The present building has no windows, no classroom doors to the outside, no immigrant children making new friends.
In June ’63, my family moved to the West End and for 8th grade I had to go to St. Veronica’s. It was an old school building. Each classroom had its own door to the outside; the exterior wall was mullion windows; and for the first time ever, I had a nun teacher – Sister Drusilla. It’s also the school and the part of town where I met – Frank, Ron and Rainer – three of my lifelong friends.
A memory is of the four of us playing basketball on the outside court on a Saturday morning and my looking up and seeing the hills golden and crisp with fall. It’s an image still running through my synapses.
It was here we played football and baseball, watered the ice rink for hockey and waited with baited breath while they build a small gym on the creek side. (We got to use it once or twice before we graduated and left for St. Mary’s College, never to use it or visit again.) And it was in our eighth grade classroom that on November 22, a Friday afternoon, Sister Drusilla announced that President Kennedy had been shot.
Fifty years later, the walls are streaked with graffiti, home-plate is littered with broken glass, and chain-link perimeters the creek. The fields and the old-school are waiting for the bulldozer, for the children now grown to visit one last time.
St. Veronica’s is the church where I served as an altar-boy, it’s also the church where Dave and Jo’ got married. It was a simpler building back then without the elaborate, two-part entrance.
I purposely left all the grey in the pic, to remind me of the gloom that was winter in Sault Ste Marie. I remember painting this metal fence the summer between 8th and 9th grade. Back then the parish supported the Catholic Boys High School that I went to and it wasn’t unusual for the parish priest to get work out of the boys that attended St. Mary’s High School on tuition-support. I was in the renovated church four/five years ago when Mimi and I went walking and found it open. The parish priest allowed us to shoot in the sanctuary. It looks nothing like it did 40 years ago.
The parish still has a good size population and I’m glad to know that the area hasn’t been abandoned for the new subdivision plans.
Time period: June 1963 to August 1964
Location: Sault Ste Marie, Northern Ontario
Sentiment: Quiet longing
My family bought a house in Korah – the north-west end of town. I remember going with my dad to look at houses. The realty agent showed us two houses on Turner Avenue, a large older house, which I liked and the smaller house next door which my dad liked. The small house had a truncated roof-peak. Korah was a neighborhood of older homes and my dad bought the small house on Turner, because it had a double lot and he could expand or even rebuild. (I was more concerned that it was up-the-street from the Tube Mill.) In early July, we moved out of my grandparents’ to our new house. My new school would be St. Veronica’s Elementary.
The journey begins the summer of ’63, when I met the guys that would become my best friends. These were the kids that I played softball with; the kids that I went fishing with. We were the four teenagers that rode double on our bicycles in order to go swimming at Leigh’s Bay. The four friends – Rainer, Ron, Frank and Mario – that played Canasta at Ron’s; that snuck into the Boat Club and played tennis on the fancy courts; that piled into Ron’s car and headed into the back-country.
now I’m going back to Canada, on a journey through the past
My thinking is that I will use this second entry to situate the time and context for this series.
The image on the left is of Mr. Murphy my principal at St. Theresa’s. He was my first principal in Canada. When we came in 1957, we lived with grandparents and the school I was enrolled in was St. Theresa’s. (Even though I was 8 years old, Mr. Murphy put me in second grade.)
And a memory that is forever burned in my brain is of him giving me the strap, because I was loud and playing on a slide-mound during recess. (He was both handsome and scary.) I never quite figured him out and was glad when my parents bought a house on Turner Avenue and we got to leave St. Theresa’s.
The image of Mr. Murphy reminds me of how empty the area was: there are some bungalows in the background. In the late fifties this was a new subdivision. St. Theresa’s was a newly built school. Most of the families who moved here had left old James Street – the Italian ghetto – for the greener fields of the northern section of the west-end. There was still enough undeveloped land, around the school, for my friends and I to play hide-and-seek in the surrounding fields. And the parish church for the area was St. Gregory established in 1954, three years before we came to live the Soo. The original church was a long rectangular box with a flat tar roof. The idea was that the super-structure would be built once the area filled up with families. (When they finally built the new church in the early 70’s, the basement was demolished and a very different footprint was used.)
I’m heading back up to Sault Ste Marie for the Christmas holidays and am hoping to find some old pictures of old St. Veronica’s Elementary School. BTW, the date on this entry is really December 5, 2012, but I’ve changed it to fit in with the other 8th Grade post.
We had moved from my grandparents’ to our new home on Turner Avenue. (I remember going to look at houses with my dad and liking the big old house next door. It’s the house in the pic. The big old house offered 2 floors and lots of options for my own space.) The house they bought was small, but it sat on a lot-and-a-half of land and my dad wanted the added space for a garden. He also believed that the smaller house would be easier to remodel and enlarge. The big old house would be harder to renovate. (My dad has always needed something to renovate or remodel. The little house with the truncated roof-peak was a fixer-upper, right up his alley.)
Shortly after moving in, my dad began to dig out a basement and it was my job to carry the cinder-blocks from the pallet to the mounds of earth that lined the perimeter of the dig. (I hated the job, because it meant chores rather than going out to play with the new friends I was making.) And yet watching my dad, his friends and relatives dig the earth from under the house was an adventure. I could jump down and walk the footer, inspecting the cribbing columns and hydraulic jacks that now held our house. (But never far from my mind, in that summer of 1963, was the fact that in a couple of months I would be going to a new school – St. Veronica’s.)
The actual date of this entry is Sunday, February 17, 2013.
The summer before 8th grade, I went to Toronto with my uncle, aunt, Rose and my grandmother. On the ride down, I remember going in and out of rain-showers. We were driving Highway 17 and we’d go through sheets of rain and then come out onto dry weather only to go through the next sheet. It’s an experience you can have only traveling in a car.
The image on the left is us in Niagara Falls. (Left-to-right: Maria, Mario, Rose, Egilia, Nunziata) It must have been a side-trip. I bought Mafalda these Niagara Falls decorated shot-glasses that she still has 50 years later. The other memory I have of that trip was my staying at my grandparents’ rather than with everyone else at Nunziata’s. (That too felt grown-up – being allowed to go on the trip and then being allowed to stay somewhere on my own.) The trip was also the end of a period in my life, a time I associated more with the Perri side of the family than the Zingas. It was the bookend to our trip from Calabria, because the next phase was really about being Canadian. Living and being with the Perris was the first experience after immigrating. Now, on Turner Avenue, I would be able to write my own story.
This is the first time I’ve connected the trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls to the summer of 1963. (It was an amazing year for change – moved to Turner Avenue and away from the connection to Calabria, went the Toronto and Niagara Falls without my parents, went to a new school and met the crew that would become my best-friends.) Had no idea these events all occurred that year.
The actual date of this entry is Sunday, February 17, 2013.
Sister Drusilla was the principal of St. Veronica’s School. She was also the 8th grade teacher. And she was a Sister of St. Joseph. It was the first time I had had a nun as a teacher. Back at St. Theresa’s there were no religious teachers, all were lay-people. Only the older elementary schools in the older neighborhoods had nuns and St. Theresa’s was one of the new schools in a newly-built, Henrietta Street community.
Having a nun as a teacher was strange for me. My memory of nuns was from when we were living in Aprigliano and Mafalda took me to Pietrafitta – the next hill-town over – to visit a preschool. The experience was horrendous. I hated the nun who walked us around; i hated the jail-like building; and I hated my mother for taking me there. I still have pictures in my head of massive, wrought-iron gates blocking cells and rooms and of a big, fat nun with a huge smile who I was sure was going to lock me up and beat me if my mother left. Mafalda tells the story of an out-of-control child who embarrassed her – screaming, carrying on and holding on for dear life; a child who had to be taken home and promised never to be sent back to that place. (My dad, being a man who didn’t trust nuns, was an ally.) And for the next 10 years, I was nun free.
There were two Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Veronica’s; the second one taught in the lower grades; and she was younger than Sister Drusilla. They were driven to school every morning and picked up every evening and taken back to their convent at Mount St. Joseph College. The image on the right is Mount St. Joseph College as I remember it. The right hand side was the girl’s high school; the left hand side was the convent.
I have to say that I got along with Sister Drusilla. Not that she was warm-and-fuzzy, there was nothing nurturing about this Irish-Canadian, but I could appreciate her sarcasm and mean sense of humor especially if it wasn’t directed me.
The actual date of this entry is Tuesday, February 19, 2013.
Francesco Bitonti and I have been talking a lot about our experiences in 8th grade and I keep being surprised by how different the two sets of memories are. He had lived in the West End and done most of his elementary schooling at St. Veronica’s. I came in 8th grade and did one year. He knew everyone in the class; they had been together the last six years. I knew no one and I don’t even remember how Frank and I met.
So, I asked Francesco if he was interested in conducting a dialogue. He’d write about topics and memories as I would, and we would comment on each other’s remembrances. Here is one of his first entries. The rally was in May of 1964.
Marian Day Rally and My Second Strap at St. Veronica’s
I don’t know if you recall this, but the Marian Day Rally was a Catholic procession in praise of the Virgin Mary held on the first or second Sunday in May. We had promised Sister Drusilla to be part of the rally with other students. However, on that Sunday, my dad needed our help, Joe and myself and even Nicky Porco, to nail down some roofing shingles on the garage. I don’t recall how Mike Rossi got into the picture. He was probably just watching us doing the shingling. Not one of us – Joe, myself, Mike Rossi or Nicky Porco – attended the Marian Day Rally that day. We had all committed to being there. On Monday, we were grilled by Sister Drusilla, who then proceeded to call in Mr. Tokar to strap the four of us because of our spiritual indiscretions. When my dad got wind of this, he was livid and was going to go down to the school. We begged him not to go. He took our advice. The scars healed easily.
I have no memory of a rally or of being invited to participate. Joe is Frank’s older brother, Nicky Porco lived across the street from Frank and Mike Rossi lived down on Douglas. The three of them were a year older than Frank and I. Also, I vaguely remember a Mr. Tokar. Frank says he was the 7th grade teacher.
The actual date of this entry is Thursday, March 7, 2013.
This next memory from Francesco had me laughing out loud. (I read the email, while at my desk at work, and I began laughing. The other three admins in the office all wanted to know what was going on. I told them that once I had incorporated the info into the journal, I would send them the link to the hot Italians.)
End of the Year Party – Hot Italians
I don’t know if you remember Kenny Gibbs. He was this preppy, blond kid in our class. He got a lot of attention from the girls. It was June of 1964. Joe and Mike Rossi were planning this grade 8 end-of-year party at someone’s place. I remember that it eventually was held at Tony Guzzo’s house. His father was quite liberal and saw Tony as the next Ringo Starr.
At any rate, sister Drusilla somehow found out about this private party and she apparently told Kenny Gibbs to tell the girls to be very careful because Italians can get very hot. Even at early stages of puberty, I understood the implication. Nature had damned Italians to an uncontrollable sexuality. I don’t know if you were at the party or not. But there was some spin-the-bottle and a few innocent kisses but not much more. The Drusilla curse had struck!
I don’t remember a Sister Drusilla that was that connected to what we as kids were doing. In my memory she was this distant, tiny woman with a wicked sense of humor. And no, I wasn’t invited to the end-of-year party.
The last time I saw Frank in late February, he talked about the various sports and teams that were organized all through the West End. He talked about having played ball and hockey on neighborhood teams while growing up. And that these peewee teams were a strong tradition in the area. I knew nothing about the teams or their organization. Moving into the neighborhood at 8th grade and then going off to a high school at the other end of town kept me out of the network. And as the new kid, it also kept me from getting invited to parties.
On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was sitting in my 8th grade classroom at St. Veronica’s when Sister Drusilla came in to announce that the president of the United States had been shot. This was the Catholic president of the United States and as a Catholic Canadian the news was shocking.
It was my first year at St. Veronica’s. (My family had bought a house in the West-end; we had left my grandparents’ to live on our own.) The classroom, compared to the one I came from, was old fashioned. We had wooden desks with holes in the upper right hand corner for ink-wells. And filling them was the jobs of the “good” kids. There was a piano in the room and Sister Drusilla taught us to sing while sitting on its long bench. (Our music book had Santa Lucia in it. Well, the English version of the Neapolitan song.) Above the piano was a bulletin board and Frank’s birdhouses, that he build for his Science project, hung there. That Friday, we had one of the itinerant teachers and Sister Drusilla kept coming in from her office to give us the latest news on the President. When she came in to tell us that he had died, I remember looking up at the black-framed, round, analogue clock and saw that it was a-quarter-to-four. (In those days no one said, 3:45.) Sister Drusilla’s announcement seemed to suggest that even though one of our own had finally made it, they had killed him. Was she suggesting that the American president was like Jesus?
Frank and I went home that afternoon confused by the day’s events, but knowing something important had happened. And even though we lived in a small town in Northern Ontario, we were somehow part of it.
Five years later, I would leave Sault Ste Marie and Canada forever and make my way to the land of President Kennedy, to a more congenial spot for happily-ever-aftering.
o come, o come emmanuel1st entry – christmas 2013
9th entry – 8th grade
The date of the first Sunday of Advent of 1963 was December 1. Fifty years later, the first Sunday of Advent again falls on December 1.
I’m beginning the christmas 2013 posts early, because I’m going to organize them differently. I’m linking these posts to the 8th grade category, because I want to wrap them around some memories of nineteen-sixty-three.
We had moved to the west-end in June and this was my first Christmas at St. Veronica’s. I was curious to see how it would go, because for the first time I had a nun teacher. Was she going to deal with Advent differently than all the non-religious teachers I had had?
The Monday of the first week of Advent, Sister Drusilla lined us up in the hallway – the upper grades were in the old hallway and the younger kids were in the hallway leading to the new wing – and with the sign-of-the-cross she began the Advent service. The young nun who taught first grade picked up from Sister Drusilla reciting the Advent prayers and readings. It ended with us singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I liked the Advent service. We certainly didn’t do anything like this at St. Theresa’s.
The time before Christmas was full of anticipation and even though I knew all about Liturgical Advent, it never seemed real hearing about it only on Sunday at church. We did not have an Advent wreath at church, but having the service at school with the wreath on a small table in the hallway with candles that Sister let a kid light, made the season of Advent real.
(For the image, I wanted something that was both modern and non-realistic.)
o come, thou key of david, come2nd entry – christmas 2013
10th entry – 8th grade
Dates and Feast-days
u quàttru Barbara
il quattro Barbara
December 4 – St. Barbara
u sie Nicola
il sei Nicola
December 6 – St. Nicholas
u òttu Maria
December 8 – Immaculate Conception
u tridici Lucia
il tredici Lucia
December 13 – St. Lucy
e lu vinticinque lu Missìa
e il venticinque il Messia
December 2 – Birth of the Messiah
When we first got to Sault Ste Marie, my grandmother whose her image is on the left, taught me this rhyme and I remember thinking it was a fun way of marking off the days until Christmas. But as the years went by, I forgot the last part and could only remembered the first couple of lines. I’ve been trying to find the rhyme online, but have had no success. Finally, I took a chance and wrote it phonetically, in Old Calabrese, into the Google search-box and found it posted by Francesco Pecora on his Facebook page. Francesco lives in Polistena a small town in south eastern Calabria.
Below is his text: Il detto descrive il modo con cui i nostri antenati annunciavano le feste nel periodo dell’Avvento; Il 30 Novembre, infatti, si festeggia S. Andrea Apostolo, che introduce le festività di: Santa Barbara (4 Dicembre), San Nicola (6 Dicembre), l’Immacolata (8 Dicembre), Santa Lucia (13 Dicembre) e il Santo Natale (25 Dicembre).
By the time we moved from my grandparents’ house to our own, the rhyme remained only in my head. In 1960’s Canada, the only feast-day celebrated before Christmas was the Immaculate Conception. At St. Veronica’s, Sister Drusilla insisted on using only the Advent cycle to mark off the days until December 25. And the rhyme lost its purpose when TV began running the Jingle Bells cartoon counting down the shopping days till Christmas. Who cared about Santa Barbara and Santa Lucia when there were gifts to be had.
o come, thou rod of jesse’s stem3rd entry – christmas 2013
11th entry – 8th grade
The newel posts on the wrought-iron fence, at the end of the street, are decorated with boughs of blue pine tied together with red ribbon. On my way home, I decided to head back down and shoot the boughs and ribbons. The sun was at the horizon, but by the time I got down to the house it had set. It was 4:30. (Yes, I know what’s coming – the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice . . . the darkness.)
Earlier today I was doing some research on the feast-days, listed in the previous post, to see if there was any evidence to support the idea that Andrew the Apostle had created these markers and organized them as precursors to Christmas. Found no information to support this. Instead I found a tradition associated with the feast of Santa Barbara – December 4. In Medieval times, Christians would cut leafless boughs from a cherry tree, bring them indoors and set them in a bucket of water in their kitchens. The belief was that if a bough bloomed then the new year would bring joy. The superstition had ties to the prophecy from the Old Testament from the Book of Isaiah — There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (Santa Barbara was removed from the liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite in 1969. No real evidence that she existed. It’s a good thing them cardinals are selective with this criteria.)
Because the 8th grade stories are about the Advent period of that long ago at St. Veronica’s Elementary, I am using lyrics from the hymn – O Come, O Come Emmanuel – as titles to connect the 8th grade category and the christmas 2013 one. And the image of a pine bough with its scarlet ribbon is a good fit for the title.
Like all good Catholic school children, we got to draw Christmas themed pictures at this time of year. We got to use colored pencils and large paper. The itinerant Art teacher, who came in once a month, made the December lesson great fun. I remember that Mike Bondar drew a picture of the Christ child in a cradle holding a crucifix. (This is the Bondar family of astronaut Roberta Bondar fame.) Sister Drusilla, ever the sarcastic nun, scoffed at Michael’s rendition. He tried to explain that he was foreshadowing what was to come, but Sister would hear none of it. Considering that Michael was not one of the guys I hung with, I shouldn’t have cared that he was being insulted, instead I thought Sister was being overly harsh. He had a good idea and had executed it well. (Lesson learned – stay inside the lines or Sister will yell at you.)
Sister Drusilla was way too literal and closed minded for the likes of thirteen year old Michael or sixty-five year old Maruzzu.
The hymn O come, O come Emmanuel – Veni, Veni Emmanuel – is a synthesis of the great O Antiphons that are used for Vespers during the octave before Christmas (Dec. 17-23). These antiphons are of ancient origin, dating back to at least the ninth century. The hymn itself, though, is much more recent: it first appeared in an 18th century psalmster. There are several arrangements of the hymn. The most common arrangement uses the last of the O Antiphons as the first verse with the next six following in correct order.
It is interesting to note that the initial words of the antiphons in reverse order form an acrostic: O Emmanuel, O Rex, O Oriens, O Clavis, O Radix, O Adonai, O Sapientia. ERO CRAS can be loosely translated as I will be there tomorrow. And tomorrow is Christmas Eve.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high
O come, O come Thou Lord of Light
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem
O Radix Iesse
O come, Thou Key of David, come
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high
O come, Desire of the nations
O Rex Gentium
O come, O come Emmanuel
I decided to use this post to write about the various Christmas hymns and carols. O Come, O Come Emmanuel was really not a carol that was being widely heard in the 1960’s. (It certainly wasn’t in any muzak collection piped into the stores during the December shopping frenzy.) It was restricted to Sunday Mass. I first heard it, outside of church, at St. Veronica’s during the Advent service led by Sister Drusilla. But it wasn’t until this year that I began to do some research and situated the hymn and the O Antiphons in my Novitiate Breviary in the Advent cycle.
In my mind, I categorize Christmas music: Catholic Christmas music is Latin – Adeste Fideles, In Dulci Jubilo; Italian music is about the child – Gesu Bambino, Tu Scendi dalle Stelle, Mille Cherubini; German and French Christmas music is romantic – Il Est Né, Minuit Chrétiens, O Tannenbaum, Stille Nacht; and American Christmas music is secular – Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas.
Image – Point State Park is all decked out for the holiday. The image is the downtown section of the park looking towards the Northside; the river section is on the other side of the parkway underpass. The entrance to the underpass is on the left of the image.
o come, thou wisdom from on high5th entry – christmas 2013
13th entry – 8th grade
This posting is going to be a ramble. The monks of The Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge have begun a set of video reflections on the O Antiphons. In two days, I head up to Northern Ontario.
What I remember most of the winters in Sault Ste Marie, before there was central heating and you heated the house with a coal stove, were the windows decorated with ice-crystals. The sunlight through the frosted glass was bright. At St. Veronica’s the classroom windows did not frost over. And many times I’d look over at the stunted willows that bordered the creek next to the school. (I still can picture the insects that seemed to skate on the water.)
Winter light that far north was always grey. And waiting for Christmas vacation was more about not being in school than presents and family. Tobogganing and street hockey were things to look forward to, but Christmas day had lost some of its luster and I remember thinking that once the noon-day meal was over, a malaise would set in. The local network ran commercials of local businesses wishing us all a Merry Christmas. And daylight was done by 4:00. It was in this down atmosphere that Frank would introduced going to the movies on Christmas Day.
The image is of St. Theresa School. I was here from 2nd to 7th grade. The classroom on the right was my 6th and 7th grade classroom and our teacher was Mr. Orlando. This is the classroom where on a spelling test I spelled the word does DUZ and Mr. Orlando had me go up to the board and write my spelling of the word. I had no idea was I was wrong, but the experience contributed to my insecurities with spelling. (By the time I got to City High, my kids were trained to know that I did not know how to spell and that it was their responsibility to help me.)
This morning we woke up to 3 to 4 inches of new snow and a temperature of 2 degrees. Ciccio insisted on doing his vegetable shopping first thing this morning, so at 8:00 AM we were one of three cars at the No-Frills grocery store.
And for some reason, the public library came to mind as a place for Internet access and sure enough, here I am at the Centennial Branch on Bay Street, with free access. The branch was built in 1966, Canada’s bi-centennial and I remember coming here after school with a bunch of kids to do pretend homework.
saturday summers, when i was a kid15th entry – 8th grade
We’d run to the schoolyard and here’s what we did
We’d pick out the captains and we’d choose up the teams
The Paul Stookey lyrics reminded of the summers we spend playing baseball in the field behind Corrine’s house. Baseball was not a game I understood or played well, so right field was the right place for me. Right field extended across the street and into the St. Veronica’s Church parking lot. Still, the ball rarely came in my direction.
The image on the left has little to do with baseball or the field behind Corrine’s, it just seemed to fit. (Janice and I are on the playground at St. Theresa School. I think we were in the 6th or 7th grade.)
I have no idea who provided the ball, the bat, the gloves. For the bases, home-plate and the pitcher’s mound we would trace in the dirt using our shoes to scribe the diamonds and line on the mound.
Ron, Rainer and Frank were good players. Ron and Frank played in the various summer leagues and Rainer and I would ride our bikes to their games. (The bikes were our tickets to exploring the town and we did. Many times Rainer would ride on the handle-bars and the two of us would see how fast we get down a hill.) The league played in fields all over the west end of Sault Ste Marie. My favorites were the ones up on the hills, especially the one on Fourth Line. Fourth Line in those days had little traffic and great dips. We could ride our bikes down the middle of the road and never worry about cars.
field of dreamschristmas 2014 – 4th entry
8th grade – 16th entry
sunrise (ssm) – 8:20, sunrise (pgh) – 7:41
There is a thaw going on, but I need a walk so I head out with my cameras. It really is a pea-soup environment. There isn’t much I can shoot, but with Photoshop I can get rid of some of the gloomy grey. I’m walking down to Ron’s and decide to shoot the empty lot where we used to play baseball. The brick house in the background is where Corrine lived. Sometimes she would play with us. And even though she was a girl she could pitch, hit and run like a boy. The lot was beside Ron’s house and behind Corrine’s. The house on the left of the image was not there.
Like everything from childhood, the lot looks small. In my mind it was huge. (I’m standing across the street in the church parking lot shooting.) Most of us hit inside the field. Frank Bitonti and Jacky Porco could hit the ball into the church parking lot, so the fielders would back up when they were at bat. (In my old neighborhood, I never played any team sports. The subdivision was just starting to get built and there were not enough kids or established families to organize team sports.)
Tonight we head over to my aunt-and-uncle’s. It’ll be a meatless meal with lots and lots of fish options. All the fish will be fried. My aunt, my mother and I will eat spaghetti slathered in anchovies and olive oil; the others will have it with a meatless red-sauce. My uncle is from Aiello – and small mountain town south west of Aprigliano – and in his town the rule was that you left 13 items on the table on Christmas Eve. So after we are all done with dinner, he and my aunt make sure to leave 13 items on the table overnight.
There will be cullurielli – a deep fried sweet dough – made either plain or at Christmas with an anchovy inside. (I like the ones with the anchovies. My friend Chris Colecchia coats the plain ones in powdered sugar and has them for breakfast.) In my extended Calabrese family, the cullurielli are a Christmas tradition and I eat them instead of bread for the time I am here.
the resurgence of the west-endsault 2015 – 5th entry 8th grade – 17th entry
My generation wanted out of the West-End and ran to buy houses in the Protestant East-End. Sir James Dunn High School was the envy of every immigrant living in the West-End. The Dunn was new and full of Canadians. The West End elementary schools were full of immigrant children. (St. Veronica and St. Joseph Elementary were full of children with names like Stocco, Zinga, Bitonti, Pozzobono and Fratesi.)
Forward 50 years and the world has changed. St. Veronica’s and St. Joseph’s are shuttered and the sons and daughters of the immigrants have taken over the political machines. The mayors and aldermen, for the last thirty years, have all had last names ending in vowels. Gone are the McCaigs and the Smiths. And the West-End with its wooded lots and undeveloped ridge has become a magnet for young families and well-to-do families looking for large parcels of land with a view to the Lake.
And the fact that much of the political class has come from the West-End, much of the new development has occurred in the West-End. The above image is of the Fort Creek Conservation Area. The walking path through the area is amazing. The metal bridge in the image is one of three that span the Creek.
It’s been a while since I decorated for Christmas and I’m going to use this as an opportunity to weed out ornaments and other chach. I have three huge boxes filled with nut-crackers that haven’t seen the light of days in years. I wonder how they’ve held up.
The image on the left is of the vestibule. I always put the wreath on the inside of the door that way I get to see it. (Putting it on the outside means I only see it when I’m outside. Nah!) I have a second wreath on the kitchen door. It took a while to get the image; I had to take a bunch before I figured out what I wanted and once I decided I wanted the whole door and the whole vestibule, the blue frame in the floor-tile and no transom, then I had to move some things to minimize the number of lines. (I like having the hall-wall and the picture in the upper right, the frame outside the doors matches all the other rectangles in the two doors.)
It’s amazing to research wreaths and to find that they’ve been part of human symbology since the Ancients. Wreaths has been used at funerals since at least the time of Ancient Greece. Evergreen wreaths were laid at the burial place of early Christian virgin martyrs, the evergreen representing the victory of the eternal spirit over death. My first memory of a wreath was in 8th grade at St. Veronica’s. Each Monday in December, Sister Drusilla would march us out to the hall; we would line up on either side of the corridor and we would participate in the Advent ritual of lighting one of the purple candles on the wreath she had placed on a small table. This was followed by the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
The image on the right is of the house that the Ingribelli family lived in when I was living here in the far north. The family that I knew is all gone. Frank, who was my age, died of an aneurysm when he was in his early twenties. Dave the youngest died of cancer last year. I vaguely remember the dad; he died before I left. The mom was a big woman, but her life was never the same after Frank passed away. The Ingribelli were related to us through my grandmother and I remember visiting in this house. (The house has since been renovated, but my mom had no problem identifying it. I was walking the neighborhood and when I saw the house, I shot it.)
Prepping for dinner and the incessant Christmas phone calls made the morning a whirlwind. At 7:00 am, my dad got a call from his cousin in Pietrafitta. (Pietrafitta is the next town over from Aprigliano.) This made his day. My paternal grandmother and his cousin’s mother were sisters. The two of them are probably the only remaining Capisciolti from that generation. (Capisciolti was my grandmother’s family name.) From there we moved to my father’s obsession about getting the tables brought in from the garage. Knowing how he can get OCD squared during the prep for Christmas dinner, I let him know last night, that Derrick and I would take care of the tables. Forget that, by 9:00am he was in the garage and had taken down the long table and carried it to the side-door. (This is a 90-year-old, riddled with arthritis, hard-headed Calabrese.) It was only my insistence that he stop with the craziness that got any slow-down. Derrick and I had the table down by 10:30 and it sat there until 2:30 when I set it for dinner.
My mother’s version of Christmas anxiety is to tell me to call all her friends’ children. Her friends and their children are people that I rarely see, but that didn’t seem to deter her. I should call all her friends’ children and wish them Merry Christmas. I didn’t. In addition to this hyper sentimentality, let’s not forget her incessant suggestions of things I need or should eat. (The pushing of food lives side-by-side with us teasing Dave to no end, because he has gained weight.)
The rusted lantern sits on top of the fence between my back-yard and Carl’s; the Rose-of-Sharon is in his yard, a legacy of Joe and Rose Ferrara the previous owners.
Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow
I was in elementary school and living in Northern Ontario. It was early September and I remember trying to fall asleep the night before the first day of school. It was terribly muggy and we had no AC. We were living at my grandparents’ and my bedroom was a nook off the living-room.
It was a Saturday morning in mid-September and Ron, Frank, Rainer and I met up at the basketball court at our elementary school for a game. Mike Bonder, one of the Goulais Avenue kids and a fellow 8th grader also showed up. We let him play. In the distance, the hills were covered in fog, because the weather was turning. And even though the sky was super blue, a chill wrapped around us as we ran up and down the court.
September was also wild mushroom time. It had rained the night before but Saturday morning the sky broke blue and my dad and I went mushroom picking somewhere off Highway 17 North. I remember the meadow grass; it had turned gold and brittle and rattled in the breeze.
In Norther Ontario, in September, you could wear a heavy sweater in the morning. It was a great day when you walked out the door and the cars were covered in a light frost.