My mother was of the firm opinion that the Pisaturos (her side of the family) were virtuous, and that my father’s side of the family (The Falzaranos) were vicious (in Dr Johnson’s sense, of being prone to vice.)
Of course, my mother also thought that Dick Nixon got a raw deal.
I am just a bit player in this family saga: A Jimmy-Come-Lately, as it were.
Because in my family, there were a lot of Jimmys.
My father’s father was named Vincent, but no one called him that.
They called him Jimmy or Jim. And my grandmother called her son (my father), whose name was James, Jimmy too.
Let me introduce my parents, Angela and James Falzarano.
I was named James Vincent Falzarano, after my father and grandfather, but calling me Jimmy would have been a Jimmy too far.
So I became James. Some of my relatives still call me that.
When it comes to labelling the Falzarano side of the family as utterly depraved, my mother was just paying a compliment to the Pisaturo side. My mother’s father, Giuseppe, whom you have already met, was a very dignified man.
Even though he would cry like a baby while listening to opera.
Here are my mother’s parents, Giuseppe and Gertrude. With my pesky cousin Yvonne. (You could see even then that she was going to be a problem.)
I don’t think there was anything wrong with the Falzaranos that couldn’t be explained by the essentially Italian desire to enjoy life to the full.
Then again, there was Uncle Rick. My father’s brother.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Check this one out.
I have always had a soft spot for Uncle Rick. After all, he brought a bunny to my 13th birthday party. Not one that craves carrots. But a bunny whose hutch was the Boston Playboy Club.
You gotta love a guy like that. Unless you were my mother.
The real problem my mother had with the Falzaranos? My father’s mother, Angelina, whom they called Angie. For Angela, this Angelina was certainly no Little Angel.
For one thing, my mother was very stylish.
And here are Mr and Mrs Vincent Falzarano (with Uncle Ernie D’Ambrosio).
Note the contrast.
My grandmother was a wild redhead. (Which, in my experience, is certainly redundant.)
She was everything my mother’s mother was not: loud, given to extremes and a smoker.
(Here is Gertrude. With the author.)
My father’s mother used to dangle her cigarette ash over the tomato sauce as she stirred. Until my mother was about to scream.
But it was her manner of speaking (with her raspy smoker’s voice) that really drove my mother up the wall.
When my grandmother wanted to express disbelief or irritation, she always used the same expression.
If you said, “Tony is a great guy”, and she disagreed, she would shout: “Your sister’s ass he is!”
Or if you said the ravioli were good and she begged to differ: “Your sister’s ass they are!”
She used to say this a lot to my grandfather. Even though he was one of seven boys.
“Jesu Marie!” he would cry out in horror.
Here’s the Little Angel (right) with Millie D’Ambrosio.
Of course, what appalled the adults used to delight us kids. We squealed with glee every time she let fly. We had never heard such language!
And my grandmother always had candy all over the house. Even though she was a diabetic. That’s just how she rolled.
Unlike my mother, I love all the Falzaranos. And all the Pisaturos.
I love them even more as their numbers diminish.
Because nothing can ever replace your family.
Even if they are a little on the wild side.