Monday, January 10, 2011


I have been in south Philly many times before,. Not Philadelphia or south Philadelphia, but south Philly; that is what it has always been, and always will be. I am visiting my cousin Danny who lives on S. 12th st., just blocks away from his childhood home. Usually when I visit we sit around the kitchen table and drink red wine and eat cheese, peppers, bread, and other goodies until it’s time for dinner, which is always pasta, salad, and a variety of “side dishes”. (As far as I’m concerned, with pasta, there is no need for anything else, except some sausage, meatballs, or other gravy meat.)

But tonight I wanted to take Danny & Linda out to dinner, preferably to one of the restaurants with singing waiters, and so we walked the two blocks to Franco & Luigi’s place. There, in the intimacy of their dinning room, we enjoyed both the mouth watering food and the joyful sound of Italian songs...and for all of the times I have been here, tonight was a special evening for me. I was aware, as never before, that this was the place where my mother was born and raised, this neighborhood was her “hometown”. I was in my mother’s home, and my experience here was to pay homage to her.

My mother was born in this city in December of 1917. We always celebrated her birthday on Christmas eve, and it wasn’t until after her death that we learned it was actually on the 16th of the month. Her father, who she never knew, died when she was 2 years old, leaving her mother with 5 children. My grandmother soon remarried to a widower with 5 children, and shortly thereafter they had 2 more of their own. Because of the lack of space and resources, my mother, at age 12, and three older brothers moved into an apartment of their own where she assumed the role of cook and housekeeper for her siblings. she spoke little of this time in her life, and much of what I have learned came to me second hand from family stories told by others. When I learned enough to ask her questions about her early years she would reflect on that time with an obvious fondness for a life that was as good as it was difficult. (I am mindful of her tendency to protect me from life’s unpleasantries.) I saw the smiles, not the tears, when she would talk about uncle Sammy and uncle Alfred with a filial affection that I will never know.

That apartment is within one block of where Danny and Linda live...I pass it many times in my visits to them. Also within one block is uncle Sammy’s house and the houses where uncle Alfred, uncle Tommy, and grand mom and aunt Eleanor lived. I remember clearly the childhood visits to the city, the sights, the sounds, and especially the smells of grand mom’s kitchen.

Tonight, more than any other time here, I feel surrounded by my mother, her history and her stories connecting me to this place as never before. Oh how I long to honor her; to acknowledge all that she has given to me. Tonight is one small celebration of her. I want my life to be a celebration of her. (7-18-04)

Graduation from Medical school...1965

Before she was my mom

1 comment:

Amy said...

Your life IS a celebration of her!!! Thanks for the wonderful photos, Dad.