I love weather, all kinds of weather, but my favorite seems to happen when the seasons change, one into another. Which is just what happened last Sunday, when all the warm weather we've been having finally got blown away and autumn arrived. Yes, autumn, with its falling leaves, scary movies, and of course football.
(For those of you who may not know, those x’s and o’s do not stand for kisses and hugs.)
Last Sunday was the big game around here – the one between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys and I wanted to be home to watch the opening kickoff, but first, I had to run errands. I had asked two of my sisters to meet me so I could give them copies of my manuscript, Rude Awakening.
In addition, my older sister had agreed to accompany me to an all-alumni open house at the elementary school I graduated from way back when. We got there early and almost no one else had arrived. While my sister was otherwise occupied, I noticed a group of men who seemed to be about my age and, despite lifetime aversions to initiating conversations and approaching strangers, I approached them only to discover they were not strangers after all. Two of them had been in my class.
We introduced ourselves – or re-introduced ourselves – and started talking. I remembered them although they did not remember me, which didn’t matter because once we started talking, it felt as though I had known them forever. We talked about the nuns who taught us and about the classmates we remembered - where they all went and where they are now.
Together, the three of us looked at old black and white photos taken of May processions and First Holy Communions. We examined the picture of all seventy-four members of our class taken early in June of 1956. I could almost remember that day.
“There’s Silvio,” Alphonse said. I remembered Silvio. He was the boy with the long eyelashes and eyes you could drown in. I used to go out of my way to go to the football games just to watch Silvio play. “And there’s Charlie,” Alphonse said, pointing to another boy in the picture. I remembered Charlie, too. He was the boy who was always in trouble, the boy who got me in trouble once with the nun who taught us in eighth grade, which is an event I wrote about in Rude Awakening.
Alphonse, Francis and I talked at lot. We laughed a lot too, at ourselves, our memories and at the clothing and hairstyles we wore in the Fifties. For someone who had grown up too shy to initiate conversations, I was having a really good time.
I had to leave early however, since I had another sister to meet and I was already running late. By the time I got to my youngest sister’s house, it was already after one and the football game had begun. She graciously turned it on and I stole glances at it as I watched her cook, realizing she was cooking the way my mother used to cook – from scratch. There were homemade meatballs simmering slowly on the stove in olive oil and garlic while she prepared the batter to make crepes for manicotti. Like my mother, my sister makes her own pasta.
Now if you have never tasted homemade pasta, you don’t know what you are missing - so I’ll tell you. The difference between homemade pasta and store bought is like the difference between French pastry and a Tastykake. Not that I don’t appreciate a good chocolate cupcake every once in a while – especially the ones the Tastykake bakers fill with cream. I’m just saying…
I watched my sister pour the batter into a pan. “I made those once,” I told her. “It was back when I was living with Jessi (my youngest daughter), her husband and four kids. I made the batter and poured tablespoons full into a frying pan, turning the pan quickly so the batter would spread evenly. Like yours, my crepes came out as thin as loose-leaf paper.
“Then I made the filling. To the ricotta, I added raw eggs, chopped garlic, basil, parsley, Italian seasonings, shredded mozzarella and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Then I filled each crepe and placed it, seam down, into a 9 x 12 pan, and topped each with homemade sauce and more mozzarella. I baked the crepes in a 350 degree oven and when they were ready, I removed the pan from the oven and ate every one of them.” My sister, from whom I had been estranged too long, laughed and we continued talking.