I was eleven years old when my maternal great-grandparents passed away within four months of one another. Andrew and Grace DelCalzo, Tatootch and Miattz. The significance they had in my first ten years is profound. From Miattz, I learned that a kiss would get me a cup of tea. One half tea, one half milk, four teaspoons of sugar. Also, a hug for Tatootch would get me time sitting on the outside stoop with him in wait of the poultry wagon. A few times a week a flatbed truck would come to the neighborhood loaded with wooden dowel cages teeming with live fowl. Miattz and Nana, along with their contemporaries, would scurry to the truck and without haste each decide the fate of a particular bird. That nights dinner was then passed on to Tatootch, who, with the swiftness of a swashbuckler, laid claim to the fowl. Drained of life we teamed to pluck the critter clean. When he lit a Parodi I knew our task was complete. He passed dinner to Miattz and within hours we supped the best chicken soup in Little Italy. I should mention, too, that within days of our feast, Miattz took the pillows from her bed, opened them and added the feathers Tatootch and I carefully saved. Even today I can remember the “pins” of the feathers trying to pierce my cheeks at nap time.
The twenty-first century may be the gateway to the future, but our past is the key.
By Carlo Orlando©
Photos provided by Georgeann Orlando Butler©