Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

Green Island 🏀Hoop Dreamin’ … Chef Joey recipe! … + more!❤


By Chef Joey

ICT_Yum Yums-edited
Joey is returning home tomorrow!

Ever want to make a pasta topping that doesn’t have tomatoes in it? Well, there are other options!


This quickie is simple. You need to take about four or five carrots, peel them and run them through your food processor or grate on a box grater …


Like a regular sauce, you add onion and some garlic to a sauce pan and sauté them down …

Add the carrots and a little water …


… and simmer with a cover. When the carrots are soft, add chickpeas or navy beans or any other kind of beans you like:


If you like, add a little salt and pepper. Voila! You have a great light summer sauce!

Instead of carrots, you can use zucchini …


… – or both! To really dress it up, just before you serve, add a handful of fresh, chopped basil. Enjoy!❤




By Rosalie Tirella

I can’t wait for all this pandemic stuff to end … eventually … so the brandy new Crompton Park basketball courts can open up to Green Island kids and the city’s Crompton Park Summer Basketball League can start up again! …

🏀🏀pics: R.T.

The City of Worcester did a GREAT job: new courts, new hoops, new bleachers, benches, landscaping … outside: new sidewalks, trees …



The Endicott/Harding streets entrance to Crompton Park, left. Trees are being planted …❤

❤When we were kids growing up in Green Island, my younger sister Rita LOVED PLAYING HOOP! But the Crompton Park basketball courts – and league – were the boys’ business and young men’s, and the guys who hung out at Ben’s Cafe or the PNI on Lafayette Street – many tough, buzz-drunk and knife-carrying. I remember walking by the Crompton Park basketball court with Rita on the Endicott Street side. I was oblivious to the men, boys, sweaty, grunty pick up games, but Rita kept looking wistfully at the guys dribbling that b-ball and doing those fancy lay-up shots – which my kid sister could also execute, perfectly, with her own signature flourishes! – and taking those “free throws” from the court’s faded white lines – which my kid sister could also easily execute.

But the times were different back then. My sister and I knew that she was out of the games because she was a girl, a skinny girl, a quiet girl. Still, she found ways, as all athletic girls in the ‘hood found ways to celebrate their God-given talents. Rita was young and gifted: she found all the places in the city a girl, in the mid-1970s, could play hoop, could be brutally athletic, could run unabashedly, like a boy, and leap and yell and not care how she looked or sounded to the world. Not lady-like. But beautiful in her own beauty! … So Rita played hoop in my Uncle Mark’s driveway with our boy cousins. Uncle Mark had tarred the parking lot, nailed up a brand new basketball hoop with backboard above his garage door. Every holiday, many summer, spring and fall days Uncle Mark would leave his cozy Burncoat ranch and drive to our Lafayette Street three decker, and honk his car horn right under our tenement and Ma and us kids would run down the stairs, scramble into his big gold Elektra and drive off … so we could all hang out in his and his wife’s, our Aunt Mary’s, big back yard and have a hamburger and hotdog cook out, courtesy of Aunt Mary. Ma would sit at their big picnic table and chat with Aunt Mary as she made the feast. I would be on a blanket with my cousin Mary playing Barbies – my cousin had Barbie, Stacy, Skipper, Ken and three Barbie wardrobe cases filled with Barbie clothes and shoes. … Rita would play basketball with our two boy cousins. Both jocky. Whomp. Whomp. Whomp went the real, regulation sized basketball against the backboard. Whoah!! yelled my cousins and sister as their basketball game heated up. My Uncle Mark was an elementary school principal but had loved and played football in college and almost went pro at college graduation. But his life changed when he met and fell in love with my aunt, married her, had three kids with her, began teaching history, bought a teeny house in Burncoat and reveled in the Eisenhower American GI Dream. Uncle Mark loved to see ALL kids playing sports and running under hoops and nets. He always took the older balls from his school and gave them to us kids: scuffed up basketballs; pink, slightly deflated dodge balls; hard regulation sized brown footballs that could smash a window; and less than pristine (beige) volley balls … My sister coveted them all. Uncle Mark gave us our share … I see: Ma grabbing a football from Uncle Mark and smiling her pretty smile…I see het carrying it up our old stairs to our third floor apartment … where Rita slept with her fave Uncle Mark hand-me-down basketball!

Rita’s other second homes: the St. Mary’s high school gym with new basketball court and rows of polished wooden bleachers and shiny red and white painted line floor … and the Winthrop House Girls Club on Providence Street. Our Vernon Hill Girls Club had a big, beat-up basketball court that doubled as a roller-skating rink for us girls …free roller skates for us to use, a free p a system where we could play donated ROLLING STONE albums … Rita played hoop there or often roller skated along the perimeter to I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION.

I read my old TIGER BEAT or played Jacks with my cousin, Mary, Uncle Mark’s daughter, in the gym, off to the side, swaying to the Stones. I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE ROLLING STONES MUSIC then, in the corner, outside the painted foul lines, of the Girls Club basketball court, playing Jacks with my cousin.

Anywhere there was rope netting strung through a metal hoop there was my kid sister! Rita loved to run on the St. Mary’s basketball court, the Lamartine Street School cement schoolyard, Uncle Mark’s little driveway … loved to run. Period. She’d hang out at the Lamartine school yard and play Dodge ball or even soccer, not as popular back then, with our downstairs neighbor boys. Sometimes the boys would come up to our flat, to our screen door and rap on it loudly and ask Ma: CAN RITA COME OUT AND PLAY BASEBALL?

It was in the sandlot next door – with a gifted kid named RICH GEDMAN leading the show! Rich lived down the street from us and had his own hardscrabble childhood to overcome. The future Red Sox catcher was a good, quiet kid who could swing that bat and hit that ball over the roof of Val’s building a half block away!! My sister would run wicked fast after that home run! Rich liked Rita. He, like all the boys, never had much use for me – never asked Ma for me to come down and play baseball or softball. Sometimes whiffle ball, if they were desperate and needed a warm body on their team. I was the useless book worm. Rita could hit, field, throw, even pitch. I watched outside our third floor window sometimes but went back to my crafts or my writing.

Rita never walked anywhere in our ol’ Green Island. She ran to Whites, to Oscars, to Messiers Diner, to Petes Dairy Bar on Millbury Street. I always ran after her, struggled to keep up with my jock sister, my knee socks falling down around my ankles. Wait for me, Rita! I’d yell. She had so little body fat. I was mostly body fat.

Our mother, seeing all the uncorked Rita energy EVERY DAY in our house, in our dirt backyard, on the sandlot next door pushed Rita to try out for the St. Mary’s Girls JV and Varsity Basketball Teams. Junior and Senior High Teams. Rita did – and made the teams. She got: a cool red uniform, b-ball practices in the school gym, demanding coaches, home and away b-ball games – and her #1 rabid fan: Ma.

Our single, working-poor, over-worked mother would walk to the St. Marys gym on Richland Street after working all day as a counter girl at the Millbury Street dry cleaners to watch Rita play her home games. …

Still standing: Oscar’s, the dry cleaners where Ma worked.

… or to get a ride with another parent to an away game. Sometimes I would join my mother, but I wasn’t into sports. I got bored during the games, only tagged along because I had a crush on Rita’s teammate and friend’s big brother John. He often went to the games to watch his kid sister play b ball. I went to gawk at him: his tallness, his pretty eyes, his artistic/drawing abilities … his beautiful, thick wavy blond hair that brushed the tops of his shoulders.

But Ma was really engaged! She watched the score board with hawk eyes. Got up and cheered and cheered! After a 10 hour day at the dry cleaners! After her paltry snack and brown bag lunch at work … I can still see her: dumpling shaped, with slightly hunched shoulders from all that labor … getting up, standing on her bleacher seat!! TO CHEER AND SCREAM if Rita intercepted the other team’s pass and got the basketball and was now dribbling the basket ball up the court, going for that lay up. To score those precious two points to help WIN the game!!!

GO! GO! GO, Rita!! our little hunch- backed mother would scream. GO!!! Rita dribbled that b-ball like mad, in her own zone, hearing Ma just along the edges, I am sure. I see my gangly kid sister, knobby-kneed, running and bobbing and weaving in and out of enemy territory TO SCORE! I see Ma in her plum, beige or maroon polyester pants and long matching vests in the same drab colors, the ones that covered her middle-aged-lady tummy, the vests she bought at White’s – with their two big side pockets that held her work pens, scratch pad, receipt pad … and rosary.

I was a little embarrassed. My little mother, an inch over 5 feet tall, flecks of grey hair at the temples, was going bananas! In the bleachers! With the other kids! Ma’s arthritic, knotty knuckles raised in fists with the kids … pumping up and down in the humid, sweat-smelly gym. GO, RITA! GO, RITA!!! Ma screamed.🏀🏀🏀🏀 Our unforgettable mother, Cecelia, with her great, unbreakable heart CHEERING HER SCRAWNY JOCK DAUGHTER TO THE HEAVENS! Hoop lady. Prayer lady! I am next to her now, turn to see Ma whispering a Hail Mary for Rita and making a cross with her crooked right thumb on her thin lips. Hoop prayers. Hoop dreams for her beloved daughter … Ma …

Still standing but soon to be gentrified: Lafayette Street where Rose and her two kid sisters grew up.

Ma and toddler Rose, at Crompton Park: on the knoll, now gone, a ways from the b-ball court.







Reposting one of my faves!: FOURTH OF JULY, GREEN ISLAND STYLE!

You all know this one!!:

By Rosalie Tirella

Pic of Rose when Green Island celebrated July 4th with BONFIRES!

I’ve celebrated the Fourth on a blanket in Boston listening to the Boston Pops and guest vocalist Johnny Cash. I’ve celebrated the Fourth at East Park here in Worcester. Always a lovely time.

Last night I was thinking about my Green Island Fourth of July’s – the years when I was a kid and lived with my mother, father, sisters and grandmother in “the Island”:

I am a little kid – about 9 – and I am standing on our three decker’s back porch. Third floor. It is the afternoon and the sun is shining sweetly. I am looking at “Val,” the buxom middle-aged lady who lives across the way from our rickety three decker in her rickety six-unit building, on her third-floor porch. A big, weed-choked, empty lot lies between our buildings but that is all. The vegetation hasn’t kept Val from inserting herself into ours – everyone’s – lives.

She is wearing a negligee today – for the Fourth of July. I can see it from my back porch. She is on her back porch talking loudly. I swear I can see her bright red lips from my third floor porch! In 10 years I will have learned the word “slatternly,” and it will remind me of Val … but today I am a little kid so Val is just … Val.


Val is very drunk on this special national holiday – in a very happy, friendly way. She is talking with anyone who passes by her building, her ta ta’s damn near falling out of her negligee as she leans over her porch railing to chat up passersby who always chat back. I am standing on my porch, quiet as a mouse, not even smiling because I know Val can be scary sometimes. On a few occasions she has battled with my granny, called my granny, also feisty, a DP – Dumb Polack – during one of their shouting matches held across their back porches. DP, my mom tells me, really stands for Displaced Persons, what they sometimes called immigrants. Val is being mean when she yells DP at my granny, who doesn’t miss a beat and yells back: KISS MY ASSY! and turns her plump little dumpling shaped butt to Val – while standing on our back porch – and tap, taps her butt which is covered in those sweet all flannel nighties with little pink rose buds on them. Bapy – Polish for Granny – wore those flannel nighties year ’round – even in the summer.

Granny is not battling Val today. Granny is inside, sitting in her easy chair we have set up for her in the kitchen, at the head of the kitchen table, a place from which she candrink her cup of coffee, eat her egg sandwich and see and comment on all the household happenings. She has been sitting there my whole life! I love her with all my heart!

But I digress. Val is out on her porch today in her negligee because it is the Fourth of July, a special day – for her and America. Val has turned and gone inside her apartment, a flat that is also home to her wimpy boyfriend, gorgeous blond 18 year old daughter from another guy, and two huge attack dogs: a German Shepherd and Doberman. Both fierce. Both having chased me up a fence more than a few times. Val doesn’t believe in walking her dogs to do poop. She just lets them out, they rush down the three flights of stairs like noisy moose and shit and pee in the little front yard and rush back upstairs. Val has them trained to a tee.

This ol’ Kodak Instamatic photo, taken by Rose when she was a kid, depicts her Green Island view from her third floor back porch. “Val”‘s building is on the right.

Val has come out of her flat – this time she is carrying her portable record player. I am watching all this from my back porch – not saying a word, not even smiling. Just waiting … . Val puts her record player down, hooks it up to a bunch of extension cords and I see her going back in, cord in hand. Then she comes out with a record album – a big one. I am guessing it is the same one she played last year, has the songs which we – the entire Bigelow Street neighborhood – heard last Fourth of July: patriotic tunes. The kind you can – like Val – march around on your Green Island porch to. Later I would learn these songs were written by John Philip Sousa.

Val puts on her lp. Cranks it up! Da da da da da da de da da! La da da da de da da! Boy, this music is good! Very up beat! I am tapping my feet! I look across the way and see Val crack open another beer and take a sloppy swig and lie on her reclining beach chair on her porch. I can see her relaxing through the slats on her porch through the slats on my porch!

The music is great! Val is getting drunker. …

It is a few hours later and Val is singing – to the entire neighborhood! The folks in our hood are getting ramped up! People are coming out and throwing chairs and sofas and old tires into a big pile in the empty lot a few lots down from Val’s place, diagonally across the way from our three decker flat. I go in doors and crow to my mom: THEY ARE GETTING READY FOR THE BIG BONFIRE, MA! To myself: HOORAY!

My mom, careworn, grimaces. She doesn’t say a word, never voices her disapproval of Val. But I know she is not thrilled with the situation. Sometimes she is the one who will call the Worcester Fire department when the flames of the big bonfire grow too huge and lap up the July night air and orange sparks fill our Green Island night. The fire has never spread cuz the neighborhood kids and adults have kept it in check with big poles that they use to poke at it. But the flames still worried my mom …

But the eve has just begun! I so want to be a part of the celebration and throw some of Bapy’s rags onto the bonfire! She has so many that she wraps her arms in for her arthritis. Old country ways/cures die hard in Green Island. … Bapy never really changes her clothes. Just gives herself sporadic sponge baths and peels off old rags and puts on new ones. She always smells fecund. I love her odor! I still miss her Bapy smell!! If only we could re-smell all the people we have loved through the years. The men I have been with, my late mom who held me to her heavy Heaven Scented perfumed breasts as a child and a teen, my Bapy’s immigrant odor, my long-gone dog Bailey’s gamey scent … .

Anyways, the bonfire was being readied for the big night, but my mom would never let me join in the mayhem. It was all a little too wild for us. We were the good kids. My mom the perfect mom who worked so hard at the dry cleaners and went to church with her three girls every Sunday. My mom knew everyone in the hood and was always polite and talked with folks, etc – she was not a snob. But, she liked to tell her girls, she would never sit and have a cigarette with the ladies, like half the women in our hood did – visiting each other in each other’s tenements, gossiping about folks, bitching about cheating husbands and boyfriends. My mother was busy raising her girls as perfectly as she could, making sure they went to school every day and did all their homework and got all As and went to bed early and ate well. She had no time to wallow in her poverty – or her husband’s wild ways. She – we – transcended the shit.

So, there I was, stuck on our third-floor porch. An observer. My sisters would be home from Crompton Park soon. They would love this spectacle, too! Not as much as I did. But they would hang out on the porch, eating Freeze Pops, their lips ice blue from the sugared ice treat – and watch.

My father would disappear for the day. Celebrate in his own fashion, I guess. He was as crooked as some of the guys in the hood, but he played out his crookedness in other parts of Worcester. I suspect the East Side of town. What my mom and us kids didn’t know wouldn’t hurt us.

… It was dark out now and Val was singing up a storm and marching around her porch. La di da di da!!! Bang bang! Someone had lit the bonfire and everyone was gathered around it! Except for me and my kid sisters. We were on our back porch eating Freeze Pops, mesmerized by the flames – they must have been two stories high! The folks in the hood out did themselves this year! It was like something you would see in an old Western movie – the Indians roasting an elk on a spit they had set up over the flames. People’s faces orange from the glow of the flames. Very primitive and real.
“Come out here, Ma!” I yelled to my mother. “Ya should see how big the bonfire is this year!!”

My mother was indoors getting our clothes ready for the Fourth of July cook out we would be having at our Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary’s the next day. They lived in a a cute pink ranch house in the Burncoat area – a nicer part of town. My mom liked this part of the Fourth best of all. A day off she could celebrate with her favorite sister in her sister’s big back yard, my Uncle Mark grilling hamburgers and hot dogs on the big three legged grill he had stoked with those black brickettes he always doused with lighter fluid. Yum, yum, yum ! We were all pre-vegetarian in those days – ate meat, Nissaan white rolls and buns, potato chips, soda, Cheez-Its … the typical American BBQ 1960s fare. Heaven!

Ma would have none of it. She was busy making sandwiches for the cook out at Uncle Mark’s. She wanted us in bed early for tomorrow. We kids would have none of it. The flames were roaring! So was Val! Some jerk threw too many old tires on the bon fire, so now the air smelled awful! It was thick with gray smoke. We kids started coughing. Ma came out and took a look. Her mouth fell open. She looked at her three silly girls and frowned. I knew … She was calling 911.

In a matter of minutes the Worcester Fire Department had come and the fireman were hosing down the bon fire with their big hoses. The flames were doused out! Smoke was everywhere.

BOO! BOO! BOO! shouted all the kids and adults at the firemen. You could hear their laughs, too.

“Boo, Boo! Boo!!!” my sisters and I yelled from our back porch, laughing. “BOO! BOO!”

It had been, as usual, a fab Fourth of July!


Chuck Berry. AN AMERICAN ICON. A FOUNDING FATHER OF ROCK N ROLL. … When I was in college, my boyfriend at UMass was a professional lighting technician for rock bands. All kinds of musical shows. Jazz and folk, too. He did lights for many a Chuck Berry show. He said: Chuck always worked alone. Not too friendly. Always brought his own gear. Tough to work with … A MUSICAL GENIUS.
… My guy LOVED DOING LIGHTS FOR BILLY JOEL AND BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. He said they treated their crew – everybody – with total respect and love.
– Rose

Father’s Day “Red Devil” Dog – and Surprise!!😨🎶

By Rosalie Tirella

The Red Devil is my father – handsome, passionate, hot-tempered and fair-skinned. Red haired as a youth. They called him Red when he was 12 and 13. 100% Italian but his roots were Northern Italy – they are fair-skinned up there. And his family owned land in Italia. Bragging Rights. The opposite of the modest, good, generous and gracious man my late uncle, “Mark,” was. Yeah, they called him Polack. Uncle Mark was thick-waisted, built like a Frigedair, but he was kind, stoic, the smart son of Polish immigrants. He went onto college – Fordam University – in the Bronx and became a school principal. You’ve read the columns about both men here but, as I grow older and the love of the superficial fades and becomes a yen for the gracious, generous and good, I think of Uncle Mark this Father’s Day. He was as close to a Dad as my two sisters and I ever knew. But today I am obsessed with my Italian father, too: the dross.

My sweet mom’s marriage to him was a disaster. …

Ma 💙

My mother married my father for lust. And because she was pregnant with me! Surprise!!!! I recently learned this from my usually tight-lipped auntie who, after I took a good look at my parents’ marriage certificate, counted nine months … and pressed her, “fessed up.”

The marriage certificate

That’s right. Ma had me – her enchanted one, her Beloved – out of wedlock. A sin back then. After doing it for weeks and weeks with with Daddy in the cab of his big red truck!! According to my aunt who spared me no details. Under the yellow Worcester moon, under the spell of my vain, goodlooking father. Just dating. Not even engaged!

What was my pretty mother thinking?

She wasn’t thinking at all! She was flush with orgasms … This must be love, she felt. Felt!

No wonder Bapy hated Daddy all those years. Bapy:
We kids (I am hugging her) with Bapy during a Lafayette Street birthday party!

No wonder Bapy was always enraged around Daddy in our Green Island flat – enraged at everybody, come to think of it. No wonder, out of the blue, Bapy would fling her hard-boiled-egg sandwich at my cocky father and start screaming in Polish: “DOGS BLOOD!! DOGS’ BLOOD!!” A terrible Polish curse usually reserved for the men. And it always sounded so menacing when Bapy spat it out! DOGS BLOOD! DOGS BLOOD.

I think it was menstrual blood …

It is all coming into focus.

Sort of.

What did Bapy and Jaju think of all this? Ma growing heavy with me, her belly starting to pop? Who took Ma to the Mart in Main South for maternity blouses and dresses? Did Bapy and Jaju think we were we all going to Hell for my mother’s Sin? Nakedness! Breasts!! Fornication!! For pleasure – not procreation!! Under God’s eyes!! – without coming to Him at the altar, asking to make sex holy … Ma virginal in a white wedding gown. … A glimmer of hope: I was not going to Hell. Babies, like me, if we died, we went straight to Limbo – not the beautiful Heaven but not the flaming Hell, either. As a kid I pictured Limbo as a kind of big white waiting room … boring … a no man’s land, but at least I would get to hang out with the other millions of dead babies – for eternity.

BAPY AND JAJU HAD TO DEAL WITH A PREGNANT UNMARRIED DAUGHTER. Ma. Their youngest. Their fave. The one they indulged. The one Jaju calked Little Sparrow because Ma, as a kid, loved to whistle tunes, was an excellent whistler. Bapy’s right hand. Ma, the perfect Catholic girl who once dreamed of being a nun, was a live in housekeeper – for A DECADE! – for the Bishop of Springfield, along with her two sisters. A good Catholic girl who attended St. Mary’s school by Kelley Square, prayed to the saints, God, Jesus, The Virgin Mary three or four times a day, reading her prayers to them from penny bookmarks and pamphlets you bought at O’Brien’s Religious Store in downtown Worcester. They were cheap, often photo copies, black and white, often adorned with a small picture of Jesus nailed to the cross and bleeding from his palms and feet – the places his tormentors drove the spikes thru. Under Roman law citizens were never crucified – just the slaves. The outsiders. They had no rights. Jesus the radical had no rights. Was Ma nailed to her own cross? Did she think she had rights? The right over her own body, the right to self-determination, the right to learning, a career … ? Of course not! Never mind that she STILL attended every Novena at our Lady of Czetchowa church near Kelley Square and prayed the rosary every night in bed. Big and round with Rosalie – named after Bapy, her beloved mother.

I was Ma’s beloved. Her gift to herself.

I try to picture Ma doing it in the cab of a truck with Daddy, panties off, skirt hiked up. She was small and lithe at the time, but still. And Red Devil Daddy knowing what he was doing all right, another notch on his steering wheel, covered in axle grease. Ma and the sterering wheel.

Me. The mistake. Pooh poohed by my dismissive father BUT ADORED BY MY MOTHER. The man who RUINED MY MOTHER’S LIFE pre-birth control, pre-abortion … Gave her 35 years working as a counter girl for minimum wage at the dry cleaners down the street. Poverty. Single, impoverished working mom.

But she was the gifted one! So she gifted me … Summers at the Worcester Girls Club … Music…reading…stories…dreams. I was the rickety little basket my mother put all her eggs in, the little girl she spent her hard earned money on to rent! the violin for, the one who took violin lessons at Lamartine Street School … the artiste. The dreamer of my mother’s dreams. All As in the WPS schools. Up until my senior year at Burncoat High – physics did me in. My mother took a nightmare and turned her into Rosalie, Her Beloved. Special art and science projects for her Rose at Lamartine Street School. I can still picture Ma proudly carrying my huge detergent flakes painted VOLCANO project on a gigantic slab of wood. Painted volcanoes and mountains! So heavy! Volcanoes molded by me – and Ma – on our big kitchen floor. Would I get an A for the project! Of course I would!… Join the Worcester Public Schools orchestra, Rosalie. Play your violin before hundreds! You can do it, my Rosalie! … I was shaking NO, Ma! I am only seven! … Ma’s brilliant mistake – the first in the family to go to college. And graduate cum laude! Later … a gal with her own community newspaper. Ma read every issue cover to cover – and would call me with her critiques! In the nursing home, at the end, she would wheel herself in her wheelchair to the nurses station and give the social worker a copy of InCity Times! See? she’d say, her hair matted and uncombed, See MY DAUGHTER’S NEWSPAPER? The social worker didn’t give a cr*p about my rag and snapped at Ma. I watched from behind my mother’s half closed door at the nursing home. Then I came out and said to the nurses at the nurses station: COMB MY MOTHER’S HAIR. SHE LOOKS DEMENTED. I NEVER WANT TO SEE HER LOOKING LIKE THIS WHEN I VISIT HER HERE.

So. I see. A lot now. This is why Daddy could never stay long in our old Green Island flat when I was a little girl, why he literally ran out the door. My father was never in love with my mother. She, my sisters and I – we were all a huge mistake. No love. He had a Rumanian sweetie in the next town. And she had a child by him – my half sister. Just found out. Jeez.

Daddy’s trapped persona is easier to understand now. His impatience at us and resentment of our poverty easier to grasp. Being dragged to City Hall by Ma, her parents, her big sisters and big brother – the justice of the peace did his duty. No priest at this wedding. Classic late 1950s/early 1960s saga. What a mess. The price paid by my mother and millions of naive Catholic girls who confused lust with love back then: physical, emotional abuse. The screams and recriminations. They were cheated on, too, and eventually – sooner rather than later – abandoned.

Daddy-o, with my two sisters on his lap. Bapy’s moniker for him: “Red Devil.”

So … Today I miss Ma all the more for learning her secret. She rose to the occasion. And more. … And I dismiss my peripatetic father – nothing but a sperm donor in work clothes. And I think of my Uncle Mark who did it all perfectly: Kept my Aunt Mary virginal, got down on his knees to propose marriage to her, built her a cute cape off Burncoat Street, supported her and three kids with a good job, family vacations … and day trips that we went along on:

Me and my older cousins at a religious shrine – Saint Anne’s? Saint Joseph’s?, I forget which one – in Leicester. Prayers followed by a cookout and games of Pickle at Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary’s!

Uncle Mark never hit or yelled at Aunt Mary – he never hurt anybody! He always hugged you and laughed and complimented you. He was even warm and nice to Daddy!!! He played touch football with his boys in their big backyard. He sent his daughter – he called Ann “my Polish Princess” – to Marion High School on the West Side and Anna Maria College in Paxton – all-girls (back then) Catholic schools where they studied hard, prayed to Jesus, went on dates with the WPI boys and, hopefully, stayed virgins until their wedding nights.

A whole other can of worms.


My mother loved this song – esp the Patti Page version.

For Father’s Day … you all know it … reposting …

On Seeing My Father

By Rosalie Tirella

Ever since my father died (about two months ago), I’ve been seeing him every where. When he was alive, he made about 1,000 entrances in my family’s life. Married with kids but not wanting to be married with kids, my father lived with my mother, two sisters and me some months and was Missing in Action (MIA) during others. He was as tentative as the junk yard dogs he loved so much (and owned).

Pieces of my father, photos of him all over the house

Some of his entrances were comical – like the time he waltzed into our Lafayette Street apartment with some Frank Sinatra LPs and sang “I Did it My Way” to me. My mother had sent him out for a loaf of bread!

But most of his entrances were cruel, small, mean. He made my sisters, my mother and me cry and succeeded at that so well that we eventually learned to … simply dismiss him — cut him out of our world the way you cut the bruise out of an apple. We went on with our lives, worked around our peripatetic “Daddy.” My mother held down a 60-hr-week job to pay the bills, we kids went to school, held after-school jobs, applied to colleges. My father popped in – for weeks or months.

Very confusing.

Then, after all these years, my father died in the nursing home two months ago. And Bingo! He’s now larger than life for me – omnipresent, so to speak.

As I drive around Worcester selling ads for my newspaper, InCity Times, with the radio blaring and paperwork to the side of me, I see him. I’m eight years old; my sisters are six. It’s Easter afternoon and my father strides into our Green Island flat, chomping on a big cigar. My mom has my two sisters and me sitting in our three little kiddie rocking chairs waiting for her to get dressed. We’re going to Easter Mass! We wear new pastel dresses with butterflies embroidered on them. My mother “set” our hair the night before, and now our straight brown hair bounces happily around our faces in “baloney curls.” In my father strides, enraged. We had not seen him for almost … forever. We did not know from which land he strode – not the sweet and holy world that my mother and grandmother had created in our apartment, a world filled with prayers to the saints, rosary beads, homework papers, rules and pet hamsters! Was my father going to hurt anybody this time, I asked myself?

No! He was going to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny! God love my wonderful, hopeful, dreamy mother, she had my father sit in the grownup rocking chair in the kitchen. She would put the big, vinyl Easter Bunny she had bought at the five and ten and blown up (to our merriment) near the rocking chair where he sat. Then she told us little kids to “sit on Daddy’s lap.” We would all say “cheese” on the count of three! It would be a great Easter picture!

Daddy and my two kid sisters, years ago.

I was only eight but thought my mother mad. No, I would not get on Daddy’s lap! No, I would not be in the Easter Bunny picture. My sisters – twins and safe in their look-a-likeness – happily clambered atop my father. Then my mother lifted her little Brownie camera, peered through the little viewer and said, “One two! Say Cheese!” and snapped the picture.

Today I look at the square little photo from the ’60s and see two little gangly girls in pretty dresses in baloney curls looking exactly alike and smiling widely. Each one straddles one of my father’s legs. The bottoms of their dresses fan out over my father’s lap. And there’s my 30-something father; he’s wearing a striped muscle shirt. His hands are on my sisters’ knobby knees and he stares into the camera, looking … trapped. His rugged handsomeness blows me away! When I was a little girl he seemed the ugliest person in the world!

When I’m on the road, I look out of my car window and think I catch my father’s eyes. But it’s just some old man.

“He’s dead!” I tell myself angrily and shake my head as if to shake out the images of him. Then four or so hours later I see my father walking down Shrewsbury Street (his favorite street) and I have to remind myself all over again.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he was not living with my mother and us. Mom had stopped giving him second and third chances a decade ago. My sisters and I had moved out of the apartment in pursuit of higher education/careers. So it was a shock to see him walking past the fish and chips joint on Grafton Street, red-faced, his nylon jacket unzipped, billowing out behind him. He wore no shirt that raw, autumn day and he looked dazed. Then there was his neck: as big as a basketball. The lymphoma had set in.

And yet my father went walking around Worcester – his hometown that he seldom traveled outside of –as if nothing unusual had happened. It was one of my aunt’s – his sister – who had found him in his mother’s old house, lying in the darkness, and said: “Bill, you’ve got to go the hospital.” And then he did – quietly and with some grace – because he knew he was dying.

Sometimes I look out my car window and see my father after the cancer ravaged him. I see a helpless old man – my father after the chemo-therapy, the radiation, the blood transfusions. The chemo treatment took all his curly thick hair away and left him with silver, wispy locks my aunt would cut in a bowl shape. Gone was all his wild, curly red hair that rode high above his already high forehead in some grand pompadour, the wild “do” that lead my feisty old Grandma (she was my mother’s mom and lived with us and loathed my father) to nickname him: “The Red Devil.”

Run, devil, run! There you are standing outside the Commerce Building on Main Street, waiting for the bus. There you are walking out of the Millbury Street fruit store, eating a juicy plum and throwing the pit into the gutter. There you are eating the same juicy plum over our Lafayette Street kitchen sink, my sweet mother looking absolutely smitten by you. You have no time for dishes, meals served on plates. Family sit-down meals are not part of your universe. “Gotta get outta here!” you used to say. “Here” being: our Green Island flat, poverty, a wife, three kids, responsibility.

You want to leave – I can tell. But I just can’t let you go, Daddy.


In honor of George Floyd, Worcester needs to more … + 🍪🎶!

By Rosalie Tirella

In honor of George Floyd, so much needs to be done to make Worcester a more equitable city. For Black, Hispanic people, all folks of color – AND Worcester’s poor, working poor:

☮️ Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus MUST APPOINT A Worcester Police Department Civilian/Public Review board NOW. He and other city officials have been giving lip service to creating such a board FOR YEARS!!

☮️For our Worcester Public Schools – all our schools – especially the all-white-teacher-Flagg Street School: HIRE MORE MINORITY TEACHERS!!!!

☮️Open and transparent City of Worcester hiring practices.

☮️New housing code rule for our city landlords – many absentee. The landlords MUST SUPPLY THEIR APTS WITH WORKING REFRIGERATORS. Not just stoves. The rule was changed years ago by the City. 1/4 of Worcester kids face hunger. Why not try to lessen the pain and. supply POOR RENTERS with refrigerators, so their produce, etc IS EDIBLE. For their kids. Refrigerator STAYS in apt, after renters leave – for the next renters.

☮️RENT CONTROL. Average crappy Worcester apt rent? $1,200-$1,400/ month!! This contributes to the pain, hunger, challenges of the people – thousands! – in our older neighborhoods.

☮️City Manager Ed Augustus MUST support$$ through HUD$ funds: the Green Island Neighborhood Center, South Worcester Neighborhood Center – and reboot THE QUINSIGAMOND VILLAGE NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER on Greenwood Street. We need a new site – and more than the Friendly House-run food pantry out of the church. Mostly white poor people live here in the neighborhood now, esp along the main roads.

Q Village!🌸🌸pic: R.T.

☮️Why not reopen a Quinsig Village Neighborhood Center and put in place: a social services advocate, an after-school program, a director on site – at least part-time – a neighborhood crime watch group, a college prep teacher/volunteer. THIS IS NOT THE NEIGHBORHOOD OF OUR PARENTS/GRANDPARENTS ANYMORE. It is a city neighborhood in need of SERVICES. 25 years ago – we had a great neighborhood center here, run by the late great Kathy Sullivan and, before that, the 85+years old, now-ailing Jane Petrella, a big education advocate for ALL CITY kids. Honor them, city officials! Reopen THE Q VILLAGE NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER I KNEW AND LOVED years ago!


Yummy, vegan choc chip cookies:



For Our Worcester High School Grads

By Rosalie Tirella

Last week I ate my lunch outside my ol’ alma mater – Burncoat Senior High♥️ (class of ’79♥️).
♥️ pics:R.T.

In the my school’s parking lot, facial mask down, cheese and tomato sandwich in … I felt safe, proud of my high school, and I felt the emptiness. … No classes, no arts, no sports … no final few fun high school days, no autographing of yearbooks, no graduation parties, no graduation. All those high school rituals that I shyly loved and lived as a 17 year old Green Islander – fun and kid-generated – serious and adult-run – gone. …

The kids have lost out. The kids have won. Yes, they may feel the lack of closure, the one door closing but one door opening feeling you get when your life changes in a HUGE way. For the grads: college, work, the military, Ameri-Corps … Sorta kinda not there. Not yet. … What to do, how to think about this nebulous state of being WHEN YOU ARE YOUNG AND FULL OF LIFE, LOVE, HOPE, ENERGY, CURIOSITY!!!

Rose’s BHS yearbook♥️

A photo from Rose’s Burncoat yearbook: Rose, left, and her great pal! Whom Rose never forgot!

Parents and grads: Create your own Gap Year. Like they do/have done for years in Europe! Grads, look at this next year as a year to explore: music, poetry, nature, classic novels …

☀️Get your parents to buy you a guitar or banjo – and start strumming away! See if you have talent …

☀️Listen to ALL THAT GREAT BABY BOOMER music that was created in the crucible of war, partisan divisiveness, political chaos, nature, death, life, AMERICAN CHAOS – sorta the way our country feels today.

☀️Become a long-distance runner. I began to run after I quit college for a year. Yeah, I was no Bill Rogers, but I felt healthier, more in touch with my neighborhood, outdoors …

☀️Read stuff your teachers and grownups aren’t pushing on you: goofy romance novels, comic books, magazines, GREAT CLASSICS that you didn’t quite read in 11th grade English class at Burncoat. Try short stories. Need ideas? Email me … and we will talk writers and writing!!

📚Go to an art shop or Target and buy poster paper, drawing pads, pastels, water colors … and start creating.

☀️Adopt or foster a dog or cat. Become best pals! (My late mom pictured here with her beloved, Doby, Bridgette♥️):

☀️These covid days melt into new covid days. Time is malleable…pliable…dreamy. Make your own dreamscape. Maybe these days are anathema to Chromebook-style assignments – or even checking in with teachers every day. Maybe this pandemic is this young generation’s polio pandemic or the days beneath the bombs and fighter planes of World War II: time for kids to be free, experience the scary/beautiful world – to find themselves.

“Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”

By Rosalie Tirella

“Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” This is the title of the beautiful Sandy Denny song, written by her when she was just a kid with Fairport Convention. In the 1970s, when I was around her age. Just a kid, too. I love everything about Denny’s record: the melody, Denny’s pretty but husky-around-the-edges voice. Her lyrics especially. Denny sings, begins her song with an image of her watching a flock of birds flying across the sky one autumn eve and asks of their migration to warmer climes: “How do they know when to leave?”

Your heart, if you’re an older person like me, and have lived through many seasons, many births and deaths, aches a little at the question. You learn in grade school: It is their “Instinct.” But what does that mean? You still don’t know the answer! Only now tbe question brings tears to your eyes. Now you know you will never understand God’s handiwork. You’re just a broad with a newspaper living in Worcester. Just a human. You are part of the poem but not responsible for the goose poetry. And you are aging, like the tree in the parking lot outside your house – its crooked branches and your crooked fingers make a funny pair!

Rose’s left pinky. pics:R.T.

Still, every year you see the same beautiful patterns – even in Worcester. You look up to see the geese in their perfect V shape, up against the grey fall sky, and you are in awe! Three or four big fat wild turkeys are in the parking lot, strutting by your old Hyundai and you feel their magic. Still! Every year you wonder, the question slips through your mind for a few seconds only because you do not want an answer: How do the birds know it is time to leave?

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Nature’s signals stronger than ever during these COVID 19 days. Last I checked it was January and I was giving out hats and scarves to homeless men and women under the Green Street bridge … Then COVID struck. St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, now Memorial Day happened, came and went, and I do not recall anything. Except that the trees were bare and now they are sprouting new moist leaves – looking beautiful. The days ended abruptly – now daylight lingers until I am sleepy, almost ready for bed. My landlord, 80 and living alone in the country (which he loves) told me: My best days are behind me. He wants no part of LifeLine Senior Rescue alarm. He said, “I go to bed with the birds and I wake up with them.” Only they will know when he is gone. And they will still sing their songs!

The little kids in the neighborhood, not in school for weeks, sheltering in place with their parents, fall backwards onto the summer lawn when they run outdoors. They look at the sky as they lie on their backs … stare at the beautiful blueness. They believe in it now. They see summer in her, high above them, and maybe wonder: Where am I? In March? In April? In May? Under the warm sky!!

Even the old sky is pristine again! It is getting healthier, cleaner, quieter now that we humans have been in “lockdown.” Everything has stopped as we humans all over the world have sheltered in place to not catch the novel coronavirus. And maybe die from it.

Where has the time gone?

I miss my late Mom, Cecelia, but can only picture her veiny hands when I close my eyes these days. I can’t count the number of cats I have loved and owned (feels like 20) … my dogs, the ones who have passed, are still loved by me but their personalities faded. Will I ever forget my favorite, my beloved Husky-mix, Jett?


I remember every story The Old Beau told me when we were together. About growing up in Lynn and about his parents and his dead pet rabbits in their hutche outside his house – a floppy ear the only part remaining of one pet. I remember him telling me how when he was very young and just married and he and his pretty young wife were groundskeepers/carpenters for a motel chain/B and B inn in Vermont, how when he was doing handyman work one summer day on a building on the grounds but moved his ladder up a ways, to their building, their second floor bedroom and how The Old Beau leapt in through the window scaring the heck out of his wife as she was getting dressed for work and … then made love to her. Saw him last week … he walks with a cane these days. His long hair silver. Still gorgeous.

Who knows where the time goes?

Not me! That’s for sure!

We Bowled!🎳♥️ RIP, Colonial!

By Rosalie Tirella

RIP Colonial Bowling on Mill Street, Worcester.

It was my world: Green Street and the sweet Golub brothers (always a club sandwich for a homeless guys!) and BOWLING! 🎳 at Colonial bowling with Uncke Mark and Aunt Mary and their three kids. Almost every weekend Uncle Mark drove his big shiny gold Elektra up tobour Lafayette Street three decker and we kids (Ma following) would run diwnstairs to hop in the car, sit on our older cousins laps and this carload of kids and adults laughing, talking, would make the drive to Colonial. To bowl with little kid friendly little balls. Ma and my sisters loved to bowl – it was a little too boring for me. As I grew into teenhood, I opted out. Ma and my sisters still went running down those stairs – to bowl! They loved it – Bapy watched it on TV! The pros! My Uncle Fred was in a bowling alley – the one his shop sponsored. All the Woo factories and mills had them! I was out of step with Anerica – for so nany years Colonial Bowling’s huge cement parking lot FILLED UP – TOTALLY! – with cars and antsy kids! And some serious bowlers like my uncke and his buddues. They had their own shiny bowling balls, cool vinyl bowling ball carrier bags, cloths, wrist bands … it was its own subculture.

Worcester factory benefits pamphlet – touting the shop’s bowling league.

Mostly working class. Not hip and cool the way bowling is today – often with cool bars, artisan beers, chi chi food made bu chi chi chefs. Even bands playing in the bar.

🎳We had none of that! Man, we bowled! We got our food – our sustanabce – from the long row of candy, peanut, snack-dispensing machines! Pull that clear plastic knob – plunk, dropped yoyr OH HENRY candy bar. (Ma’s fave.)

🎳Half of America – all our backyard mechanics – all of America’s Hee Haw tv watchers and Betty Crocker cooks bowled. No irony in it for us. But the educated crowd looked down on us hayseeds …

Ma’s Green Island birthday parties, featuring the charter members of The Bowling Gang♥️!

🎳No matter! My cousin, who grew up to become a doctor, LOVED TO BOWL. WAS SO SERIOUS ABOUT HIS STRIKES AND SPARES. My sweet Aunt Mary spoiled her youngest child, with the blocked ear, no ear lobe, unable to hear in tgat ear! Go, Jeff, go! she’d holler as her little prince bowled. And she’d clap like crazy – even for a few pins knocked down.

🎳We were Polish immigrants who had internalized the American Dream⭐⭐⭐🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸…so we were fiercely competitive. With our neighbors, classmates – each other. My jock kid sister always wanted to beat Jeff. She got plenty of spares – and strikes. In the zone … concentrating so hard, staring at the pins yards ahead down that shiny pristine lane. The owner – I remember: Always so serious and respectful of all his HINDREDS of customers – the kids and the league players. I remember him giving us our special no skid bowling shoes – rentals. Cool color green (or was it red?) on beige…

🎳Bowling was COMMUNITY. The talk in the factory lunch room, the giddy anticipatory chatter at the breakfast table at the Tirella house, Ma frying up her special weekend French toast for us kids – always cutting the bread in quarters and sprinkling them with granulated sugar when done Magic! Would my kid sister beat Jeff? Would my other kid sister get some spares? Would chubby Rosalie STOP ROLLING THOSE GUTTER BALLS?!

🎳As the decades rolled by and I would drive by Colonial I noticed fewer and fewer cars in their parking lot – even on weekends. Finally just around 10 on a Saturday!!! I felt sad … for the owner and the city. Everyone was on FB or Instagram, hiding inside before all kinds of social media platforms and TV choices…streaming their lives away, alone, locked down in their homes.

🎳We had it different when I was young – We played outdoors with all kinds of sketchy friends, we got beat up! and limped home, we bowled gutter balls – AND YET EVERY DAY WE WENT OUT INTO THE WORLD. To have fun, explore, take our lickin’s … DO SO MUCH WITH FAMILY AND TEAMS AND THE GIRLS CLUB.

🎳And we bowled! Love you, Colonial!🎳🎳🎳🎳🎳🎳🎳🎳♥️♥️:

Snow Globe on Mother’s Day

By Rosalie Tirella

I found this small old snow-globe before the global pandemic. My sister gave it to my late Mom one Christmas, decades ago, when we were all still living on Lafayette Street, in Green Island:
♥️♥️ pics: R.T.

I was in my teens, attending Burncoat Senior High School, back then. My two kid sisters were at St. Mary’s Junior High, by Kelley Square. Ma still worked at the dry cleaners. Daddy was living with us again, hanging around these four or so years. Living with us now that my sisters and I were older and not under-foot, so needy toddlers, little children. My lovely immigrant grandfather from Poland, Jaju, had died a decade back; his dumpling-shaped Polish wife, my grandmother Bapy, gasped for air in her bedroom by the kitchen, now sick, no longer feisty and sitting at the head of our kitchen table in her ratty old easy chair, cup of cold Sanka coffee in one hand, hardboiled egg sandwich in the other, watching over us lil’ kids and giving unsolicited child-rearing advice to my sweet mom, all while watching GOMER PYLE, USMC, her fave TV show on our old black and white Philco, parked in front of one of the kitchen windows. All the wind had disappeared from Bapy’s sails – now Daddy was even an ally, bringing her a warm cup of Sanka, entering her bedroom head down and with respect, leaving the cup of coffee on her bedstand. Gone, her cursing Daddy in Polish – “DOG’S BLOOD! You RED DEVIL!” – for his infedelities to my mother, her favorite daughter, and his abandonment of his three little daughters. She was too old and tired for all that noise now.

I saw all this in the snow globe: Bapy’s old black metal bed, no box spring, just thin mattress over the web of metal “springs” – her wedding day gift, a goose down quilt, on top of her … in my little snow globe, now my Global Pandemic Snow Globe. I had set it two feet from my pillow on my night stand and stared into its dirty water every night, the globe of 40 year old water with the gold glitter floating through it. I shook it …

… and saw my tiny Bapy buried beneath the cozy, snowy white hills of her big goose down comforter. I used to jump up and down on it when I was three and four years old, pretending it was a magical snow mountain and I was in the snowy woods, living with white wolves and beautiful deer atop slender, graceful legs, hooves …

I stared into the murky waters of my Global Pandemic Globe all February as I lay on my futon in my kitchen by the kitchen stove, coughing and sweating out a weird fever every night … for three weeks. Chef Joey had just returned from Italy (and France), all January I had handed out winter hats and gloves and scarves to Worcester’s homeless men and women, from my car: Downtown Worcester, under the Green Street Bridge … Pre-pandemic. Doing the wrong things at the wrong time because Trump knew but wasn’t telling us Americans a thing. So I, foolishly, dangerously, lived my life with the novel coronavirus swimming and floating all around me. No vaccine. No facial mask. No PPE. No social distancing. We were all in the dark – duped by the dope Trump.

So, when I felt weirdly ill, I took to my futon and thought: This a weird, end of winter flu. Then the COVID 19 NEWS BURST INTO GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS and I said to myself: “I have COVID-19.” I told myself the sad fact while lying alone in the middle of my Blackstone River Road shack. I was afraid but determined to live. I grabbed my Green Island snow globe, probably a Whites Five and Ten find by my sweet sis, and held on tight to it and shook it hard …


… to make the few specks of the glitter sparkle in the dirty water. My deathbed talusman? If yes, then I was holding on to the only things I ever loved in that old Christmas bauble: Green Island, Millbury Street, Kelley Square, Ma, Bapy, Jaju, my two sisters. All in that 50-cents snowglobe, so precious to me now as I stifled my coughs so the diwnstairs neighbors would not gwt suspucious. I struggled on the floor like a lobster clawing banging around on the bottom of an empty pot – to get up from the floor to go to the bathroom. I clawed around my floor like that! How embarassing! I had called for a covid 19 test that day. To every agency. None to be had, for me at least. … If it was just the flu, I thought, and I went to the emergency ward for care, when I really didn’t need it, I COULD CATCH THE CORONAVIRUS. And maybe get very sick. And maybe die.

So I took my chances on Blackstone River Road – I stayed put on my kitchen floor with my cat, two dogs and cups of water and chamomille tea …


I was cozy under the pretty blankets, I listened to all the Michael Moore RUMBLE podcasts on my beat-up smart phone, I watched and rewatched Ken Burns’ COUNTRY MUSIC DVDs … and stared into my little snow globe, the one with the little bears clambering on top of the globe – they are wearing their striped pajamas. And inside the globe, a little boy, in his pj’s too, is sleeping on a crescent moon, craddled by the crescent moon. Inside the globe, I saw – yes! once again! – my beautiful kid sister! Now 19 and “the man of the house,” as Daddy has flown the coop again, and sis now helps Ma run the house/pay all the bills as she works almost full-time as a counter girl at the Millbury Street fruit store – while going to college in Worcester full-time. She is so glamorous looking in her lipstick and pretty dresses! She now buys her clothes, with her own money, at Filene’s Basement at Worcester Center, our Galleria mall downtown.

And there she is, in a pretty sky blue rayon dress with white stars, walking down Millbury Street, lugging a wagon full of groceries she bought for Ma and the family. I am away at college, UMASS, but I still see my sweet, good sister walking down Millbury Street, slender, pretty smile, waving to me…so good to my mother, working so hard, walking so hard, her feet already have small bunions … Never uttering a complaint about having to walk or cab everywhere. Being poor. … Once the downstairs neighbor said to my mother, “Your Barbara – she is gold.”

Yes, she was! Making Thanksgiving Dinner – paying for it with her meager fruit store paycheck. Knowing I loved mashed turnip, she always bought two big hard turnips and sat at the kitchen table with a crumby little paring knife peeling and peeling the tough waxy skin off with that little knife. It took her a half hour. And then she cubed the orange turnip, boiled the pieces in a big pot for a long time, then drained the water from the pot when the pieces were soft … then she mashed them with Bapy’s old potato masher. Smothered them in lovely butter, too. All for me! … Since those days, I have never ever made mashed turnip for myself. Or even ordered a bowl at restaurants. I only love my sister’s, now unattainable.

The giver of the globe, my Christmas angel, my sister. …Wracked with fever on those February nights, afraid, alone, stuck in my sh*t apartment, wondering if and when I’d “go,” I geabbed my sister’s globe and clutched it to my chest and fell asleep with it. Holding dreams of her.

Watching the beginning of the iconic CITIZEN KANE, I never really “got” why Charles Foster Kane, on his deathbed, held tight, then let go as he expired, a snow globe while whispering the enigmatic words: “ROSE BUD.”

At the film’s end we viewers learn ROSE BUD was the beloved sled of his childhood. But the snow globe held the beloved memories of sledding in the snow of his childhood home and the love of his adored mother. The young Charles – before his millions$$$, before the women, the affairs, politics, newspapering – was poor. But his mother loved him and he loved back. The purity heartbreaking. Like with my snow globe.

📷Bapy and Jaju: Mad about You!

By Rosalie Tirella

While changing up my kitchen table tablecloth this a.m. …

… I rearranged a few photos of my late grandparents, small, framed pictures that form a hippy kind of centerpiece on my table, and snapped a picture of their giant wedding-day portrait that hangs in my bedroom.

📷 I saw and liked the progression of the photos: my Polish immigrant grandmother and grandfather – “Bapy” and “Jaju” – at the beginning, middle and end of their 55-year marriage in America, Worcester’s Green Island: pics 1, 2, 3:


Their Wedding Day portrait by Vernon Studios on Vernon Street. … 100+ years ago few people owned a camera – so they went to the pros for photographs, usually only on special occasions: weddings, family reunions, formal family portraits. Staged before heavy, lugubrious floral arrangements and fake marble columns and urns. There were several of these professional photography studios on Vernon Hill, a Worcester neighborhood Bapy and Jaju, young and beautiful but very poor, could only aspire to.

They got married on Valentine’s♥️ Day. Very romantic for a couple of DPs, “Dumb Pokaks” as they and their kin were called by others in Worcester: Polish immigrants, poor, heavy jowled, Catholic, unable to read or write or speak English, doing the city’s, the county’s, dirtiest jobs … to survive in The Block of tenements in Green Island. Many of the men, like my Jaju, worked in the textile mills in Douglas. Jaju was a dyer for 35+years – pre-OSHA, pre-labor unions – and it shows. Just look at him in the last photo. Sure, he was a smoker, but still … My late mom, Cecelia, rolled his cigarettes (no filters) every morning in his little metal rolling machine, using almost transparent white tissue paper squares (in their own little box), then handing the cigs to Jaju before he left for work. His friend had a car, picked him up, and together they drove in to work.

📷A few years ago, I drove down to Douglas/Dudley/Webster to check out what was left of the textile mills, ancient and abandoned, trying to find Jaju’s mill. I may have found it – a huge brick complex with small windows. I imagined working summers in that place – on a humid July day!


📷Picture 2: World War II – their only son, my uncle Joe, back home on leave from the US Navy. Big meal, all homemade by Bapy: meat and cabbage and potato pierogi, gawompki, beet soup, pigs knuckles/feet (pigs knuckles – I ate them as a little kid growing up on Lafayette Street in Green Island – they came in a bottle! My mother bought them at the Polish market on Millbury Street.) Hugs all around and Polka music and photos taken on the Block’s roof, by my auntie with her Brownie camera. Years ago a young graphic designer scanned the originals photos for me and blew them up. I framed the scans, besutufully done – still have them on my walls, all over my apartment. But the one I am showing you here, above, is of Bapy and Jaju inside their tenement in the Block on Bigelow Street. I love how happy Bapy looks – she adored my grandfather, as wild about him! – and I love how contented Jaju seems, his arm casually draped over his little wife’s round shoulders.


📷The final picture – three or four years before Jaju – now retired and doing a ton of woodworking around the house (he made Bapy a big two-seater glider swing for their front porch) – died of lung cancer. In the photo, Bapy is holding me! Precious cargo! Her first born Lafayette Street grandchild!

I love how Jaju, now 50 years later, has changed places in the photographs: Bapy stood dutifully by his side in their Wedding Day Portrait: in the Lafayette Street photograph, taken by my mom, Jaju is the one standing dutfully by Bapy. His woman. For more than half a century. No words. Just the neat buttoned up white shirt showing respect and love for his wife, the mother of his children. Now proud grandmother.

Jaju was my favorite. He was sweet-natured, quiet and loved carpentry and crafts. We used to sit on our Lafayette Street back porch, my Jaju in an old weather beaten black wooden chair, me sitting on a little foot stool he made. Me holding my block of dark clay – Jaju reaching for it, then molding a clay pony out of my “putty” – and then his thick, gnarled fingers working like magic to make a clay cowboy and a big 10-gallon clay cowboy hat for him! And then Jaju would seat my clay cowboy on my clay pony – and we would recite a Polish prayer over it, together. … Bapy was the fiery mate!

Yep. My Jaju, after killing himself for decades in the Douglas textile mill to support his wife and four kids, going fishing with his African American pal from work on weekends. Bapy reluctantly fed the two a big lunch and glasses of beer after seeing her first Black man – no Black folks in Poland back then – and fearing him! – and JAJU SAYING CURTLY: He’s MY FRIEND! FEED US, WOMAN! Jaju, just a man, an American now but no civil rights crusader. Jaju, now an old man, sitting in his wooden chair by the kitchen window nursing his glass of beer (that Bapy had watered down and handed to him like a waitress♥️) and watching the world go by, his world: Lafayette Street, Bigelow Street, Lodi Street …
My Jaju and Bapy showed me – everybody in our family – what true love is.