected and was approved by his future wife was of utmost importance to him. Also of utmost importance was introducing his family to his future wife. Dad wanted to be sure this went extremely well, so he basically told all his brothers and sisters exactly how to behave on the big day that he introduced them to her. They would show the utmost respect and be dressed properly and make a wonderful impression. This all under the threat of immediate death if anyone screwed it up. Thankfully, for future generations, everyone responded as instructed. Dad had every family member come through what can basically be called a “receiving line” as they met his future wife for the first time. If I’m not mistaken, many years later Dad told us that on that day, Mom wore that top as well.
Years and years later, after Rob and I had been on the scene for many years, Dad contracted someone to take the photo and make a charcoal portrait from it. It came out wonderful and he proudly hung it in their apartment for as long as I can remember.
It still hangs in my heart.