The table is oval and large. It is covered with a white tablecloth, not too bright. There is an overhead light, a chandelier, but not too fussy. The light is warm, like that from a fireplace. There is opera music, not too tragic, playing, not too loud. Nothing is overplayed. Everything is just right.
Nearby, the kitchen emits archetypical aromas that came from an Italian-American kitchen in the 1950’s; onion, basil, roasted potatoes, olive oil, grated cheese, tomato sauce simmering, meatballs, warm bread, lamb roast. Somewhere in time and imagination it’s Easter. Easter of the immigrants.
In the kitchen, my mother is cooking. Not her mother or her mother in law, my grandmothers. No, they are sitting down, waiting. Everyone is waiting, even my father. He is displaying great patience. And his patience is about to be rewarded with a Feast for the Ages.
My mother has made fresh pasta, ribbons of egg-rich goodness. From a garden in the long-lost past, put-up tomatoes re-create the freshness of a once idyllic California summer.
And that is what everyone is waiting for. For the pasta to be ready. The roast is resting. The potatoes are nestling in the juice of the roast. The meatballs await, simmering in the sauce. The wine glasses, delicate little ones, etched gracefully with grapevines, are filled with wine from several decanters on the table. Red wine, from California and, if my uncle had anything to do with it, also from Italy.
My real-life memories from a table like this usually were more frenetic. People would be talking a little louder, maybe cutting up, telling a joke or two. But not this time. It is as if everyone is waiting for something for someone. And they are. They are waiting for my mother to bring her home-made pasta to the table.
We never forgot where we came from. Three generations later, it is all as if it had been a dream. My older sister still remembers. Maybe a cousin or two in California. I have pictures and the faintest of memories.
It probably was only ten or twenty minutes. But to me it seemed like an eternity. I remember crying, thinking that they didn’t want to take me. What had I done so wrong?
Eventually someone came back, I think it was my Aunt Mary, and fetched me. Aunt Mary, who did not suffer fools gladly, saw that I was upset. But she wouldn’t have any of my tears. “Let’s go, little one, everyone is waiting for you.” And off we went, to get ice cream and balloons, and to sit in the carousel and listen to the calliope music. A day in the life. All gone as well.
Inneggiamo, il Signor non è morto.
Ei fulgente ha dischiuso l'avel.
Inneggiamo al Signore risorto—
oggi asceso alla gloria del Ciel!
Easter as it once was. Easter as it never was. Easter as it never will be again. For all the immigrants are gone and once again, we are home, alone.
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