Thursday, September 6, 2012
The Marino household was filled with activity as was the restaurant. For the first time since it was established the Marino Trattoria was closed for business. Eduardo and his son Eduardo, Jr. were busy scrubbing down the ovens, broiler and grill. Everyone had a job to do including the youngest who had just celebrated her 8th birthday and wanted to help. Rosa, Nick and Lucinda were washing down the walls getting them ready for a new coat of paint. The wallpaper would have to stay because there just wasn't time.
Mamma and Papa Rossi were due to arrive shortly for their first visit to the United States. Rosa hadn't seen her parents in over 18 years. Mamma and Papa had never met their grandchildren and hadn't seen their sons, Luigi and Nicola in many years.
Nick had explained to Lucinda that Papa always wanted his sons to be educated in America although Mama couldn't bear to let her children go. Papa compromised and sent three of his children to the new land and agreed to allow the three youngest to stay in Tuscany. Papa learned English and insisted that language be used at home to prepare his sons to live outside of Italy. The entire Rossi family spoke English fluently.
Finally, the restaurant was spotless. Maria and Daniella had just put a candle in the center of the last table when there was a knock on the door.
“I wonder who that is,” said Rosa “Can't they see we are closed? I don't want any of those construction workers tracking mud onto my nice shiny floor.”
She walked to the door and opened it with a scowl on her face.
“Surprise” shouted her brother, Luigi
Mamma and Papa were standing in the doorway. Mamma had tears streaming down her face as she folded her daughter in her arms.
“My precious Rosa, you are as beautiful as the day we sent you off on that ship”
Papa wasn't trying to hold back his tears as he wrapped his arms around his son, Nicola. Everyone was hugging and laughing and crying. Papa gave Lucinda a big bear hug and welcomed her to the family. Mamma couldn't stop the tears from flowing as she held her new daughter in her arms. She knew instinctively that her son Nicola was a happy man and that Lucinda was the reason. One by one they met the grandchildren they had never known. Even the boys had tears in their eyes although they were trying to hide it.
After a while, Papa said, “Let me get this right. Nicola is now Nick, Eduardo, Jr. is now Eddie, Antonio is called Tony. Giorgio what do they call you now?”
Giorgio replied “Giorgio”
The bright shiny kitchen was put to use again as the ovens and grills were turned on and the food was brought out from the iceboxes. The cooking had begun and the whole family was helping or hindering the process. Eduardo didn't mind. He was happy to see his Rosa so happy.
“We didn't expect you until tomorrow. We wanted to meet you at the train station.” said Rosa
“That was my fault,” Papa said
“Papa doesn't hear so well anymore” Mamma whispered.
“I thought they told me the 10th but they must have said the 9th. Anyway, a nice lady helped us call Luigi on a telephone and he came down to meet us. Why don't you get a telephone Eduardo? Then I could talk to my daughter.”
“We hope to get some wires here in Camden Corners someday soon, Papa. Can't use a telephone unless we can get connected through wires.”
“Where is my newest granddaughter, Cassandra? Daniella and Maria have written about her so often in their letters, I must meet her.” said Mamma.
“She is playing with her friend Iris Taylor. I'll go get her now. As much as she wanted to help prepare for her new Mamma and Papa's arrival, we thought it might be best if she were otherwise occupied.” Replied Lucinda as she donned her hat and coat.
A while later, Cassandra walked through the doors with a big smile on her face. She walked over to her new grandparents and gave Mamma a hug.
She looked at Papa with his white beard and said, “You look just like Mr. Pringle.”
Nick laughed. “Old Chris will have some competition playing Santa Claus this year.”
“La mia bellissima bambina,” said Mamma through her tears
“I'm not a baby,” replied Cassandra. “I'm 6 years old, I'm a big girl.”
“No, you are not a baby Cassandra but you are beautiful and you and your Mama have made my bambino, Nick a very happy man.”
Cassandra giggled. “My new Papa Nick isn't a baby either. Did you know my Mama is going to have a bambino?”
Silence fell over the room and everyone, even the youngest looked at Lucinda. Nick's mouth was open but he couldn't speak.
Lucinda's face turned scarlet as she realized her daughter had heard her talking with Diana Taylor a few minutes ago. She had voiced her suspicions to her.
Lucinda looked at Nick and said. “I wanted to wait another few days to be sure but I think I might be carrying our child. Somehow I didn't think I would have an audience when I told you.” She looked at her innocent little daughter and couldn't help but smile.
Nick pulled up a chair and insisted Lucinda sit down and rest.
“Oh for heaven sake, Nick. I'm perfectly fine. Now give me a hug and tell me how happy you are.”
Nick hugged her tightly.
The party went on until the children and the elder Rossi's were exhausted. Lucinda stayed to help Rosa with the last of the cleanup. Nick, Luigi and Eduardo were having a final glass of wine while the women were in the kitchen.
“Nick, do you see much of the Mackenzie's?” asked Luigi.
“Some of them. Anyone in particular?” replied Nick as he and Eduardo exchanged knowing winks.
“You got me. I was wondering if Amanda ever visited from New York City. The last I heard she was engaged to some high society guy.”
“Couldn't tell you what happened there but I do know she's been living here in Camden Corners for several months. I saw her just yesterday. She was helping Maddie at the candy shop.”
“Wonder if Mamma would like a nice box of chocolates? Maybe I'll stop by there tomorrow and see what kind of sweet treats I can find.”
The men all laughed.
Mamma and Papa slept well after their long trip but were up very early the next morning. Rosa and Eduardo were already in the kitchen preparing breakfast for the family.
“Eduardo, do you know of any houses in the neighborhood that are for sale? Something suitable for Mamma and me?”
Rosa wouldn't let Eduardo answer the question. She piped in “Houses for sale? Why on earth would you want to buy a house in Camden Corners?”
“I sold the winery and all the Rossi land. I'm getting too old to manage it and none of my boys wanted it so I sold it.”
Rosa couldn't believe her ears. “Papa, that land has been in the Rossi family for generations. How could you have sold it?”
“Daughter, no one wanted it. None of your brothers except maybe Nicola and his life is here in America now. Come Eduardo, come take a walk with your father-in-law.”
“Mamma, tell me what happened. I can't believe Papa sold his land.” Rosa asked when the men left.
“Do you remember Salvatore Russo? He had the plantation adjoining your papa's land. They were the best of friends and the best of rivals. Through the years they fought about anything and everything. It was a strange relationship but it made them both happy. They had grown up together and their fathers had been friends and rivals before them. The day I met your papa, Sal was with him. Sal and Maria were like family. Sal and Maria had one boy and five girls so they had it all planned that each of Sal's children would marry one of papa's children.”
Rosa shivered thinking of marrying Sal, Jr. He may have become a halfway decent man but she remembered the adolescent who liked to eat bugs and yank her pigtails.
Mama continued her story with tears in her eyes. “Sal and your papa were walking the vineyards one day last spring when Sal collapsed. The doctor said he had a heart attack and died out there in the hot sun. Your Papa lost his dearest friend. Papa changed after that. He was so sad and so lost without Sal I was beginning to worry that I would lose him too. Sal's son took over running the vineyard and tried to help out your papa too. Then one day, Papa came down for breakfast and asked how I would like to visit my Rosa and her family. Of course I said yes. We had never been away from the vineyard in our entire married life. The next thing I knew he invited Sal's boy over for a cup of coffee and asked if he would like to buy him out. The house and all. He jumped at the chance and here we are.”
“Mamma, I had no idea. I'm so sorry you lost your home.”
“Rosa dear, it was just a house. It wasn't even much of a home anymore. You and your brothers hadn't lived there in so long. Roberto, Marco and Dino all left the valley and have good lives. You all have made wonderful lives for yourselves without the land and the grapes. It was time to move on. Anything that was important to me is traveling by ship to America. Papa wants us to live our final days close to you and your two brothers. I hope you will be happy to have us here with you.”
“Oh Mamma, I couldn't be happier. I have missed you so through the years. I know we have written but it hasn't been the same having my sweet Mamma right here holding my hand.”
Eduardo remembered the Schmidt house on the corner of Oak and Vine. He and Papa walked to the house. It was only a block away from the Trattoria. Eduardo was happy that the Rossi's were planning to stay in America. His parents had passed on several years ago and Eduardo always had great affection for his in-laws. He knew it would make Rosa happy too.
“Ah yes,” said Papa when he saw the house, “I think my Anna will like her new home.”
Eduardo and Papa walked further down Vine and turned back to Main Street. The shops were just beginning to open. Chris Pringle with his dog Rudy was sweeping the walk in front of his Christmas shop.
Papa noticed the beard right away and the resemblance to the American Santa Claus. “How do you do, Mr. Pringle?” I am Lou Rossi, Rosa Marino's papa. My new granddaughter Cassandra Rossi tells me I look just like you.”
Both men laughed in such a ho ho ho way that Eduardo thought for a moment that he was at the North Pole.
“So your name is Lou? I always thought it was Luigi like your son.”
“Yes, but I decided to Americanize it like my son and grandsons did to theirs. I rather like the name Lou, don't you Eduardo?”
“Yes, Lou. It's a very nice name.”