Saturday, February 16, 2013

Happy Birthday, Kid!

He was born in the middle of the Great Depression, the dirty thirties. The earliest memories were of the place he lived in Corona, Queens. They lived in a semi-attached house with stoops which everybody sat on during the hottest summer months. The houses mirrored each other and they had three families in them. His grandmother lived right next door, and there were people living downstairs. But right next door was his cousin, a pretty gal named Eleanor. Ellie was a little older so she hung with his brother who was four years older than him. But the best part of Corona was all the rest of his family lived within walking distance, Aunts, Uncles and cousins. Everybody went to each other's homes and the best part was all his cousins' friends were available too with their mothers and fathers. Everybody knew everybody and he remembered all the laughter that seemed to be around. He was the baby and his female cousins friends loved to grab him and hug him to their bosoms. He really loved that, didn't know why but it felt real good even when he was was just a little kid. As far as he knew everybody was Italian just like he and his family were. Everybody had great smells emanating from their kitchens especially on Sundays when the gravy (sauce to the purists) would simmer for hours on the stove with the great meats in it. Everybody eventually dipped a bit of Italian bread into it just to taste. When the macaroni, no one called it pasta, was almost finished the Momma would take some out and with the gravy let Poppa taste and if he nodded then it would be poured into the colander and  could all sit down and eat that delicious meal of Macaroni and meatballs or sausage or whatever. He only had great memories of his earliest years in Corona when his parents and the world and all his family and friends were really young.

They moved to a great place not too far from Corona called Queensborough Hill and while the friends and family he knew remained in Corona they were not too far away. His earliest memories of  "The Hill" were of the fact that while there were a lot of Italians around there were other people also most of them Irish. In fact his first friend on The Hill was an Irish kid named Eugene who they called Babe. They remained friends forever which was great in his mind as it gave real solid roots to his life growing up on The Hill. Everybody knew everybody on The Hill or at least it seemed so. The kids would go up to the schoolyard and play handball, stickball, softball, basketball, ring-a-leavio, Chinese Hand ball (asses up) and gamble in a corner by playing cards and throwing dice. There was always a fight or two breaking out each week but no grudges were held. Everybody knew everybody and in a strange way respected the fact that we all belonged because we lived on "The Hill". All the parents looked out for the good of each other and of their kids. God forbid you were caught doing something really bad your parents found out about it right away and took the corrective action to make sure you returned to the straight and narrow. So when you sneaked a smoke or a swig of wine you made sure no grown up was in sight. He went from that Elementary School into High School and right into work, a job his mother got for him before he could say no. The world was still young but it and all in it were getting older. A lot of the family were getting older and sicker and while there were still plenty of laughs a lot of tears were sneaking into the mix.

The years that followed saw him take the place of his parents as he fell in love, raised a family, had children became the elder in the family while he saw most of those that occupy his earliest memories fade away into that other spiritual existence  His children were no longer children, had children of their own and his world no longer was young but it was still full of excitement, pleasure and laughs, lots of laughs. He always felt when he stopped laughing at the world, the people that occupy it and most important at himself it would be time to chuck it all and check out. What made this sorry earth a great place to live were a few things, music, family,
the excitement of expectations that something good was about to happen, laughs, plenty of laughs but most of all love. A love of creation and it's beauty. The love of family, children, grandchildren. The love of friends. The love of a good woman to share life with. But most of all the love of God and all the beauty He has created for all of us to enjoy if we only stop a moment and look around and marvel at this crazy world and all the great people in it. While he was thankful he still had all those great memories from his youth he made a promise to himself to continue to live a life that will make new memories that are just as great.


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