The house we lived in

3 Oct

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This is my parents’ wedding day, back in the fall of 1955. The elderly man in the black tuxedo escorting my mother to a hired car is her father, Giovanni Giamundo. His wife Ursula, my grandmother, did not live to see her eldest daughter marry.

The solid green awning just to my grandfather’s right obscures the family’s candy store/fountain service at 753 Liberty Avenue, in the neighborhood of Brooklyn known (oddly, I always have thought) as East New York. An adjacent building, at 751 Liberty, was also my grandfather’s. At the time it housed a fish market on the ground level, but the space later became a cluttered office for my Uncle Joe’s small general contracting business.

There were three “railroad” apartments in each of my grandfather’s two buildings, or six altogether.

Each of them was occupied by one of his grown children, as well as their young and growing families.

And so when I speak of my family’s closeness, as often I do here, well, I ain’t kidding around.

I will understand if you cannot in any way relate to the clan-like architecture of my upbringing. Few people could. The woman I am married to, an only child to educated, affluent professionals, has long been wary of my history. How, she wonders, can so many blood kin live under the same roof, gather in the same backyard, attend the same church and school, eat at the same table without, sooner or later, wanting to slaughter one another?

You may be wondering the same thing.

Remarkably, I never have.

And naive is not a word that often is used to describe me, so far as I am aware.

But for a few brief periods my position has been pretty much unwavering: I am a very lucky man to have been reared not by one but by six loving mothers (my own, plus Aunts Anna, Laura, Rita, Frances and Marie) and a bunch of devoted fathers (dad, along with Uncles Joe, Dominic, Chick and Casey). I may have shared an apartment (and bedroom) with my brothers Joe and Mike, but there were many other siblings around to rely upon. In no particular order these included Big John, Josephine, Vito, Bobo, Joseph, Big Ursula and Little Ursula, James, John and Rocco.

The house that we lived in was a full one.

My mother and brother Joe were the last to leave Liberty Avenue. The fountain service had long ago been shuttered, so had Uncle Joe’s old office. It was a sad but long overdue goodbye to a special place in all of our lives.

After mom died my brothers and I had the funeral procession drive around the old neighborhood and make a brief but very deliberate stop in front of 751-753 Liberty.

It was the only moment in the entire day’s events when nobody, not one soul in a very large group of mourners, had a single word to say.

2 Responses to “The house we lived in”

  1. Pam McClure October 3, 2019 at 5:41 pm #

    I’m envious because I’m in your wife’s situation. Lovely post

  2. Mike Hill October 3, 2019 at 7:09 pm #

    You’ve hit it out of the park again although I have the same reaction as your spouse. It’s good that you were so chill.

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