I Love My Grandma Jessie

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Attending mass with my Grandma Jessie was something that was done every day. Well before 6:00 am we would be kneeling down so we could start saying prayers even before the mass started. I did not know who or what grandma was praying for, but it did not matter to me, she was always happy in her church praying to God. I was a young boy so for me just looking at the statues, windows, candles and of course the little thing that was used to hold men’s hats always caught my attention. I am sorry to say that I did more looking than praying inside the beauty of the church. Each stain glass window was different from the stain glass on either side of the window.  Some had the image of a saint others may have a holly event depicted on the glass. The more I went to mass the more gospels I heard and the more I could read the image in the stain glass. Great statues of Jesus Christ, very holly people, and angels were found on every wall inside the church. Centered and directly in front of everyone was the altar with a giant cross and the body of Jesus Christ at the top and lots of burning candles. With the entry of the priest we would all stand and mass would begin.

At this time in my life the mass was said in the old Roman language of Latin. As I watched the priest perform the rituals of the mass, I could follow what was going on without understanding Latin. I found a lifelong lasting appreciation for attending mass at this very early time in the day.  Six AM Mass was never a long mass. In fact Mass at this time in the morning was always completed in less than thirty minutes. The priest would never say a long homely and with fewer people attending communion the mass was over so quickly that it was hard for this young boy to become bored.  With mass ending we would depart the church and return home to Grandma’s house. Our return home was completed in about the same amount of time as our travels to Church. First we would walk quickly by the houses in the block, run over the roads that blocked our return, and be back in Grandma’s house in no time.  Entering the house from the rear door I would sit down at the kitchen table to wait for my coffee (with lots and lots of milk) and my Italian cookies (if I was lucky) otherwise it was just a normal breakfast of eggs and toast.

During this extended time at my Grandma’s home I did many new and exciting tasks. For the first time in my young life all I heard was the Italian language.  I just like my older sister Marianne became acquainted with many new Italian words. They were words that I could repeat to my family without my mom grabbing the bar of Lava soap and shoving it into my mouth.  Yes, now I could tell my brother and sisters to: shut the door, shut their mouths, sit down, be good, play outside, pray, eat, be quite, do not climb the tree, and get down you will hurt yourself. I heard those phases so often from my wonderful Grandma Jessie that for some reason they just stuck in my head.  Learning the Italian language, specially these phases, from my Grandma Jessie helped me whenever I went over to my Godmother Babe’s house. Grandma Mayo Babe’s mother could only speak Italian and when she wanted or needed to say something to me I would recognize the Italian words and know what to do. So as you can see learning another language is always beneficial.

In addition to learning some Italian I was able to help my Grandma when she went to visit her friends.  Grandma did not own or drive a car so we would walk wherever and whenever we needed to go.  Her friends lived all around her neighborhood and when we visited these friends they would always give me something to eat.  I think my Grandmother knew everybody in the neighborhood because I am sure we visited every house in the neighborhood.  Everyone we visited spoke Italian and every lady we meet would give me a hug and a kiss after greeting me with the word “abenaeika” (beautiful (prince) in Italian). I was my Grandma Jessie’s Italian prince so she would take me from one Italian home to another so they could greet and kiss me. I was truly loved by my Grandma and by the friend’s in grandma’s neighborhood.


Abandoned – My family left me home!

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I am sorry to say but I truly do not know how old I was when my parents choose to leave me behind as they went on a vacation to Des Moines, Iowa.  Yes my family left me home in San Jose California as they, my mom, dad, Mari Anne, Sam and Jessica, drove off in my father’s car.  The family wanted to make this two thousand mile drive without me.  I was sure that all the relatives in Des Moines Iowa wanted to meet and see the young Prince but I was to stay home in San Jose California. The reason the decision was made to leave me home was very simple, I suffered from a common problem that others experienced as well, motion sickness.  Yes my family went on a vacation without the oldest boy child, the young prince, me.  Thank God they allowed me some input as to where I was to stay during their vacation.  Of course if it were just my decision I would only go to my Grandma Jessie’s house.  I loved my Grandma Jessie very much and to be able to stay with her would ease the pain of being abandoned by my family.  As both my Grandma Jessie and I grew older she became so important and special to me that I gave her the cute nickname of “Dolly”.  She was lovely lady Dolly!

Dolly was pleased that I wanted to stay at her house.  She loved me and treated me as the special child I was. I was sure she convinced both of my parents to leave me with her.  My parents left and my visit with Dolly began.  What fun it was and what joy and happiness we shared.  My grandmother Jessica (in Italian her name was Gelsomina) was an early riser each and every day. From the room I where I spent my nights, I could hear Dolly awake each morning well before the sun began to rise.  She would get out of bed and head to the bathroom to prepare herself for mass.  Upon hearing her depart her bed I would leave my bed just as quickly and dress so I could attend mass with my grandmother.  By the time I was dressed and had made my bed Grandma Jessica would be brushing her hair.  She had the most beautiful hair in the world.  It was a shiny blue/black color, and very long.  Her hair reached all the way to the back of her knees.  She wore her hair brushed straight back then she would braid and roll her lovely long hair into a bun that was positioned on the back of her head.  My Grandma was a very beautiful lady. With the two of us dressed and ready for mass, we would leave the house for our short walk to the church.

Walking with my grandmother was an adventure.  She was not very tall but she could walk very quickly.  We would start walking to the church with plenty of time so we were never late for mass.  With her church scarf secured over her head she would wrap herself in her black coat and then pick up her black purse and let it hang from her arm, we were now ready and would depart the house.  The Catholic Church was just three blocks away from my Grandma’s home.  However, she and I needed to cross three streets in order for us to arrive at the church.  With my Grandmother holding my hand we started the daily trek to church. Her house was on the corner of the street so the first street we had to cross was right there.  Before crossing the street my Grandma would look both ways checking to see if it was safe to cross, if safe she would then tighten her grip on my hand and we would dash across the street.

It was so early in the morning that traffic was almost non-existence, but we would still dash across the street as if a car was bearing down and might strike the two of us before reaching the safety of the sidewalk on the opposite side.  Crossing streets was the only time I saw my little grandma Jessie running. With her hand holding mine I could tell just when I needed to run to cross the street and when her grip on my hand relaxed we would be passing the houses on the block. We stop and directly in front of us was the next street. The grip on my hand tighten, she turned her head looking down the street for cars, then looking in the opposite direction she would determine if it was safe to cross then together we would dash across the street. As we walked quickly by the houses in the second block we would approach the third and final street.  Her procedure to cross a street never changed.  Her pace when walking to church or for that matter walking anywhere was the same quick and very direct.  We did not stop in front of the church to talk to any of her friends.  We just entered the beautiful church and found a place to sit, kneel and pray, we now began the wait for the entrance of the priest that was the signal that mass started.