Thursday, May 8, 2014

Saint Frances

All Italian men, at some point in their lives, will utter these words: "My mother was a saint". Well in my case, it was true. Born in Camden, N.J., mom moved to Brooklyn as a girl and lived with her parents, Pasquale and Caterina Camardi. She had two wonderful sisters, Mary and Anna, and a younger brother Mike. Fran was quiet, patient, (a quality which my father and I often put to the test) had a good sense of humor, and a way of getting you to do what she knew was best for you. She was an exceptional cook and a gifted homemaker who could rub two nickels together and come up with a quarter. As you can see, Fran had movie-star good looks. She looks like the picture that came with your wallet. But her true beauty was inside.

My father's widowed mother Lucy lived with us. God forgive me for saying this, but she was not a nice woman. My mother treated her like her own mother, but in spite of this, grandma Lucy complained behind mom's back to anyone who would listen about how ill-treated she was. Anyone who knew Fran knew this was a lie, but mom never defended herself. I feel some bizarre obligation to set the record straight after all these years. Frances had a gift for finding the good in people. This may sound cliche, but I never heard her say an unkind word about anybody. She was no pushover though, she could wield every Italian mother's weapon of choice, the dreaded "wooden spoon", when we stepped over the line. She hated spending money on herself, and relied on gifts to replenish her wardrobe. If my sister Cathy, my brother Anthony or I ever really needed anything, she had a secret stash that made it possible for us to get it.

Thrifty as she was, Mom was delighted when "Green Stamps" made their appearance. Merchants would give green stamps when you made purchases. You pasted them in a book like the ones at left, and when you had collected enough stamps, you redeemed them for merchandise. There was a redemption center on Rockaway Avenue, and my mother made many a happy trip. Too many kids today come from homes where both parents are forced to work. I'm glad I wasn't one of them. I knew that whatever "terrible" thing might befall me in the world outside, my mother would be home waiting for me to help make it right. She didn't baby us, but we knew she would be there when we needed her.

I wish I had the qualities I remember in my mother. Knowing how lacking I was, when it came time to think about getting married, I wanted a girl as good as my mother. Lucky for me, I found one.

I miss you Mom, but I am so glad for the time we had together.

(Originally published October 2, 2008.)


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1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

The best way to say "Thank you Mom, I love" is to remember her. Great post and tribute from a great guy. Wish I had met her.