As a teenager, I loved my music. I could spend hours in my room with the stereo cranked to a decibel level high enough to shatter the drinking-glass Gramps kept his teeth in—and when I say he kept his teeth in there, I mean he never took them out for any occasion, ever. This might not have been so odd if he never asked me to fetch them from the kitchen where they sat next to the toaster smiling. It grossed me out, but I fetched them, set them next to his plate where he stared at them while he ate supper. Now, as strange as that sounds it really isn’t what I wanted to talk about.
One Saturday afternoon everyone in the family went their separate ways. Mumsie and sister went shopping. My brother finally managed to make best friends with an irritant just like him, (honestly, I could have dug a hole in the back yard, dropped R & R in and paved over the spot with glee), which meant I no longer had a 10-year-old trailing around after me. Dad, on the other hand, decided to make use of the sub-compact riding tiller he borrowed to turn over the dirt in the back yard garden. The annual garden was a project I always looked on with two parts anticipation and dread. Dad’s garden was nowhere near the modest gardens kept by our neighbors. Not only did he grow rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, spring onions, kohlrabi, carrots, mint, green bean and pea trellises, he even had a row of catnip for Shadow, our elusive and (now I realize) continually high, cat.
As much as I loved the veggies, especially the kohlrabi, I absolutely hated watering that damn garden! What made the chore more labor intensive than was necessary was the fact we didn’t have a spray nozzle. According to Dad, that's what your thumb was for. So, there I was every day after school growing arthritis in my thumb. To this day the damn thing aches when it rains. At any rate, Dad cranked up the tiller and started turning the soil. The motor was quite loud and the garden large enough that I guessed Dad would be at it for a-while. With the house empty and left to my own devices, I decided I couldn’t pass up the chance to lose the stereo headphones for a change and crank up some Bruce Springsteen, since the possibility of Dad hearing the music was slim to none.
So, as I was luxuriating in the concert level volume of my favorite singer, Dad had finished the garden work earlier than anticipated. And if it hadn’t been for the three old biddies (who walked the neighborhood like it was a paying job) coming to Dad’s aid, he might have been seriously injured. As he drove the tiller down the side yard, he tipped over and managed to smack his head on the only rock within an acre of lawn. Fortunately for Dad, it happened beneath my bedroom window and he was able to call out to me for help. Unfortunately, I never heard him over the music.
But hey, don't blame me. Blame it on Bruce.
Until I made friends beyond my Italian neighborhood, I had no idea Crème de Cocoa liqueur wasn’t actually a topping for ice cream—Gnocchi never made it on the menu at the first Thanksgiving dinner—or that the end of a loaf of bread is only known as the 'Culo' in an Italian household. Intrigued? Then kick back with a glass of vino and take a glimpse into my life growing up Nort’ side.