The date is August 15, 1961. The time is noon and I’m moping around Nana’s like a dog that has been kicked. The Feast of the Assumption is Little Italy’s most celebrated religious holiday and always concludes on the 15th with a huge fireworks display. Streets and roads are closed so vendors can sell their homemade goods and crooked “games of chance” can flourish.
More than a few problems have been laid in my lap, this day. First, boredom is starting to reek because uncles, aunts and cousins are not expected to arrive for two or three more hours, hence the moping. Uncle Nick, being quite perceptive, segregates us from gram and gramps and inquires about my lethargy. “Eh, no car, no date. You see, if I had the car how would my parents get to Little Italy.” He reflected for a moment then agreed. “It’s a little late in the day to get a date anyway.” “Hey, unc,” I retort, “it’s never that late,” as I form two thumbs up and flick them towards my chest over and over.” Viewing my arrogance, he muttered something about Casanova and shook his head. Within a few seconds I figured out that what he saw in me was exactly what he saw in himself. I humbly settled on self-assurance and being cocksure.
Further, I all but assured the neighbor lady across the street I’d spend most of the day with her niece, who I have never met. Problem: no car. Uncle Nick threw an arm around my saddened shoulders and all but bet that even if I had a car I couldn’t get a date this late. “Unc, I didn’t spend all these years in the same house with you and not pick-up some important male traits. Resilience being one.” He has no idea about the niece or the phone number stashed in my wallet.
Time fleeting by, I walked across the street and explained my dilemma to Mrs. Marino, the aunt. She understood and suggested I call Cara, her niece. Shuffling back to Nana’s to phone Cara was somewhat disheartening and disappointing, although by then I realized the proposed date wasn’t thought out very well.” Hey, Lootch, stay there,” these words coming from Uncle Nick who was seated in the kitchen near an open window. Dejected, I plopped down on the homemade bench gramps constructed in the early 1950’s and waited. Uncle rounded the corner and sat next to me. “So, fill me in.” I explained the whole story and added I was about ready to take a walk to Mayfield Road for a pizza and sausage sandwich, and to further feed my discontent, a lemon ice from Corbo’s. “Hold on, little man. How would you like to take the Olds and pick-up your girl?” The Olds! Uncle’s 1956 blue and white Oldsmobile! Sixteen feet and six thousand pounds of Pittsburgh pig iron at my disposal! I jumped up like I had torsion springs in my legs.” Are you serious, unc?” He nodded and reminded me that because of my recent high finish in the Ohio state teenage driving rodeo competition, his reward to me would be the use of the Olds.
Without preaching or warning Uncle Nick handed me the keys and asked only that I have a good time.
By Carlo Orlando©