Tag Archive: Children


Who remembers going for a Sunday drive?

A treasured memory of mine from when I was a young girl, was going for a Sunday drive after our traditional early afternoon family dinner of macaroni and meatballs. A celebrated family gathering of delicious flavors, and of varied conversations that often included stories, laughter, and debate. After which, my mother often would say to my father, “Freddie, let’s take a ride.”

It was the 1970’s. The sun appeared to shine differently, magically-brighter. Entering through glass panes, it landed on every article in the room with beams of hope, and a subtle but distinct at-ease sense that lingered in the air. It traveled through one’s spirit—a hopefulness down to the feet infused with innocent joy eager to move throughout the day. There’s never been more distinct sunshine. Not for me.

I’d join my parents in my father’s Pontiac for a drive. I was the youngest of seven children. Older siblings opted-out with their own agendas. Sometimes, but not always, my sister, Joanie, and brother, Freddy, would take a drive. The three of us were closest in age in what my father liked to call his “second family.” The split between his seven children—the first and the youngest with eighteen years between them. I can distinctly recall thinking to myself about my oldest brother, “but who is this guy?” when he would visit from college on sporadic weekends, then try to administer authority over me at the ages of three and four years old.

Sunday drives were either aimless in nature in which nine out of ten times we’d stop for Carvel ice cream, because second to my mother’s saying, “Freddie, let’s take a ride,” she’d say, “Let’s get ice cream.” I was in love with all of my mom’s ideas. I also loved a vanilla-chocolate twist on a cone with colored sprinkles. Other times, when the drive wasn’t merely to get out of the house routine and to enjoy a mild breeze through a partly rolled down window while taking in the Long Island sights, it would include visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We’d alternate Sundays, between rides with no destiny but ice cream, to going to dad’s family in the Bronx, then to mom’s family in Brooklyn. Talk about the best of worlds (and food!)

Importantly, I must not forget to include the occasional drive, after relentless pleading on my part, to Palisade’s Amusement Park in New Jersey. “Daddy, can we go to Palisade’s Park today? You said, maybe last week. It’s this week. Can we go, please? Daddy, Palisade’s Park, today, please, the rides… I can chuckle to myself now when I recall my mother’s not so subtle cringing, or eye-rolling upon seeing their commercial air on television.

In Brooklyn, my maternal grandparents lived in a beautiful brownstone that included their own Italian specialty store. Imagine the bread, tomatoes, and sandwiches for a few things. You could enter the store from their kitchen through a heavy Dutch door. Sometimes, my grandmother would open the top portion of the door, and I enjoyed leaning onto the bottom half to peer into the store. I remember my grandfather coming home from a long day of work down a hallway and through that door on nights when I’d sleepover. He always took the time to play with me and my dolls at the dining table. His cigar burned, and there was a nearby jug of homemade red wine that sat on a sparkling Formica table with silver-edging, surrounded by six vinyl chairs. Later, my grandmother would make me comfortable on a pull-out couch to sleep with a blush-colored satin comforter.

In the morning, the backdoor to the courtyard was opened to allow a refreshing breeze. My grandmother nearby in her railroad-style kitchen, which was really part of the whole room. There was a dinged-up large aluminum coffee pot that sat on the stovetop with freshly percolated coffee at all times of the day. I remember her cutting fresh vegetables and the sizzling of meat in a pot filled with olive oil. She was robust in an apron that went over her head and tied around her back.

A black buzzer was attached to the backdoor molding that connected with the apartment above where my Aunt Marion and Uncle Charlie lived with their children, my cousins. They would buzz each other when they needed to speak and communicate by talking outside from one floor to the other. I loved going between each apartment up the grand staircase in the entryway with its gorgeous mahogany railing. When you first entered the home, my grandparent’s German Shephard, Bart, would jump up for a kiss and pat on the head before my grandmother would tell him, “Va bene, basta. Bravo ragazzo. Vai a sederti.” (Okay, enough. Good boy. Go sit down.) My mother grew up in this brownstone with her brother Vincent, and two sisters, Catherine and Marion.

The Bronx. A different story. A different dialect. My maternal grandparents did not even believe that my father was Italian when they first met him with his Sicilian slang. He lived in Harlem and shined shoes to help my grandmother put food on the table. He would speak to me about the importance of eating my potato skins, and never to throw anything out just because it’s burned. His sisters were Lucy (my godmother), Josie, and Mary. His brothers were Tony, Vincent, and Sammy. My father told me of how he swam in the East River and played stickball. He was hit by a car three separate times!

I never met my paternal grandmother. She died the year I was born. Catarina was her name. She was dark-haired, and quite tall compared to my grandfather that stood only 5’1″. My grandfather, more often referred to as Pop-Pisciotta, or Grandpa-Benny was not one to be reckoned with. Despite his height, his stature was like that of a sailor. Think Popeye. He had thin lips and a sturdy nose that took a turn to the left. He was a bricklayer, tough as nails, and as he aged into his nineties, my father, uncles, and cousins would laugh in amazement as he’d start fights with neighbors half his age over one thing or another. One time, when he was elderly, he grabbed a bat and went after a younger tough guy wising-off to him, and the man in total disbelief, fear, and respect, backed-off.

Going to the Bronx was more about visiting aunts and uncles. Grandpa Benny lived with Uncle Sammy and Aunt Mela. My father’s family were seven siblings all together, and there was no shortage of first cousins, each of them with jovial personalities. Our aunts and uncles were great fun and big love. The Sunday drive over the Throgs Neck Bridge was one that I always looked forward to, watching all of the sailboats gather on the Long Island Sound.

Though we had already eaten an earlier dinner, once we arrived, the cold-cuts would immediately be placed onto the table. Everyone enjoyed sandwiches, my favorite was always Genoa Salami, followed by fruit, nuts, and sweet desserts. My aunt Mela had the voice and smile of an angel with magnetic blue eyes when she asked with the warmest sincerity if she could get you anything else. All of the aunts and my mother were brilliant at making everyone feel nurtured. The men were strong and steadfast. There were voices across the table speaking in the Bronx-twang, which is what I like to call it, but soft, and refined by Italian family love. The kids played together in another room while the women talked and drank coffee, and the men played cards.

The ride home on a Sunday was always contented. On the way home from Brooklyn, the Bronx, a Long Island drive to get ice cream, and even the occasional one from Palisades Park, it was quiet and reflective. There was easy gratitude in knowing we were rich in what we shared together.

Sometimes, I’d let my eyes give into their heaviness and close on the way home as the road hummed beneath us. I knew my father would carry me inside, and I’d rest my head on his shoulder. I knew I’d sleep comfortably in my bed, with my sisters and brothers nearby, and parents that loved all of us. I knew when I got out of bed in the morning, I’d smell something tantalizing that my mother was preparing in the kitchen. I could count on, without doubt, feeling loved—magical sunshine, even on a rainy day.

Today, at times when life is painfully still, lacking luster, and there’s waiting, desiring something more, or different, I like to recall the sunshine of the 1970s, even if it’s only in my mind, it carries my heart through hardship. Sometimes in a brief moment, I catch a glimmer of yesterday that feels profoundly real today, and I imagine I can actually step inside of that car for a drive and see them all once again.

Until then,

Perhaps someday in the liveliest sunshine of Heaven—

Maria Pisciotta-DellaPorte ©2020 All Rights Reserved

 

Maria Pisciotta-DellaPorte ©2020 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day

 

I believe the greatest complement that I could give to my mother is that I’ve spent my life trying to replica her. Thank you, mother, for being every beautiful thing that you taught me. I love you. The connection is eternal. As for my daughter, I am grateful everyday, and thank God for the opportunity to be your mother. I love you. I hope that you will replica all of the good, and become better than any flaws. Someday in your child’s eyes I know you will see me, and feel the abundance of love through which we are all connected, mother and child, one maternal heart.

 

-Maria Pisciotta-DellaPorte © 2017

 

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