Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

The beautiful Broadway and Billy – 100 Water St.

By Rosalie Tirella

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pic: R.T.

Rose on her daily drive down Water Street, where she gets her yummy wraps and sometimes coffee at The Broadway Restaurant and Catering at 100 Water St.

Did she tell you she loves this place? The idea of this place? The people of this place? The look of this place? The love wafting over every cup of coffee (bottom-less!) in the place? The INTEGRITY in each and every Broadway French fry?

What gives the B-Way its Best Ways? The Isaldakli family, of course! Owners for decades, after Billy Isaldakli realized his engineering degree wouldn’t make him as happy as or rich as owning the Broadway, the Isaldaklis bring a love for each other, their kids, grandkid and community that has fueled the Broadway’s success … for decades. Billy and Betsy, his wife and work partner, bring a magical Old World affection, unpretentiousness and moral code to the little corner eatery in my neighborhood that never fails to uplift and inspire me in this crass, narcissistic Trump world. The Canal District’s trendy bars, eats and people may come and go – I’ve seen these places open with such fanfare and then a year or 2 later, poof! gone! – but the Broadway endures. Like the turning of the earth, like the salt of the earth … like an epic Broadway Hot Fudge Sundae!

Years ago Billy bought the Broadway biz from the old and soon-to-retire Sam, a Green Island legend in his own right. Every Sunday morning Sam would be at the front entrance of his Broadway in a suit coat, shaking hands with and greeting each and every one of his (steady) customers as they walked through his front doors! When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island my mother, like half of Worcester, would take  us to the Broadway for breakfast after Sunday Mass. And there stood Sam, gate keeper to my sisters’ and my burgers, fries and Cokes, smiling seriously. (Ma had breakfast – always a cheese Western omelet and coffee💜.) Rich, poor, in-between – Sam treated ALL his customers with the same Sam brisk-but-attentive courteousness. It was a whirlwind Sunday! Sam was a king atop the Broadway hill!

Billy brought a more fun vibe to the place. Chatty, given to giving you unsolicited advice (usually spot-on. “Rose, you’re too deep into your life to adopt kids!”), political, smart and philosophical, Billy could have been a great politician – or Pope.

But it has been the Broadway where he’s built his life and flourished. I chalk much of his success up to his smarts, cooking skills but mostly Big Greek Love – for family, customers, Worcester – everybody. To experience the Broadway is to be swaddled in a warm world of connections, smiles, banter, family, integrity, homemade ice cream, hard work – the American dream slathered over your cheese burger, don’t hold the pickles!

Billy has owned his culinary icon for years and never ceases to impress folks with his family affair at 100 Water St! Billy, wife Betsy, daughter, son, soon grandson, all work at the Broadway at some point in their lives. They all seem to gather there, in the back dining room, for their informal Greek dinners. Often with a waitress, just off her shift. The room radiates clan, LOVE, family first, good food. AND…respect for every Woo girl and boy!

To visit the Broadway is to visit a more no-nonsense, honest time in America where rules and rituals mattered: Billy and Betsy married for years and still flirting with each other over the feta, still respecting each other’s points of view, admiring each other’s skills. The cute Billy cheat on the pretty Betsy? Never in a billion years! She’s the whipped cream on his Belgian waffles! And, besides, more important, it is WRONG to cheat on your wife, your life’s helpmate and best friend.

… Billy grinning to himself over the French fries when Rose tells him his three-year-old grandson has his mom’s – Billy’s daughter Daniella’s – smile. Rose can see Daniella’s exact same smile, the exact same mischievous little curves in the two corners of the little boy’s mouth when he grins. This amazes her. She tells Billy so. A quiet, contented grace washes over Billy’s gently lined face as he accepts the compliment. No words spoken.

Giving to the community is first nature with this crew. Every Thanksgiving, Billy and family and a few staffers cook ALL the turkey dinners for Worcester shut-ins for the Bishop’s Catholic Charity Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels. At the Broadway! For 17+ years! Under the radar, sans self-promoting Instagram photos or press releases. That is how the Isaldakli family spends – and celebrates – their Thanksgiving. Sweating and (Billy) swearing over hundreds of scoops of their homemade stuffing, scores of Butterballs (the Bishop supplies the turkeys – Billy cooks them) and cans of cranberry sauce. Community service, totally out of the public eye.

That’s how Billy likes it.

Rose is thinking of Billy today. Billy, a middle-aged guy (he married young) surviving in a Facebook world. Billy, a guy with a moral code that rivals Lincoln’s, a guy who doesn’t know what Snap Chat is and couldn’t give a fuck. Slinging grape nut pudding, joking with the dish washer and the kid at the counter. Billy knows that inside the rules is where you are absolutely free! No one else in America seems to get this any more. In this crazy country, folks (kids!!) post pictures of their boobs, butts and trendy meals on Instagram. Fake loves, too. For everybody to see … curated, manipulated, cropped and colorized. Billy Isaldakli will have none of it. Billy runs around the Broadway kitchen sweaty and stressed, yelling over the assistant cook. Betsy calmly grabs a fish platter and throws a reassuring glance at her husband, her beloved. Waitress Cathy makes fresh coffee…friends/customers come in. The Broadway world spins on, a cozy delight.

Ghosts and the City of Worcester

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

If you read some of the literature, they’re called “ghosts”: immigrants who never acclimated to life here, the US of A. “Ghosts” never learned a smidgen of English; they didn’t go out and get factory/low level service jobs or join their little local ethnic churches (so often the spiritual and emotional nexuses for first-generation Americans). They didn’t connect to their neighborhood schools or market places, biz enclaves like our 1930s Water, Green and Millbury streets, streets bustling with Poles and Lithuanians from the “Old Country” and Jews, newcomers too, who often owned the delis or shops but lived in better digs at the top of Vernon Hill.

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Water Street deli in the 1970s

No, the ghosts were emotionally incapacitated – often they had had very quiet or very loud nervous breakdowns in their tenements or flats, their brothers, wives or sons clutching them to their breasts, wrangling with their demons, too. Or just staring at their loved one in shock and terror. Like late Leader Sign owner Tony Hmura’s dad, a Polish immigrant who just crumpled in Worcester and became bedridden unable to work and compelling son Tony, just a little kid at the time, to be the new head of the Hmura family. The new breadwinner. At age 7.

With the ghosts it was often up to their kids, sons like Tony, to take over the family, or at least be the
family bill payers.

Tony, my dear, departed pal, now “resting” in Notre Dame cemetery,

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had to get out his toy red wagon when his dad became a ghost. No longer a toy but a tool, Tony filled it with dirt and earthworms and started selling the worms as bait to the local factory guys who went fishing on their day off. Tony had his own small biz at 7! It was very robust, he told me. His red wagon was perpetually filled with rich dark soil into which hundreds of thick juicy earthworms twisted and twirled as deeply as they could, away from sunlight and little Tony’s pulling, grasping fingers. He walked all over the city, pulling his little red wagon filled with worms.

A few days ago I visited Tony at Notre Dame and saw his grave unadorned, unloved during Christmas. This would have upset him! So, remembering our friendship, his love for his parents and his hardscrabble beginnings, I cleared the ice off his huge! headstone…

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… and decorated it as best I could.

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On his headstone, I placed a Christmas card, a Black Lives Matter postcard (unenlightened to the end!), a penny for good luck, a purple flower and a duck wearing a baseball cap. Tony loved flowers, and he wore baseball caps when he dressed to go to his Canterbury Street sign shop or to some family gathering.

The cemetery was so lonely, desolate! Everyone had forgotten their dead!
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Easy enough to do. No judgements. My late mother, as resilient as they came, used to say, “My Rosalie, life is sweet!” or “Rosalie, life is for the living!”

So I hung out with Tony for a few minutes, scraping the ice off my car, something he would have wanted me to do in this weather, and drove off. Here’s Tony’s song, from me:

But I digress! Like I was saying, the neighborhood’s “ghosts” had had some kind of break with reality and/or now suffered from major depression, mental illness. Sometimes they killed themselves. I remember as a little girl growing up in Green Island there was a Polish family that had such beautiful daughters: long wavy blond hair, pretty smiles, comely figures… But I never saw their dad. Not once. For years. He was always in the house. Finally, my mom said he had hanged himself one day. She said it so matter of fact that I didn’t feel shock. It was in the cards. … One young neighborhood woman, not an immigrant, but the lesbian daughter of our neighbor across the way, killed herself, too. Being gay in Green Island back then could be as hard as being an immigrant! In my childhood, homosexuality was considered a mental disease! Gay people suffered terribly. So alone in places like Worcester.

The U.S. had no social safety net back in Tony’s childhood, and homosexuality was not accepted or ever discussed when I was a kid. So mostly our neighborhood “ghosts” stayed away – hidden from us. In back bedrooms, where their families dealt with their craziness, depression or bed-ridden ways. There they ate their suppers or stared at the four walls. Or denied their gayness – or castigated themselves for it. Families fed them, bathed them, comforted, supported them, prayed over them, played them their favorite records on their Victrola’s …

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Rose’s Victrola – it was her Polish Bapy’s!

… and sometimes beat them – the “cripple” who dragged down an already poor, bereft family.

So if the ghosts didn’t commit suicide, they were pretty much “entombed” in neighborhood tenements or three decker flats. For life.

There are ghosts in Green Island today! In lower Vernon Hill! Main South! Piedmont! Canterbury Street! Any place where poor immigrants and refugees live, freaked out by Worcester and American culture! Struggling to/unable to take it all in! They’re newbies from Vietnam, the Mid East, Central America, the Congo – so many places from all over our wonderful planet! It is up to Worcester – all of us here – to embrace them and weave them into our wonderful Worcester tapestry.

This is why CECELIA and the InCity Times website SUPPORTS the City of Worcester Human Rights Commission’s push to allow our REFUGEES AND NON CITIZEN Worcester residents to sit on, be voting members of, ALL City of Worcester Boards and Commissions.

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Screw City Councilor Konnie Lukes’ backwards – and dangerous – view of the issue! THANK GOD cynical, race-baiter, loathsome MIKE GAFFNEY is OFF CITY COUNCIL! These folks do not understand how diverse Worcester is, that every day we grow browner. So often our newcomers sit on the periphery of Worcester life, sidelined by all the immigrant baggage: poverty, lack of skills, lack of education, unable to speak English, unfamiliar with our laws, city hall. Even our city libraries feel foreign to them…

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West Boyslston Street – the Frances Perkins branch library

… The police force scares them, too.

Refugees and most likely undocumented workers are here in Worcester to stay, folks, and must be recognized. They are working hard to survive. They must be allowed on our city boards and commissions to speak on behalf of their communities. We cannot, as a city on the move, turn folks who may be here illegally, from all over the world, INTO GHOSTS. THE LIVING DEAD. We must accept reality with open minds and hearts.

How will this city flourish with ghosts dying behind closed doors? Why permit all that human suffering? Why not work to eradicate it?? Why not unlock human potential and happiness?!

But newcomers from Vietnam, the Mid East, Central America, Africa, Albania etc are not the only folks who struggle in Worcester. There are our regular old Worcester residents, people who have something to add to our urban stew, but are overwhelmed, also. Turned into or turning into ghosts by poverty, domestic violence, violence on their streets, drug addiction, drug selling, hunger, dead-end low-paying jobs. They are our ghosts, too! Some heartlessly call it the “underclass.” As if it’s a permanent thing. Bull shit! These folks must be helped, be loved, too!

Our city is a beautiful, diverse, complex place!!! Let’s embrace, celebrate, this wild ride!!! This Christmas Day: No more ghosts!

🎶🎹⛪ Christmas-time🎄🎅 in💿 the ⛄ghetto!💜💜

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

So, it’s Christmas in my ‘hood, the place I thought I’d squat for a few years until I moved away to cheerier, safer byways. I planned on the change – leaving all the Kelley Square, Green Island and Interstate 290 noise, tail pipe fumes and dirt behind me. Shake all this neighborhood’s cussin’, anger, sadness, scrawny kids, wildness, displacement, unemployment, dysfunction, midnight screams from my shoes! And my coats and jackets – and face! I clean my ears and the “wax” comes out dark grey! (What’s happening to my lungs?? To my neighbors’ lungs?? All of us here??)

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I tell myself: Rose, move your sticks of furniture, old boots, kitten Cece, red sweaters to the country!

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Rent a little nook where Jett can roam…
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… to his coyote heart’s content – (true! he’s from Appalachia, land of the coy-dog) – and not be dressed in cheap tinsel on my bed, for my amusement! A foil and comfort for my tired old heart…

I wished for something so different years ago! This picture, below! Straight off the old New Yorker cover…
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Barlow, 1939

A kind of cliche, if the feelings aren’t real. But magic, if they are!!

Instead, I got …
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and this …
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Concrete, so much concrete, never softened, no matter how many slips, and silk shirts flutter on the sparse clotheslines…

All the homeless people on the streets with their belongings few and far between, fitting perfectly onto the traffic islands where all the cars whiz by and they walk up and down, subtly, even delicately, begging for money. “What beautiful dogs!” one toothless street woman coos to me as I sit in my car in traffic, with Jett and Lilac. She is kissing up. I understand. Screw the City Manager’s admonitions! I look into my cubby by the brake for spare change… At the bottom of the sign post, on the traffic island, leans her life: in one paper holiday bag, two sandwiches, one pair of new fuzzy purple gloves; in the other paper holiday bag, one brown knit scarf popping out … Christmas gifts from motorists? It’s all so neat, compact – perfectly organized for her life. Amazing Grace! How sweet Thou art!

All my hood’s pain for me to see every day and to cry over – just a few quick tears I wipe away in seconds flat. Because I call myself jaded.

Worcester, more segregated than ever.

More poor versus trendy than ever.

So unlike my Green Island childhood when these now forsaken neighborhoods, Piedmont, South Worcester, Lower Vernon Hill, Green Island had the factories, the jobs and the shops and stores that catered to the people who lived in and owned the three deckers here. And all of Worcester was welcome in my neighborhood – Charles Restaurant, the Deb Shop, Kiddie Kastle, Widoffs Bakery! No such thing as gentrification back then cuz these neighborhoods worked back then, we’re self-sustaining!

TODAY, here, we need: JOBS THAT PAY A LIVING WAGE, FREE COMMUNITY AND STATE COLLEGE FOR RETRAINING AND GOOD JOBS, A REAL FOOD HUB WHERE LOCAL FARMERS SELL THEIR BRUISED FRUIT CHEAP TO US BRUISED PEOPLE! EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT!

NO MORE RACISM IN CITY SCHOOLS, CITY HALL, CITY LIFE!

We will never heal here unless this ALL happens. Everything else is Band-Aids. Rich folks’ feel-good charity…

So this Christmas I get it: I am here to stay. I have no choice. But my fate is sealed by my heart, as much as it is by my purse strings!
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Because this banged-up place makes me happy! The crush of it! The fury, the joy, the whacks, the deep kisses. It is all here! What I have loved all along! The kids in their jackets in the cold, on their rickety bikes, doing wheelies outside the ancient dry cleaners. The loud hip hop booming from cars. The sweet 15 parties with the beautiful Hispanic girls in their pink taffeta dresses! The African guys visiting each other to go partying and calling to each other under their three decker windows… making clucking sounds in between their words, just like in Africa! I try to do the same but can’t! And the skinny Vietnamese kids running around the house their parents just BOUGHT!

The sweet sour symphony of my neighborhood! The whole of it!

Merry Christmas Eve!
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– 🎅🎄🎶Rose

P.S.
Have you ever listened to this album? It’s terrific!

Do more than remember the homeless this Christmas! Give them shelter! And more!

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

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City lights: Worcester’s Theater District

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Homeless couple: Worcester’s Canal District, Green Street

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The woman vomiting

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THE CITY OF WORCESTER SAYS IT WANTS TO HELP THE HOMELESS.

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City Hall

HERE’S THEIR EVENT:

We would like to invite you to join us for our Longest Night Vigil on December 21st, 2017 at 5PM.

December 21st is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. It is also known as National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. As we pause to remember those who have died while living without a permanent home, we will bring attention to this issue that impacts all of us in our community.

This event will also be an opportunity to come together and make a commitment to continue to work towards a community where no life is lived or lost in homelessness.

HOSTED BY: City of Worcester Department of Health & Human Services; Community Healthlink’s Consumer Advisory Board
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But don’t we need more than feel-good p.r. events like the above? Yes, they raise awareness but, more often than not, they just make the comfortable feel less guilty and selfish during the holiday season, when their stomachs are stuffed, their holiday getaways booked and their Christmas trees wobble from all the presents underneath them.

Don’t we need to literally HELP FOLKS, not symbolically support them? As a civilized community, don’t we need to provide homeless folks SHELTER, food, a clean bed, a place to shower and refresh themselves??? … or they’ll fade away. Some people in our city would like that very much.

As the second-largest city in New England, we tout our “renaissance,” which at this point mostly revolves around high-end restaurants and their chi chi foodies who photograph their meals!! in arrogance – and pointlessness. But doesn’t a first-rate city have … a homeless plan? … A desire to bring more minorities into the work force … a desire to create opportunities for all, not just for the big shots’ families and extended families and pals and their pals? Worcester is still a closed-off place. You see the effects in our city core, in all the poor and minority folks hanging on with three or four shit jobs, an underground catering biz or junk-removal biz or, deadly to our neighborhoods!, a drug biz. A thriving heroin biz, complete with rifles and guns and wasted 15 year olds. And the drug-tragedy infects the neighborhoods, goes ’round and ’round, repeats itself in the next generation. City Manager Ed Augustus, walk around Piedmont, lower Vernon Hill, South Worcester any afternoon and see the broken people! See their drawn and tired faces, their scrawniness or obesity, their kids, hidden in their apartments because their streets are so tough … The despair is heartbreaking!

Our city’s lack of a plan for caring for our homeless people is the most egregious example of our civic heartlessness. We need to do so much more! With the closing of the PIP shelter, and not enough beds for our homeless, and below-freezing temps closing in, the City of Worcester needs to step up! We cannot expect Father Madden, pastor of St. John’s Church on Temple Street, to do it all!

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St. John’s Church on Temple Street

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St. John’s feeds the city’s hungry here, seven days a week

Father Madden is an amazing person! With a smile and a hug, he takes in the homeless on winter nights, feeds the homeless and struggling every day, gives food to the homeless and hungry every day and runs a residential program for folks who would most likely BE homeless. All this on top of his more conventional priestly duties: leading mass, writing sermons, praying at funerals, baptisms, weddings … counseling parishioners, running church groups and even fundraising for the diocese. If city officials worked half as hard to honor the individual as Father John Madden does, Worcester would truly be GREAT! You’d see it in the people’s faces in my neighborhood and throughout our inner city!

We can’t diss the wonderful “Dr. Mattie,” the city’s relatively new health czar! She’s terrific! She’s got brains and heart! She’s recommended the city establish a kind of camp for the homeless, many of whom don’t want to be in buildings/ institutions. The camp would be permanent and have cots, showers, bathrooms, a 24/7 police presence and social workers. Many big American cities have these camps. This would ensure our homeless brothers and sisters are safe, warm, cared for and maybe just maybe primed for job searches!

Of course, the cruel Worcester brigade weighed in. The Turtle Boy bunch, which includes Mike and Coreen Gaffney, local uber bitch and attorney-who-was-formally-reprimanded-by-the-bar-assoc (the City Manager is on the cusp of giving her his blessings and appointing her to a City Board!) Margaret Melican, and dunderhead squawker Paul Collyer threw words around like “hobo” and hobo camp and the cruel jokes began and the public swallowed the stereotypes hook, line and sinker. These savvy assholes stopped an intelligent community conversation around homelessness dead in its tracks. They stopped solutions from being born.

So unlike Boston or Somerville, or other world-class cities where problems like homelessness are confronted in a real and muscular way. These days, besides its millennial scene, Worcester grows its very own ghettos! Remember the late, great Boston Mayor Tom Menino and how on bitterly cold winter nights he’d be out with Boston social workers handing out blankets to the homeless, leading them to the city’s homeless shelters???

That kind of compassion is beyond Augustus and company.

Which is why so much of our urban core is now a wasteland …

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Rose’s neighborhood

… why so many of our homeless people are sick, dying…

… and the city’s homeless event is ultimately a crock of shit.

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Lilac was dumped by her previous owner. … Do we love our homeless dogs more than we love our homeless PEOPLE????

My two cousins

By Rosalie Tirella

Writing my David Cassidy post got me thinking about Baby Boomer teen life and my two favorite girl cousins, Jennifer and Kris. Jennifer was the trend setter of my junior and early senior high school years. The beauty I idolized but could never be.  She was the suburban willowy love-child of the ’70s who caught all the boys’ eyes (once I was walking with her when she literally stopped traffic!), and I was the Polish immigrant nerd living in the ghetto (Green Island) with my face deep in my school books and Bapy’s potato pierogi’s.

Jennifer was the Ali MacGraw to my Mr. Magoo (I was near-sighted as a kid, and my mom bought me thick-lensed eyeglasses at the optometrist on Millbury Street), the Cheryl Tiegs string bikini to my White’s Five and Ten polyester pants. And the whole family knew it. When her parents, my sweet Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary, spoke of her, their only daughter, the word “model” popped up in lots of their sentences. As in Jennifer was beautiful enough to be a model. She was tall enough to be a model – 5′ 7″.  She had an oval face – the perfect face all models had. Plus: Jennifer made her own groovy clothes that looked like they came right out of SEVENTEEN magazine. She sewed like a demon (linings? No problem! Zippers? a snap!) and could knit or crochet anything.

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Jennifer could knit sweaters like these pom-pom bedecked doozies!

Once she crocheted herself a beautiful blue hotpants jumpsuit with a red apple on the bib (which her parents never let her wear in public). It involved following a pattern, creating pieces, putting them together…so intimidating to me!

Jennifer loved going to the beach and sunbathed in the pretty two piece bathing suits she sewed for herself. She slathered on the Coppertone sun tan lotion (SPF 0) and smelled like a coconut. 

For me, the whole Jennifer package was amazing! No one ever stared at me – a gawky 13 year old with thin hair and a gap between my two front teeth, which my mother, too poor to outfit me in braces, kept promising me would come together as my wisdom teeth grew in. (never happened). No one ever told me I had model potential. No one ever cared what I was knitting. I was in Jennifer’s knitting class at the Winthrop House Girls Club on Providence Street. Everyone in class knew I was the worst knitter at the Girls Club; in a million years I could never crochet a blue hot pants outfit with a red apple on its bib! The club knitting teacher, was a tough old Irish broad who had plenty of ability but no heart. She fawned over Jennifer and her work but sneered at me as I sweated bullets over my paltry scarves or “slippers” for Bapy. Scraps to her. She never tried to teach me anything new –  never really even acknowledged my presence. She just kept me knitting those damn scarves and slippers – both the easiest beginner projects entailing knitting/crocheting row after row after row after row…I hated the teacher and class but my mother wanted me to learn “home economics” so I took all the classes at the Club: sewing class, knitting class, cooking class. I soldiered on in knitting for three years while  Jennifer soared –  graduated to sweaters with pom poms, halter tops! and hotpants jumpsuits. She bought and  followed patterns, three-page directives that told you when you knit, purled, dropped a stitch etc.

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Jaw dropping. I never  owned or even followed a pattern, which you could buy at Woolworths on Front Street. I couldn’t even “read” them. So I became the Madame Defarge of the Girls Club – knitting and knitting and knitting my  scarf in a corner of the room.

Jennifer wore platform sandals and shoes that we’re pretty and on trend – but never slutty. She drank NuForm 1% low fat milk because she was tall and willowy and watched her figure, like a real model. She wore just the lightest touch of makeup (pink lipstick, a bit of mascara) because she was a natural beauty, like a model.  And like all models in the 1970s she wore her long, chestnut hair parted straight in the middle, straight down the back, a la Ali MacGraw.

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pics: R.T.

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Jennifer even knit herself those knit hats Ali MacGraw wore in the movie “Love Story,” co-starring  ’70s heartthrob movie actor Ryan O’Neal.

My aunt would say, “That’s my Ali MacGraw!” My Uncle would say, “That’s my Polish Princess!”

And we’d all nod, grinning.

No one ever called me a Polish Princess! But I knew I was loved by mom. For different reasons. I was up to something a little different – Ma picked up on it, knew I was wicked book smart, an all-A student.  She knew I loved music and enrolled me in violin – and accordion! – lessons at Lamartine Street School. She pushed me to be in the WPS orchestra – at 7! She’d bypass Jennifer altogether and compare me to the boys in the family. Race my intellectual prowess against that of her sister’s two whiz kid sons’ – Walter and Jim.

My Aunt Mary would brag to my mom: “Jim is number two in his class.” My mom would hit back with: “My Rosalie is number 1.” My aunt would crow: “Jim’s teachers love him.” My mom would retort: “Rosalie’s English teacher took  her and five of the smartest kids in class to the art museum on Saturday. Then they  went to McDonald’s for lunch!” If Walter was reading a hard book for his book report at Burncoat Junior High, I was reading a brain-cracker for my book report at Providence Street Junior High. If Walter was going to college to be a doctor, I was going to college to be a veterinarian – a job my mom believed required more intelligence.  Animals did not talk and therefore couldn’t tell you where they hurt or what their health issues were!

The competition was intense, and soon I felt I was on a different path than Jennifer who wanted to go the more traditional route. She wanted to be a school teacher, get married in a beautiful wedding gown …

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… with the band playing BREAD songs for all to dance to at the wedding reception.

My cousin loved BREAD and bought the above album, The Best of Bread, and convinced me to do the same. I did. When we had our sleep overs at her house we’d get into our jammies, talk boys and true love and she’d put her BREAD album on her portable record player and together we’d softly sing all the songs on it (I knew all the words by heart, still do). We’d sing high and melodramatically in the gentle moonlight that suffused her little pink bedroom, with the swing set in the back yard, my aunt and uncle in the kitchen having a final cup of coffee of the day,  together …

A few years ago I heard “Everything I Own” on the radio and cried. Not for what the music critics would call its saccharine lyrics (the critics slagged BREAD, gagged over BREAD, their entire career) but for what the band once meant to two innocent girls in the little moonlight-imbued bedroom off Burncoat Street, the swing set in the backyard by the big tree I’d sometimes climb… . Two girls who believed in all that bad love poetry with all their hearts!

“I may be climbing on rainbows, but here goes…”

“… I really wanna make it with you!”

Jennifer’s husband would be handsome and straight-as-an-arrow loyal, and – a must – he’d have a great paying job.

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They would live in a big house in the nice part of town and have a family…Jen was losing this Green Island Grrrl.

Into the breach stepped Kris, the teenaged daughter of my mother’s older sister, Helen. Kris was another beauty but very different from Jennifer. Helen, like my mom, her little sis, had married stupidly – got hitched to a physically abusive carpenter who would hit her and drink whenever he wasn’t working. I remember him at our kiddie  birthday parties, walking around the room and popping the balloons with his cigar. A total asshole. Like with my father, I was afraid of the guy. After running away from him, kicking him out of the house, getting a divorce and their house in Webster Square, my auntie became the tough, single mama survivor raising her two teenagers during the 1960s, the Vietnam War … working three shit  jobs  to keep the house and send  her kids to private schools. She eventually became a professional, an accountant, while raising Kris and her brother, Peter. She was the auntie who had a lifelong love affair with Doberman pinschers, owning one after another, huge canines built like brick outhouses, all named delicate, pretty names like Sparkle, Serena and Tatiana. Any one of them could have killed a man.

Like I said, Kris was a beauty. Wavy long auburn hair, huge melt-you eyes, pretty figure, full sensuous lips – so fetching in her blue jeans, peasant blouse and loafers. But where Jennifer was confident and exuberant, Kris was tentative and sad. Where Jennifer sauntered down that beach, Kris walked stiffly past the wavelets, her shoulders up, square and rigid like a soldier’s. She could have looked amazing in a bikini, but she wore a no-nonsense, nylon navy blue one-piece.

Still, we connected. Through our mutual love for animals. When visiting us – and my Aunt and her two kids often did visit us to escape the flying fists of my uncle – Kris never chatted about boys or music or hinted she could be a model, though, years later, I see her in my mind’s eye and she is a kind of ravishing, exotic beauty that Jennifer never was. But she was emotionally squelched by a dad who was a drinker and hit her mother with her hair brush. No. Kris was not young the way Jennifer or even I was. She was serious – until she was given our cat Rajah to pet or our English Setter mix Belle to hug. Then she smiled her toothy white grin and talked about her cats at home or their latest Doberman pinscher. …

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Kris would have loved the playful and mischievous Cece!

… But mostly Kris was quiet, “reserved” my mom called it, just connecting with our pets. She would get right on the floor with them, lying down next to them and play fight or cuddle. It was primitive. Bewitching! I’d just sit by her and my pets, watching. They were having fun. My cousin was turning into a feline! A pup!

I wanted to reach out, have Kris be my best friend cousin, just like Jennifer had been, but there was a wall. Kris was only a few years older than Jen but everything about her seemed far away, distracted.  The only emotional connection to my clan? My late mom. Kris loved my mother, who in her 40s then, had a husky, sexy voice that no one else in the family has or ever had. It made her so unique! Everyone remembers her voice, so Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra, dry martini  – even though all she did was work 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners to support me and my two sisters and come home to cook and care for us. When she saw her, Ma would always give Kris a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and … unlike her mom, leave her be … the pressure was off. Kris could play with our pets to her heart’s content. My mother would offer her a cup of Delmonte’s fruit cocktail – something Ma loved to do when we had guests over. Kris accepted the cup of syrupy soft pale fruit and then Ma’d go back to the kitchen table and sit with my aunt. They’d have a cup of freshly brewed coffee Ma made special for my aunt and chat. Ma and Auntie would never talk about my uncle or the physical abuse in front of us kids – maybe they never did, even when we weren’t around. Maybe Ma just sensed it all, Auntie telling her a few things here and there, painting a picture of alcoholism and domestic violence without using the words or even knowing that alcoholism is a disease and domestic violence follows a cycle. It was the ’70s and all of the research was just coming out. Blue collar women like Ma just did not have the knowledge at the time. They relied on their instincts, tried to reason with folks.

There was one night when Uncle Joe did not want Helen and her kids at our place. He drove to our Lafayette Street three decker and got out of his car and started yelling for my aunt, his wife, to come home with his kids. Kris’s face got beet red and tears fell from her eyes. Auntie looked flustered… . Ma went to our third floor window, opened it wide and through the screen said, gently: “Go home, Joe. Go home.” Uncle Joe kept shouting. He sounded off balance, drunk. Ma, still in that gentle voice, said: “Go to bed, Joe. Helen will come home tomorrow.”

That seemed to satisfy Uncle Joe and he drove home. My aunt and cousins spent the night. They got our beds. We kids doubled up. The next day they left early in the morning – so early my sisters and I were still sleeping. I don’t even think they had breakfast. I was sad that I missed saying goodbye to my Aunt, cousin Peter and pretty cousin Kris, who I later learned was a bigger Beatles fanatic than me! She had all the Beatles’s records. She even had the original Beatles dolls!

Tonight, I am decorating my shack for Christmas …

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pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

… but feeling less twinkly since I heard the news. R.I.P., David Cassidy! They say your liver shriveled up! Caused by your decades-long battle with alcoholism. Your early dementia made things harder.

Some say you were nothing but a sad has-been who never quite recovered from teen idol-hood. Well, tonight, as you sit high above this crazy spinning world on your fluffy purple cloud in TV heaven, take stock. Rest assured. Hear this gal’s prayer to you: David, you will always be the candy-coated, shag-sporting, bell-bottom-wearing, long-lashed heart throb to me and millions of Baby Boomer gals (and thousands of the guys). You were the boy that taught me and all the BB girls how great it was to have … periods! Cuz that meant we had the hormones to go crazy over you – all cute boys! Junior high school was more than just getting my “friend” for the first time. It was more than zits and blackheads, crying in my pillow, wanting to break the rules but school and Ma keeping me tethered to routine. It was more than Midol in its weird blue plastic bottle, Kotex pads that slid all over the place if you weren’t wearing the elastic “belt” right. Nope. The hormones brought lust, too. We didn’t know the word back then, so we called it “love”:

“Last night, I turned out the lights, lay down and thought about you … .”

And … you got this once 12-year-old girl (was I ever that young?!) moving, joyful – singing, jumping and dancing on her old metal bed in her run down Lafayette Street bedroom that the landlord had just painted a lurid lime green (ick!)… She was playing your record on her red portable record player! She was now interested in songs – interested in singing her song! She started to write little essays and began showing them to her mother and teachers at Providence Street Junior High School.

The tunes you sang, David – their melodies and lyrics were so easy to learn. Because of you, my brain was primed for bigger and better. In a few years it was a hop, skip and jump to the Beatles, me first falling for their cuteness, just like I had with you. But then, slowly, discovering they were … WOW. They were, and still are for me, a life-long trip.

I loved your “shag” haircut. I wore one all seventh grade! – in my “year book” picture I look like a mini-David Cassidy! (looking for the pic…) I even bought a paperback about you – a 50-page tell ALL bio – from the Scholastic Book Club. My reading teacher was ashamed of me …

Watching your TV show, The Patridge Family, was one of the highlights of my junior high week!

Like me, you didn’t have a dad. But, like me, you had a great mom! Yours, however, seemed freer than mine. And you didn’t live in the inner city. You lived in the suburbs where you had a big house and a garage, the place you, you mom, your sisters and brothers all played music together and solved each other’s problems.

Solve this problem, Dave: How can you stop all the people you’ve loved in your life from dying?

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Ma’s little red book and Trump’s America

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“Ma”   photos: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

When my late mother was around 14 years old she got the How To Pitch Baseball book by Lew Fonseca lots of American kids (mostly boys) owned around that time (World War II) and pored over after school, during school, before baseball practice and after a game (sand lot, park or school yard) – kid-arenas where your team either won or lost and a million stories unfolded between the first and ninth inning. All of them were dusty and dirt-beneath-your-fingernails hardscrabble, especially if you played them in Green Island!

The slim red book is small and light – a teenaged boy could have held it in the palm of his hand easily.

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It was published in 1942 as part of the Little Technical Book Library and belonged to Ma, a baseball lover from impoverished childhood to impoverished nursing-home death. But most likely it first belonged to her big brother, Walter, who played baseball on his high school’s b-ball-team. So it was a hand-me-down, one of many that came my mother’s way because she was the youngest of five children in a Polish immigrant family and it was the Great Depression . She did things like walk the railroad tracks with her Polish father, my “Jaju,” looking for “coke” – bits of scrap coal that had fallen along the railroad tracks – to take home for their little black stove my grandfather had set up in the corner of their big kitchen in the Lafayette Street tenement. To heat the cold water flat up in winter.  Ma and Jaju would wander the Worcester fields, too, picking wild blueberries and mushrooms to take home to my Polish granny, Bapy. Bapy would  cook them in soups or breads. She was a great cook, made egg noodles, stuffed cabbage – everything they ate at dinner from scratch. She kept (illegally) rabbits in a hutch on the back porch for stew. Jaju slaughtered them for Bapy and occassionally made Ma a lucky rabbit’s foot key chain from the scraps. Ma said the rabbit stew was delicious and, even though not all mushrooms were safe to eat, Jaju was an expert mushroom picker, and knew the safe ones.

Like I said, Ma’s big brother Walter played baseball and was on a team in high school. They didn’t have baseball teams for girls. I know Ma would have joined one if they had them, especially if they were St. Mary’s school- or church-affiliated. She was tiny and skinny but always active, a great walker, walked all over Green Island – up Millbury Steet to buy sausage at Biehler Brother Polish Market – or up Richland Street to help the nuns with decorating their classrooms at St. Mary’s School. Ma whistled when she walked – so much so that Jaju nicknamed his skinny legged, whistling daughter “scrovonik” – Polish for Little Sparrow. St. Mary’s school cum church was Ma’s, all Woo Polish folks’, cultural and educational nexus. A bridge to  America, a new country, a place mysterious and grand and scary.

Baseball was another bridge to America! For Ma and Walter and so many kids of Italian, Irish, Lithuanian, Greek, Portuguese and Polish immigrants of the first half of the twentieth century. They found their parents flaying about – out of their deeply religious countries of origin and thrown into the great wide open moneyland that was America. They would do better than Ma and Papa. They would be fluent in English. They would be rich. They would live in houses, not tenements.  They would go to baseball games and the movies. They would play ball!!!

When Ma died, her little red baseball book became mine. It is sweet looking and fine to the touch, but I like my baseball book best of all because it’s a window on America that is no more: an America that encouraged – practically forced – first generation kids and their immigrant parents to get with the American program! Become a part of the best country on the planet. No one called it “assimilation” back then or felt sorry for or psychoanalyzed anybody who was struggling to get with the American program.  Our great land was serious and striving, even though it was brutally racist and loved its booze, vaudeville stars and strippers… For every illegal dog fight in Green Island there was a little paper American flag taped on a tenement wall. Right next to the picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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Rose’s Bapy’s Sacred Heart of Jesus picture hung on her kitchen wall in her Green Island tenement for decades. Now it hangs in Rose’s bedroom.

Patriotism is the subtext of Ma’s/my little red baseball book!

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This late morning, as I turn its pages, I connect with the “late” America: one that paid lip service to equal opportunity for all but was dead serious about work ethic. Believed in dreams, infinite possibilities, the act of self-creation ane recreation. Embracing intellect, too – even if you were just a kid from Green Island you could be smart! In so many paragraphs the book is telling kids: The KEY TO SUCCESS IN AMERICA IS THE SAME AS IN BASEBALL – dream, work like crazy for your dream, and if you can’t realize your dream and you’ve had to settle for another position on the American team, that is great too! You’re playing the American game with gusto! Fonseca (or most likely his ghostwriter!) says this straight up in his introduction. He writes: “Pitching without a doubt is baseball’s citadel. … More often than not, however, he [the wannabe star pitcher] will find his forte is elsewhere.”

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No matter your position, in America, you can still shine! It’s the effort that counts!

I love this caption, printed under the photo, you see below:

“Run out every batted ball.”

“Never assume you are out till umpire rules.”

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Be tenacious, kiddos!

And our American love of science, math, Hard Facts, is on display, in several diagrams like this one:

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Very “Technical” – just like the book’s cover says! There is a science to great baseball!

Very American!

Even the President of the United States plays ball!! Fonseca tells his young readers that none other than our PRESIDENT throws the first ball of the first game of the baseball season! Every year! Right onto the diamond!

An American tradition!

In the book there is a photo of FDR throwing the first ball …

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The kids probably didn’t know President Roosevelt’s polio-ravaged body would never allow him to “play ball.” He couldn’t even stand up! “Standing” for the photo – to throw that baseball was a herculean effort on FDR’s part. It was in fact an optical illusion that the wheel-chair-bound Roosevelt and his team worked hard to create: Before the baseball game, a big ramp was built so that the President’s car could be driven up it. Then hidden behind a ton of bunting and banners the president’s team propped him up, held him tight while he gripped a railing or his son’s arm with one hand and threw the baseball with the other. Sonetimes FDR just sat in his car and pitched – the roaring crowd didn’t know the difference. Sometimes the President’s car was driven on the field and he watched the game from the sidelines. No one knew the difference!

None of this is mentioned in Fonseca’s little red book. After all, FDR embodied everything that Fonseca preached in his little red book!: high spiritedness, optimism, intelligence, competitiveness, most important, control. Without control, Fonseca tells his young readers, your pitching is no where. Without self-control, you can never be a great pitcher! FDR was a great pitcher for America! He was the Babe Ruth of presidents!

Flash forward to today.

President Donald Trump TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL. absolutely undisciplined. Today. Trump would probably make fun of FDR and his physical handicap – just like he did that New YorkTimes reporter.

Or the many other folks on the campaign trail (U.S. Senator John McCain. A Gold Star mother). The way Trump still treats his fellow Americans is appalling! Most recently, NFL players (he called kneeling NFL football players “sons of bitches”) and the folks of Puerto Rico (he intimated they were lazy and a drain on the mainland).

Now Las Vegas. A mass murderer with a ton of money but no soul. A big empty hole inside he filled with evil. What were Paddock’s motives, America wants to know?

What are Trump’s motives?

How is Trump making America great again???

My mom, like every kid in America, went to the movies religiosly. There was an A picture screened, preceded by the B, preceded by cartoons and shorts like this: 

Baseball was Ma’s fave sport! She must have loved this video when it came up on the big movie screen!! There were two or three movie houses in Green Island. They gave away dishes, so people would keep coming back. To make an entire table setting! American generosity and salesmanship!

Aa little kid, Ma listened to ALL the games on the big family radio in their “front room,” talked baseball with her big brother whom she watched play rough and ready pick up baseball games in the Green Island “big yard” – the sand lot down the street. Ma even grabbed her #2 pencil and, because she was a good artist, drew big sketches of her fave baseball players mid-swing or mid-catch. The hard, stitched balls only her mind’s eye could see…sailing through time and space … sateliltes of love. She gave her sketches to her teachers, the nuns at St. Mary’s school on Richland Street (still standing and operating!). They gave her little prizes for her skills: penny prayer cards (pretty picture in front, prayer in Polish on back), or little plastic statues of the Blessed Mother or Saint Joseph. 

Paddock worshipped winning money – an unhappy addict. A brutal killer who didn’t see, like I did on YouTube news, that pretty girl with long hair in short denim jeans and sexy cowgirl boot go down mid run to safety. She was hit with a bullet in her middle but like a young beautiful deer in shock got up and holding her stomach, ran, kept running. In shock. Would this lithe beauty die???

Trump never mentioned her or the others who were in the madman’s shooting gallery. Gun control? Not a peep from Trump on universal background checks, something most Americans want.

Trump is a demagogue, a slick, creepy divider of Americans, not a healer like FDR or Obama…

… but a killer, like Paddock. A killer of America, Ma, the immigrant’s dreams, science, good sportmanship, baseball’s highest ideals …

Donald Trump, our murderer in chief.

Taking a knee …

By Rosalie Tirella

When NFL players began “taking the knee” during the National Anthem before their football games – broadcast on TV and sundry media before millions of folks – to protest police killings of unarmed Black men – What gets me, said a pal, is when they just keep pumping bullets into the guy! – I immediately thought of my late Mom. …

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photos: R.T.

Unlike her sports-oblivious (yawn) daughter, my pretty little Ma was a lifelong, rabid classic New England sports fan: the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics – she adored them all. In her “golden years,” she watched all the games on TV, her teams’ schedules (home and away) printed on the back of little Dunkin Donut wallet cards, parked right next to her rosary on her TV table.

Ma was obsessed with her sports teams! She prayed for them! She cheered them on, as she watched their games on her old Zenith, hollering in her teeny studio apartment in the seniors housing complex: GO!!!!! GO!!! And she would shout YESS!! in delight when her boys hit that ball over the Green Monster or made that Hail Mary Pass. She’d walk right up to her TV set, in one of her flower-covered Building 19 dusters I had bought for her, whistling her approval and  “blessing” herself in thanks to God – making the sign of the cross, just like she did in church or when, in my childhood, in our kitchen, kneeling on one of our old ugly green wooden kitchen chairs – the ones that gave me “slivers” –  before her big Infant of Prague statue in its big glass case (now in my kitchen!) …

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… In thanks. To honor God for that home run or that amazing Tom Brady! Acknowledging God for the wind that caught that ball just right and set it sailing into the sun or the magical swivel of a sinewy or chunky! hitter’s hips.

Sometimes, when visiting Ma mid-game!, I’d see many of the Black football and baseball players, blessing themselves, too, just like Ma. Or even kneeling. Right after they did something grand on the field. Thanking God for their little miracle, just like Ma had thanked Him! Feeling the same happy feelings as Ma had felt! So  grateful – and humble. For the smooth glove or solid trusty bat God had given them or maybe just the day itself: warm, crisp, cool, sunny or drizzling… Nature was God, too.

Tiny old Ma, old school religious to her core (but cool and liberal like Jesus would be today) and the big mountain players were simpatico. She’d say to me, smiling: See, my Rosalie?! See him bless himself! If the hit or touch down won the game, Ma would walk up to her TV set in her big white walking shoes that all the old people wear and kiss her index and middle fingers and touch the player on the TV screen and make a blessing over him and then walk back to her easy chair.

Voodoo. Momma love!!

Lots of the NFL players came/come from backgrounds similar to Ma’s: Poor,  up against it all, strong church backgrounds, resilient church lady mothers or grandmas raising/teaching them, single parent homes, a belief in a real, human-like God who sits with the angels on puffy cumulous clouds in a real Heaven dispensing his favors, rewarding those who acknowledge His omnipotence: people like Ma and  the Black football players.

So when the NFL players took the knee during the National Anthem, I knew Ma would understand – and approve. Maybe even going up to her TV and taking the knee with them. The guys were not committing blasphemy, hating America, as stupid demagogue Donald Trump bellowed before a WHITE ALABAMA crowd, during a campaign rally where he threw good men, Ma, prayer, grace and America under the bus.  For votes. Nope, the NFL players were honoring God, their country and asking America and God, in the best way they knew how: WHY?????????

Jesus blues lady!

By Rosalie Tirella

There is so much music to revel in … the music of life!

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CDs for sale at Rose’s friends’ shop … pics: Rose T.

And I’m a real revelator! I try to listen to EVERYTHING:

For me, the blues is my late mom … her pain, her music, so deep, dark, God-focused and yet transcendent – BEAUTIFUL, like my mother’s deep brown eyes!

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Rose’s mom – a Worcester teen at a Worcester County lake…

Being my mother’s daughter, being in her life as a little girl and teenager, was like singing the blues with her every day:

Watching Ma walk to work at the dry cleaners (we never owned a car), her back slightly hunched from the years of toil…her back growing more bowed through the years…

… Ma trudging, almost marching!, home at end of her 11-hour day at the dry cleaners.

Home in Green Island, home from work. Ma has three little girls to feed, to help with their homework, to put to bed…her husband, my father, Daddy, with the pretty hazel eyes, red hair dolled up in a pompador, looking handsome, looking at Ma’s small hunched shoulders and shouting: “Hey, fuck nut! Hey, donkey!”

But Ma always looked so cute!! What was Daddy thinking? And she was so smart and had such pride in herself and her children.

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Rose’s mother, at her sister’s house

… I see my mother walking to work, carrying in one hand the cheap pocketbook that she bought for herself at White’s Five and Ten on Millbury Street. In her other hand: her lunch in a brown paper bag, which always contains one sandwich, one piece of fruit and her Thermos (also purchased at White’s) filled with Maxwell House coffee, a little milk and sugar – the meal that would carry her through her work day.

Back home, on Lafayette Street, more name calling courtesy of our Daddy and a quick hard loud slap to the face for Ma. Daddy, of course, jealous of some imaginary lover/interloper. As a little girl, I watched Ma force herself not to cry as my father’s hand left her soft, rounded cheek.

But there was Salvation! ALWAYS SALVATION! Plus: Comfort, love and peace… Every day, every hour. On Sundays especially!

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One of Rose’s mother’s prayer cards.

… Every day of Ma’s life – up until the last few months when her Alzheimers got worse – and then she HELD her little yellowed dog-eared penny prayer cards and prayer books tight in her hands – Ma prayed. Big time. To a Big God. Who kicked ass and took names. The Old Testament Yahweh.

Yay!!

My mother’s God could take on my asshole father, rough and tough Green Island, a minimum wage paycheck, physical exhaustion. No sweat! He was older than the stars!

Throughout the day, no matter where Ma was – she was checking in with God – praying to him in whispers, chanting to him, sometimes singing to him in her not so pretty voice (though she was a tremendous whistler). Sometimes she would make a loose fist with her right hand and repeatedly, gently, strike her heart, her breasts, with it. While praying. Lost in time. Very dramatic to a little kid like me!

With God on her side, of course Ma and her three little girls and old Polish Mama, Bapy, would endure!

In the a.m., before breakfast, Ma would pray. Before eating one slice of toast. Before waking us kids up for school. Before anything. … It is 5:30 in the morning, and I am in bed but peaking out from under the covers to watch my mother start her day. Our day. She is kneeling on one of the rickety wooden kitchen chairs at our old green kitchen table. In the brightening kitchen she is whispering to God – not reading from a prayer book – but talking straight from the heart. Her arms are raised, her head lowered. She is serious but looks calm. I find the sight of my mother praying comforting. I smell the morning coffee percolating. Mmmm!

It is time to leave our third-floor tenement for school and work. The letters K M and B? – in honor of the 3 kings who visited the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem – are written in chalk above our apartment’s front and back doors. The Christmas story is retold to us every day as we start our day, head out into the world. I watch Ma make a little cross on her forehead with the back of her thumb as we leave the tenement.

After school, when my two kid sisters and I drop into the dry cleaners where Ma works to say hi to Ma we may see her off to the side, sitting on her metal chair, her eye glasses sliding down her nose as she prays, reading from one of her prayer cards. This takes only a few minutes, but the act connects her to God. A shot in the arm for Ma. A shot of love.

At home, after supper, before we go to bed, we may say the rosary together, with Ma leading the prayers. Just one section – not the whole rosary, thank goodness! Just one Our Father, followed by 10 Hail Mary’s and One Glory Be. I’m into it because I am praying with my new white rosary I just got for First Holy Communion at Saint Mary’s. Plus the nuns gave us girls a cool white taper candle and a pretty white pocketbook with a pink little rose embossed on the flap. I got all the goodies just for going to CCD class at St. Mary’s! Definitely one of the few perks of trudging to catechism class every Monday at 5 p.m.

Then it’s time to fall asleep! I am in my bedroom, under the covers. If Daddy is with us – he sometimes goes MIA for months – I hear Ma and Daddy talking, sometimes laughing, in Ma’s bedroom. Then there’s a lot of groaning and moaning, and Ma’s bed springs are squeaking like mad, which keeps me up. But it all stops soon enough and the flat goes quiet.

Soon old Bapy, wracked with her arthritis which wrecks her sleep, will be up making noise in the kitchen. Going to fetch a little piece of golden cake to feed to my hamster Joy, also nocturnal, and up and running on her little squeaky hamster wheel. I have told Bapy: NO, BAPY! DON’T FEED JOY CAKE! SHE GETS SPECIAL FOOD – HARTZ HAMSTER FOOD! Bapy is super stubborn and doesn’t listen to me and keeps feeding my hamster cake. Joy is obese for a hamster – even with all her running on her hamster wheel! Ma tells me not to worry: Bapy lived on a farm in Poland before she came to America and took care of chickens, dogs, cats, even a horse on her farm. And she raised her kid brother and sisters when she was 12 because her mother died, and her step-mother wanted no part of the brood. Bapy knew how to love things.

Joy did live a long life, for a hamster – almost four years. And she always stood on her tiny pink feet at the front of her little cage when the dumpling shaped Bapy leaned over it and called to her, cooing ever so gently. Joy was just waitin’ for that cake!!

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Bapy, 18, on her wedding day.

Saturday wrap-up: Why not take a September stroll through Webster Square’s Unique Finds Antiques and Vintage gift shop …

… and find those autumnal goodies for your autumnal abode? The store is located at 1329 Main St., Worcester. On the corner of Main and Henshaw streets.

Hours: Mon – Sat, 2 – 8 p.m.

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Back at her shack…Rose got these cute planters in the FREE section of Unique Finds:

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Ron and Sue gave Rose this boombox so she could play her cassettes! Her boombox’s cassette player is busted! Thank you, my friends!

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Rose, today, in her shack…she will be playing this spare beauty…

*******

Or: Go out and enjoy your neighborhood, like this dad and his little girl!

Yesterday!

Green Island!

The toughest urban-scape, the prettiest pink bike helmet!

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The poorest people, the best memories!

The bleakest intersection …

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… the most adept riding!

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Past the junked cars, sloping three decker porches, cracked pavement, dirty clotheslines, high fences topped with barbed wire.

Under the ugly bridge to …

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… dead factory world.

No matter!

Memories are made here, too!

THEY COUNT!

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Make your childhood memories, lil’ girl!! Ride through the weeds and the poverty. Wearing your pink bike helmet!

Your father loves you so! I can see that from my car window, on my way home to my nearby apartment: You wear the helmet, daddy doesn’t. You ride in the inside, daddy on the outside, with traffic. He is smiling – broadly – having fun! So proud of you!

Little city angel riding your bike so fast with daddy! With such confidence! The way city kids do!

Home soon…to supper? Snacks?… In the late fall and winter the kitchen windows fog up with all the frying and boiling… That’s the way it was in our Lafayette Street tenement when I was a little kid. I’d ride my little bike with its rusty handle bars through the streets of Green Island. I named my bike “Rusty”!

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You are so strong, little girl in the pink bike helmet, pedaling past the big trucks! You have no idea how resilient you are – and will be!

pics+text: Rosalie Tirella