Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy Saint Joseph's Day!

My family has fully embraced the Rhode Island customs of wearing red and eating zeppole on March 19. I googled and found out there are other pockets of Italian Americans who celebrate this feast day, especially in New Orleans. In honor of my Italian heritage, I thought I'd share my ancestors with you today. Here are my parents visitng my mother's hometown of Giovinazzo, near Bari. It was my mother's only trip back to Italy.
I knew three grandparents growing up. (My father's father had died before I was born.) We lived in a 2-family house; our family upstairs and my mother's parents downstairs. So this grandmother was called Grandma Downstairs. This was the chair she sat in every day to pray. I reupholstered it recently with a panel left over from my mother's 1950's curtains. Grandma took care of the flower gardens and Grandpa grew tomatoes, peppers, beans, herbs and raspberries (my favorite!).This is the Other Grandma. Yes, that's what we called her. This is the photo on her Citizenship papers. She was a character. She didn't read or write much, but you could not cheat her out of one penny. She ran a boarding house (everyone called it the Big House) and a home business selling cleaning products. The only handwork I remember her doing was broomstick crochet. She was a wild teenager and had a tattoo on her wrist from a visit with the gypsies. A fortune teller predicted she'd lived to be 100, but she only made it to 96. I loved riding my bike to her house in May to pick lilies of the valley and lilacs. Can you imagine the delicious scent as I rode home with those flowers in my basket?Grandma Downstairs was a master with a needle. She could tailor men's suits and made little tuxedos for my brothers when they were dancers. She did incredible embroidery with pulled threads. And when her eyes started to fail, she crochetd afghans. I have some beautiful work I'll show you another day. This quilt was in her trousseau, but we don't think she made it. It's sateen with a wool batt and weighs a ton! I love the daisy quilting. When she came to America, it was too big for her new bed, so she cut it down. That one rounded corner is the only one left. I found pieces of the quilt in the seat of her chair when I took it apart.I wanted to show you my mother's paternal grandmother because she scares my kids.
A bonus photo of my dad wearing red on Christmas. He knew he looked good!Eat some Italian food today!

P.S. I received a package yesterday from Diane in Canada. Thanks for all the Girl Guide goodies, Diane!


DianeH said...

Good Morning Tina! You are so welcome. Thanks for sharing about your family, don't we all come from such amazing women. Ahhh to be able to go back in time and spend a day with them when they were are our age, what we would learn.

Christina said...

Hey mom! yesterday you didnt have any comments on this post so i thought i would comment. Thank you for saying that grandma's grandma scares your kids cuz she does! that's why i call her strega Nona. i know you hate that...The zeppole were deliciaous last night! i love being Italian! Love You!

dee said...

Hi Tina, thanks for stopping by. I'm really enjoying reading about your history. I have a number of pictures of relatives that are equally scary. I'm cooking a family dinner this evening for visiting relatives-chicken parm and stuffed shells and antipasto. I could easily eat Italian everyday...waddle, waddle.
I'll be back to visit when company leaves.

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