Me and my Fadda*
First, He praised God the day I was born. No, not for the obvious reason!
He thanked the Blessed Mother for coming to the aid of my mom and me on that special day.
You see, I almost didn't make it. There was complications with my birth that threatened not only myself but my mom as well. The doctors said they were losing us both. My dad, coming from an old fashioned, religious Italian background - did what he was taught from childhood. He relied on his faith.
He prayed to the Blessed Mother. He said that if She would intervene with her Son and save us, he would build a shrine in Her honor and present flowers every year on this day.
And so it came to be... a beautiful shrine with a trellis and ivy as well as assorted flowers growing all around like a canopy above a statue of our Blessed Mother. A pond was built before Her as well with several fish and water lily's in it. My Fadda has also put two kneeling pads to be used in prayer.
I am here because She answered my Fadda's prayers.
Going Into The Automotive Business!
As I got a bit older, around 5 years old, my Fadda helped me get into the "Automotive Business"!
He showed me how to build my first hot rod! In those days, it was easy...Having been part of the "Baby Boom Generation", there were PLENTY of baby carriages at the curb, placed as trash. So me and my Fadda, would throw it in the back of his pick up truck and bring it home.
He would remove the two axles, then nail them to a 2 X 4 which was part of the frame. Then he would cut out a piece of plywood to be used as the floor and an old wooden milk crate as a seat. The front was more complicated...My Fadda had to put a large bolt through the front axle that would allow it make turns! And, as far as the breaks?
Well, my "Muleskinners" really got a work out! If you don't know what those are, they were a pair of sneakers in the 50's...
After a couple of nights in the garage, it was done! And, yes, The Little Rascals were a major influence, not only with this project, but with many, many more!
One of my hot rods, I added a "cab" to it. It must have have stood about 3 feet high from the "floor" and I would sit on the roof - steering with the rope my Fadda had attached to the front axle that I used to steer with.
Another "model" that I made, I got a hold of some kind of a trailer end of a kids fire truck and hooked it up to the back of my hot rod. I remember giving rides to everybody that day!
Expanding Into The Construction Business...
When I was around 7 years old, my Fadda helped me expand into the "Construction Business", where he helped me build my first tree fort! You see, we lived on a dead end street that led into the woods that went in both directions for several miles.
So, once again, my Fadda cut some 2 X 4's for me to use as the frame and again, plywood as the floor. I tell you, spending all that time in the woods was great! Little Nature Boy! I remember one time, on a hot lazy summer day, I was laying on the floor staring up at the sky through the tree tops that were being gently rocked by a soft breeze - that in turn rocked my tree fort back and forth - I felt like I was being rocked in Mother Nature's arms...
A few weeks later, I hot this idea to expand the neighborhood. I decided to build 2 more tree forts and include them with such modern conveniences as setting up 2 tin cans and string so we all can talk to each other!
So, with wood, hammer and nails loaded into my hot rod, I rode to the woods and started my new construction job. I found a nice group of trees and built my 2nd one about 50' away from the 1st. I actually made this one a bit higher off the ground as well - about 10' high, which when your around 7 yrs. old, is kind of high. As far as the 3rd? I never did build it. I guess I couldn't find a nice group of trees as a foundation.
Louie's gone FISHING!
Give a kid a bologna sandwich and he eats for a day. Teach a kid how to fish - and he'll drive his parents crazy for weeks!
My Fadda showed me that by taking one of my mother's sewing needles, holding one end with a pair of pliers and heating it up with a match, you can then bend the needle against the sidewalk and make a hook out of it!
From that day forward, my mom never had any more sewing needles!
What ever I caught, I would bring home and started a little aquarium, which my Fadda had to go buy along with a pump. Man, those things were big and noisy in those days!
The dinner table was always the place for fun as well as those occasional serious meetings!
Whether it was dad yelling at my sister - “you put too much oregano in the salad again! How come you always put too much oregano?” Of which she would say she didn't and my mom would always put an end to that discussion.
Another one of the things my Fadda done? After dinner one night, mom said, “ I wonder what the kitchen would look like if the wall separating the kitchen and dining room wasn't there?” Maybe both rooms would look bigger. Oh well and back to washing dishes with my sister drying them.
My Fadda whispers to his #1 son’s, who was probably around 9 years old at the time, “go get my hammer!” Of course I did what my Fadda told me. So, I ran to the garage and gave him his hammer. Suddenly...BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! My mother was in complete shock, yelling what the hell are you doing? In less than 10 minutes, my Fadda had the wall down and my mom had an answer to her question!
The Beginning of The Aviation Business...
Another table story, after dinner one night, my Fadda told me to get the gas powered airplane that he had bought me for either Christmas or my birthday. While mom was doing the dishes, he fired that thing up and scarred all of us with the noise from the engine, even me! Not too mention spraying fuel all over the kitchen. From that day, mom banned us from the house with my plane!
There's a rat in the house!
Then there was the time, I believe it was before my kid brudda was born and I was watching Saturday morning cartoons when I heard my Fadda yell to my mom to close the door to our little den and don’t open it! I saw that he had on his hunting jacket, boots and his shotgun! Apparently, he went to take out the garbage earlier, lifted up the cover and a rat jumped out! I’m not sure how it got into the house, but there's my Fadda in his hunting outfit!
He never did get that rat but he saw it go under the back patio foundation! But, thanks to Uncle Richie, he came over, pulled out his police pistol, got a flash light from my Fadda, shined it inside the patio foundation and when the rat saw the light and froze, Uncle Richie shot him! BAM! No more rat!
My attempt at being in the "Rescue Business"...
One day, my brudda - who was about 4 and I was 9 - said to me, Louie come here! I accidentally put one of daddies cuff links in a hole of our bedroom door! Looking to save my brudda, I shooked the door and listened to where in the door the cuff link might be.
I listened really hard and then put a small hole in the door to get the cuff link. Problem was, it wasn’t there! Determined to save my kid brudda, I shook the door, listened, put another hole, only to find it wasn’t there! I did this maybe a total on 3 or 4 times. Didn’t work. Though I tried to explain to my Fadda that I was trying to help my brudda get his cuff link, somehow I guess it didn’t justify putting holes in our bedroom door. Needless to say we had a long talk while I was in a horizontal position upon his lap that night! Ouch…
Next? I guess is my Ultimate / Favorite Tradition that my Fadda shared with me!
THE BEVERAGE BUSINESS! hic up! hic up!
You Got It! Making The Vino!
Oh man, now comes the stories*
I think I was around 7 or 8 when I started assisting my Fadda and Grandpa in the "Beverage Business." ( he wasn't really my Grandpa. There was an elderly Italian couple that lived across the street from us and out of respect, we called them Grandpa & Grandma )
I'll never forget when I got my first DWI. I got caught riding my hot rod down the street and kicking over everyone's garbage cans! JUST KIDDING! (Actually, that did happened, but not the DWI. I was told to go home, eat a bologna sandwich and sleep it off!)
So, there I was around mid September driving with my Fadda in his pick up truck, going to pick up, I don't know how many cases of grapes - mostly red and a few cases of white. It was great! I mean helping him to unload the grapes, sticking as many as I can into my mouth! Of course the wine was made in our garage and then moved down to our wine cellar in the basement.
But first? It was to put the grapes through the wine press - unlike Lucy's feet in "I love Lucy," this was a machine that you would compress the juice out of the grape and then repeat this process. The left over grape skins were put aside - they served a every special purpose!
Then I remember my Fadda adding some secret ingredients. Basically I think it was sugar and some kind of a preservative, not really sure. He always made one barrel of red and one of white. So, after rolling the empty barrels down the stairs and set up on a stand in the wine cellar, when all was done, he would transfer the juice from the garage to the barrels in the cellar by using a garden hose! My Fadda would check up on them from time to time like a Dr. checks up on patient to make sure all is going - perfect.
Then, on Thanksgiving, we were allow to "sample" the wine. Of course that meant his #1 son would be included in this testing. You know what's sad? If I were to offer my kids a sip of wine in today's world, my ex would freak and do really horrible things - all of this to preserve Italian family tradition. Sick. Anyway, that's how it was. It was also my job to make sure that the wine bottle was filled every day before dinner.
On one occasion, well, maybe more than one, while trying to siphon the wine from the barrel - we didn't have a spicket on it - I had my fill before I put that old red rubber tube into the wine bottle. Climbing those basement stairs seemed like it took for ever! In the middle of dinner, with my head spinning from having drinking so much before, I asked my Fadda if I can be excused, that I didn't feel well. He looked at mom, smiled at me and said - ok. Within seconds I passed out on their bed.
Another memory, I remember us driving around and he spotted a wild cherry tree. He pulled over, I helped him spread out a sheet on the back of the pick up truck, he climbed the tree than shook a ton of berries on the sheet that he blended in with the wine.
All year long, when ever I would go with him to talk to Grandpa across the street, we would always ended up in his basement. Grandpa would then take 3 glasses, put them on the bar and fill 'em up! Hey, I was at least 8 years old! Man, it was a beautiful thing. I never abused this privilege. That would show disrespect towards my Fadda and that's something you would not want to do.
You guessed it - Furniture Polish Remover!
Now, this stuff was used specifically for medicinal purposes only and you only needed tablespoon to cure what ever was ailin' 'ya! And man, I gotta tell ya, we were all sick from time to time from one kinda illness or another!
One time while cutting the grass, I told my Fadda that I ran out of gas and that the gas can was also empty. I said why don't we put some of the "stuff" in it! He laughed and said that if we did that, the lawn mower would probably blow up!
My Fadda's most important "Life Lesson"...
Of all the things he taught me throughout my whole life, there is something that I still practice every single day.
Till this day he still reminds me that no matter what, keep God in your heart and in your life, as well as our Blessed Mother.
Thank you for the being the bestest Fadda in the whole wide world.