Archive for November, 2009

Mom’s Must: Italian Last Name/Ends with a Vowel

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

“Always get married early in the morning. That way, if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted a whole day.”  ~ Mickey Rooney

In the summer of ‘58 Mom turned eighteen, and Nan was wondering when her pretty daughter would marry and start a family.  Nan was concerned that her eldest might end up a old, shriveled-up unhappy spinster (back then, you were deemed a spinster if you weren’t hitched by the ripe old age of twenty — and that was even pushing it.  Ridiculous, huh?)

 In May of 1959, my Aunt Lo introduced her unattached Italian friend, Dominic, to my mom. Mom was a head turner, with her perfect hourglass figure, which was just right for wearing those fashionable Jackie Kennedy-esque dresses and those little vogue hats with her red tresses twirling out from under.  Needless to say, he was smitten.  

Retro Mom

Second generation Dominic stood about 5’10’ had thick wavy black locks, styled into a little pompadour in the front (very stylish at the time).   Dom, “Sonny” as some of his friends and his sister Rosie called him, had a fresh  anisette aroma about him and always a warm twinkle in his dark brown eyes .

Life in his household revolved around cooking and eating, cooking and eating, and cooking and eating.  Mamma Romano cooked day and night — I don’t know if she ever left the kitchen.  She was always there, donning her spaghetti sauce stained, smelly worn-out apron.  If she wasn’t preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner, she was making anisette cookies, picking fresh figs from their tree or squeezing ripe tomatoes into sauce.  Dad’s parents were straight off the boat from the motherland:  Lucia from Sicily, and Joseph from Naples. 

Is it sauce yet?

Dom had a decent job, a stylish car and a bit of that Italian mystique.  Almost thirty with a car and a job, he was quite the eligible bachelor — a total catch.  A young Margaret accepted his request for a date,  and when he arrived at her house looking so chic in his chinos and leather and wool sweater, he blurted out upon meeting my grandparents “I’m going to marry your daughter”.  Wow, a man with confidence!

(Italian Lesson: what’s your name? = come ti chiami?)

Dominic and Margaret were married December of that same year.  My Dad’s mother wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of this half-Italian bride.  She had planned to ship over a Sicilian village girl to marry her youngest little Sonny, not some Americanized redhead.  Much more to tell about this later on.

The best is that Mom tells me she said yes to dad’s proposal of marriage – get this – mainly because he had a good Italian last name, and she just HAD to have an Italian name ending with a vowel.  Good pick, ma — because I really enjoyed my Italian last name all of these years, too!

Young Dad Romano

 

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Ding-a-Lings at the Dover Library

Saturday, November 21st, 2009
 
“I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh
 
"It's just Dad and his ding-a-ling mom!"

"It's just dad and his ding-a-ling, mom!"

On good days (luckily for me, there were plenty of those) Mom and I spent a lot of time shopping “downtown”. Downtown as in Dover, a cool old town known for its variety of diners, pizzerias, record shops and retail stores like J.C. Penney, Woolworth’s, JJ Newberry and Sears (actual stand-alone department stores, as these were the days long before malls took over the shopping scene).   A frequent spot Mom and I would visit was the historical Dover Public Library, a place I always found so intimidating (this old brick building seemed so large to me —  it housed dark wooden staircases, creaky banisters and always had a slightly musty mixture of sour and stale smells.  Plus, those never smiling oh-so-serious women who worked there, who always wanted us kids to be quiet – geesh!) 

Our library had 45 minutes set aside each week for the moms to browse books on the “mystery” floor, and the children would have story and coloring time downstairs in the “kiddie” area.  I remember I couldn’t wait to be grown up, so I could go upstairs and browse all of those alluring adult novels.  So there I was with the other kiddies sketching away — a pretty simple concept, until it came time for me to show my inner Degas I just unleased. 

(Italian Lesson:  Library = biblioteca)

You see, a day or two earlier, I happened to see my Dad in his birthday suit, when I just happened to be strolling by their bedroom while dad was getting dressed for work that morning — oops! I asked my mom what that “thing” was that Dad had kind-of hanging there, and she promptly told me “oh, that’s his ‘ding-a-ling'”.  Aha- that Chuck Berry song! Now I know what Chuck was singing about!

Well, you can imagine what our storytime librarian did when a proud little me handed in my drawing of a naked man with his dangling ding-a-ling.  My mother was immediately found and pulled aside by the staff to see what was going on in our family.  All was explained, and mom told me it may be best to keep my new ding-a-ling findings to myself.

Dover Library c1911

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