2020: L – April A to Z… Family Stories
I’m back in 2020 for my fifth year of participating in the yearly April A to Z challenge… and as usual I’ve racked my brain scribbling ideas on paper since the end of last April. It wasn’t until January, that the light bulb finally went off in scrolling through the 85+ of unfinished blog posts in my draft folder. Bingo… there was my A to Z topic…
Family Stories as told to me… mostly by my husband!
From the moment I married into this Italian family… I fell in love with their stories… their memories… and the family. My husband grew up in West Haven, Connecticut… where there was so much to enjoy as a young boy… especially a place known as Savin Rock… although long gone now. It somewhat had once resembled Coney Island… but was even larger when his parents, aunts and uncles grew up. They had stories… and I was always an eager listener whenever they told those stories… remembering, and scribbling down to preserve, just as I did with the family recipes that had once only been in their heads. 2020 has became the year I’m telling many of those stories… along with my husband’s memories to preserve for the generations to come. Many of those who told me their stories, are no longer with us… and I hope to keep their memory alive in these stories… as they are now my family also… and I love them all!
My previous years of A to Z Challenges are:
- 2016: A to Z Southern Foods and Memories… they said write what you know… and being a girl born in the South… well this was what I knew.
- 2017: A to Z Conversations with Mama… it was a somewhat easy one for me to write as I’d journaled our conversations for years… I researched favorite topics to write.
- 2018: A to Z All About Nancy Drew… this one has been my favorite topic so far, and I don’t know if I’ll ever come up with another one to equal it
- 2019: A to Z Italian Famiglia Foods and Memories… I felt it was time to finally write the favorites of my husbands family foods.
Come sit a spell and enjoy!
There are many lessons to be learned in growing up… if you pay attention!
While coming home tonight I spotted a vintage red kitchen stool chair in the trash…. “Yea that looks just like the one at Grandma Minnie’s house. That was always my seat in her kitchen… as I’d be out of the way of the table, but could sit and listen to the adult conversations. If you were quiet… you could be around… that’s how you learned things. Children back then were meant to be seen, but not heard. Today they want to be seen and heard… they don’t learn things like we did as children.”
In reading about the Thomas House in West Haven on 1st Avenue that was later moved to Bethany on the Litchfield Turnpike, Steve said….”I learned a lot about wood and building from my father. Houses that have no foundation must be taken apart piece by piece, just like the Thomas house was. I used to think about that and wonder… thinking that it sure was a lot of work to have to do it that way… as every piece had to be numbered. You had to have seen something moved, to really understand the concept and how-to. I sat on the hill and watched my house moved from Sawmill Road over to Edwards Street. It was amazing to see them roll the house down the un-paved driveway, and watch how the house stayed even as it went over rocks, and up and down hills… while remaining level. The roads weren’t paved back then, they were still hard packed-down dirt roads. Inside our house, we left everything intact… the only preparation needed was tying the cabinet handles together so they didn’t open, but the dishes were left in the cabinets – I don’t remember hearing that anything broke!”
“It wasn’t long after getting my first car, when it suddenly had a flat tire… just around the corner from our house. As I was changing the tire, my father drove by… I always thought that he had something to do with my tire going suddenly flat, just after leaving the house… just so he could be sure that I could change it by myself…. lesson learned!”
Your father couldn’t wait to tell me….”McKinley finally learned how to turn George the monkey on and off today (Aug. 12, 2013) with the button on its paw. She thought that was the greatest thing, and turned George on and off all day… poor George took a beating from her, as she carried him around all day making him clap his hands.”
“I’ll never forget what Uncle Johnny told me when I enlisted in the Air Force. Right before I left, he said to me, “when they give you a gun, never hit your target – always miss. If you can’t hit the target, they’ll never put a gun in your hand and send you to Vietnam. Never let them know exactly how much you do know.” He was right.., I learned to never let them know what I really did know. I even flunked my truck driving test on purpose because I didn’t want to drive trucks and work on the flight line, but that didn’t stop them from giving me a truck license and putting me on the flight line. They did what they wanted with you – whether you liked it or not. YOU belonged to them!”
“My father drove his Oldsmobile to New York when he took Nonni and his sisters to the ship… they were sailing to Italy. I give my father credit, as I would never, not even now, drive in the city and try to find my way around. We all went to the ship with them that day… even going aboard. As I looked over the edge of the ship, I thought to myself that it sure was a long way down to the water. I couldn’t swim at that time… imagine me, living near the beach all my life, and I didn’t even know how to swim… but I learned after that.”
“The first person everyone called when they needed help on a repair was my father. I don’t think I ever saw anything he couldn’t fix. He loved a challenge! Later on in life I’d try and talk him out of repairing everything and just buy a new one – it didn’t always pay to repair things; sometimes it just wasn’t worth your time, but I could never tell him that! He loved taking things apart to figure out what made them tick. He had ‘mechanics’ in his blood. I learned a lot from him… but he was very thick headed!”
While watching TV one Saturday morning, the military men in the movie were smoking and your father said… “When I was in the Air Force we had to “field strip” our cigarettes after smoking, or suffer the consequences. Field Strip means you take the cigarette butt apart… put the paper and the filter in your pocket, and let the tobacco blow in the wind. If anyone was caught throwing a butt on the ground you were made to clean the entire area by yourself. I never saw anyone throw a cigarette butt on the ground! One thing you were taught in the military… was to respect the area. They had very high standards… you learned quickly to adhere to them… and you didn’t disrespect anything unless you wanted to be put in the brig – or worse. Our base in Warner Robins was so clean you could have eaten off the sidewalks. Aunt Catherine would have liked it there – right up her alley with cleanliness.”
“When I spent time on the flight-line, we lined up for roll call every morning… lining up across the flight line to walk the area… picking up any debris. It was called FOD – “Foreign Object Debris”. We never found much litter, as we walked it every morning. It was kept immaculate, as it was protocol to walk every day. The military didn’t tolerate anything out of place. Everything had its place, and you learned quickly to keep it… in its place. I didn’t like their standard of respect they held you to when I was in the Air Force, but when I look back now, I see how they molded you into a better person having respect for things and others. I still believe everyone should have to go into the service – making you appreciate your home and family more; you learn quickly how to stand on your own two feet. While there, they are your family… they take care of you, and you had better not get into trouble… as they didn’t baby you.”
“I learned a few tricks from the other guys while in the service. One guy even taught us how to get money out of the pay phones. His father had worked for the telephone company and they were taught how people scammed the phone company. It was hit and miss having the money come out, but it worked at times. What the trick was, as soon as you put your dime in, slam the phone receiver down really hard, like you were mad, and sometimes if the money was in the right spot going down… your money you had just put in, plus more, might come rolling out. It worked sometimes for me… hit or miss.”
“I remember many arguments with my father… eventually learning he had been right all along! He once told I should cut down the flowering trees by our driveway, but I told him no, that we liked them when they flowered. I soon learned that the couple weeks of blooms wasn’t worth the effort of cleaning them up… and succumbed to his being right… again! Parents are always trying to tell you things – things they have already learned the hard way, but children don’t always listen until they learn – the hard way.”
“The one work issue we never agreed on was the union at Armstrong. My father didn’t believe in unions – he felt they demanded too much from the company. He was a company man all the way! He didn’t feel that way so much at the end of his career, as Armstrong didn’t do right by their employees who had given their lives for the company. My father always felt that work came first, with family second. If you didn’t work, you couldn’t provide for your family; he never refused overtime and missed out on many family functions… and was always mad at me when I refused any overtime… he always found out. That was the drawback of working where a parent worked – they found out everything you did. But that is how he believed, and he always provided for his family. I learned most of my work ethics from my father, but I learned to put family first more than he did. I saw what work did to my father, and learned quickly that the job isn’t always there for you, but your family is.”
As I watched Martha Stewart sewing on her tv show today, I asked Steve who repaired his clothes when he was young. “Nonni in Shelton was very good at sewing and did most of the repairing when I stayed there, but I never made many holes in my clothes. Tweed fabric was easy to repair, you only needed black and white thread. Repairing holes and darning socks were a necessity when you had a large family. I remember watching Nonni as she darned socks – who do you think I learned to sew from?”
In seeing Melissa’s bike today, which Steve had pulled out of the shed, he said. “I got my first bike while we still lived on Sawmill Road. I already knew how to ride a bike – no one taught me, I just learned by myself on Dolly’s old bike. I couldn’t even ride my new bike right away as it was actually too big for me… it had been a Xmas present. Back then it was usually too cold for bike riding in December… not like today… often we had snow and ice on the ground until spring.”
Continue reading 2020: April A to Z: Family Stories… click HERE
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© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved
I think I’ll be taking notes at the family reunion this year! You’ve got so many gems!!
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These gems come from listening for 49 years… plus I have a journal I began many years ago of my husband’s talks with me. I’d quickly scribble them down when a memory was told.
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