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February 14, 2014     Post-Gazette
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POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 14, 2014 Page 13 00Babb00onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance * Socially Scene (Continued from Page 9) Nanna never wore make- up. As a young girl in Avellino, only the girls they spoke about in whispers wore makeup: face powder, lipstick, eye shadow, rouge ... but not the good girls. They wore nothing on their faces. She kept up this stan- dard throughout her life in the U.S. Even if she Ameri- canized, Babbononno would never have permitted her to shame the family in public by wearing even lipstick. My mother was, reluc- tantly, allowed to wear lip- stick. In her mid teens, she went to work as a saleslady in Goldenberg's Department Store located in Central Square in East Boston. She told Nanna that the sales- girls had to look their best and that, "their best" included a proper dress for work and face makeup. I don't know if this was true about the make- up, but my grandparents "bought it," and Mom was allowed to wear lipstick to work. Mom's best girlfriend was Ada Georgione. Ada's family lived in the Jeffery's Point section of East Boston as did Nanna, Babbononno and their young family. In later years, Ada would marry Mom's middle brother, Uncle Nick. When the girls were young, Ada became enam- ored with all aspects of polite Boston society. At that point in time, Italians were ex- cluded from this social level. They were too new to this country and especially Bos- ton. There were very few pro- fessionals at that time and most of our forebearers lived in Italian enclaves like those found in the North End and East Boston. Even though this was the way it was, Ada learned to dress like a proper Boston- ian, developed a dignified speech pattern and con- ducted herself like a post debutant. She passed on sev- eral things to my mother, especially the proper use of makeup. Mom once said that Ada knew how to make her look sophisticated, not cheap. Like most sophisticated ladies of their day, Ada and Mom learned how to smoke cigarettes. This was an "infamnia" as far as Babbo- nonno was concerned. There has been a standing joke about this. An Italian man shows pictures of his family to a paisano. The paisano asked about a girl in one of the pictures who happens to be quite attractive. "Paisano, qui e questa ragazza?" (My friend, who is this girl?) "Essa e mi cugina." (She is my cousin.) "Mi place su cugina e voglio la conocere." (I like your cousin and would like to meet her.) "Penza que, no, perche essa e tipa salvatica." (I think not because she is the wild type.) Fa bene, basta que no fuma." (It's fine, as long as she doesn't smoke.) This is what Babbononno's generation of men thought regarding Italian women and cigarettes. As a matter of fact, long after Mom married Dad and while I was growing up, I noticed that Mom never smoked in front of Babbo- nonno or Grandpa Christo- foro. I asked her about this one day when I was in my twenties and she told me about the attitudes the "old timers" had regarding women smoking, and like a good daughter and daughter- in-law, she complied. When I was a child, I no- ticed that Aunt Ada led the way and Mom followed her direction. Neither worked after they were married and would, quite often, head into Boston to window shop and have lunch. Ada and Nick never had any children, but I was their Godchild. I was the first male born to an Ital- ian family and was placed on a pedestal like a little icon. Ada advised Morn on how to dress me to look like a Proper Bostonian. As I accompanied them to downtown Boston, I was dressed with short pants, long stockings, a navy blue blazer with a coat of arms patch on the outside breast pocket, an Eton cap, which was like a baseball cap but with a very short brim. If I remember cor- rectly, they also had me in a white dress shirt and a bow tie. I looked like an English school boy or a kid from a Beacon Hill family. This was the image Aunt Ada thought was important for a young boy and Morn obliged her. I remember one episode when I was maybe six or seven. Mom and Aunt Ada dragged me to Jordan Marsh, Filenes, Gilchrist's and sev- eral women's stores that were located on Tremont Street. When it was lunch time we headed for, I be- lieve, the Thompson Spa, a fine restaurant which, if I'm not mistaken, was lo- cated on Tremont Street close to the intersection of Boylston. Morn and Aunt Ada wore dresses with gloves and hats that complimented their outfits. As a result, -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST -- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 they were treated like VIPs by the maitre'd and the wait staff. As we were seated, I was given a pillow to sit on and was reminded by Aunt Ada that a gentleman removes his hat in doors. At that point, I removed my Eton cap and placed it on my lap. As was often the case, my aunt and mother reminded me of the etiquette that should be displayed at a table, includ- ing the proper placement of the napkin and which eating utensil was to be used and when. I was also instructed in the ways to hold a fork, knife and spoon. When the waitress was told my name, I was referred to as, "Master John." I must admit that, even at that age, I enjoyed the respect that that image commanded. When I was about eight, Aunt Ada and Uncle Nick separated. They later di- vorced. I won't go into what caused their separation at this point, but for two Italian Catholics to divorce in those days was almost unknown. Unfortunately, Aunt Ada's emotions got in the way of a life-long friendship and she gave Mom an ultimatum, "Stop associating with your brother, Nick, or our friend- ship will come to an end. Mom, always the diplomat, tried to rationalize things with her closest friend, but when Ada discovered that Uncle Nick was at our house one day, she disassociated herself from my mother. It wasn't until 22 years later that Ada came to her senses and began speaking to my mother again. What compli- cated things further was the fact that Uncle Nick married Dorothy Hanscom in 1950. You've heard me refer to Aunt Dorothy many times. She became my aunt when I was twelve and I was the surrogate son she and Uncle Nick never had. Years later, my two sons became the grandchildren Dorothy and Nick never had. I did not see Aria for those 22 years I men- tioned. I had planned to spend the summer of 1972 in Italy with Sal Meli, and before the trip, went shop- ping for the things I would need abroad. When I came home that afternoon, there was Ada and my mother in our kitchen sipping tea as if the separation never hap- pened. It was the last time I saw her. What ever happened be- tween Ada and Uncle Nick was their own business, but whatever social graces I may have developed in life, I owe to Ada, who blatantly smoked cork tipped Kools in public. GOD BLESS AMERICA Romeo and Juliet make their way to the American Repertory stage for a unique performance on February 19th-21 st. (Photo courtesy of examiner.corn) 7:00 pm at The Fenway Center located 77 Steven Street, Boston. You will need a ticket for the performance, but admission is free. Please use the link to Northeastern University's ISSI to secure a ticket which you will find in the February calendar at www.northeastern.edu/ issi/ calendar-february, html. Romeo and Juliet Return ... Also 12 Nights come to the American Repertory Theater for performances from Feb- ruary 18  through the 21 st. American Repertory The- ater at Harvard University is pleased to announce the return of the Chicago Com- pany the Hypocrites, with their mash-up of Shakes- peare's Romeo and Juliet and 12 Nights. Adapted and directed by Artistic Director Sean Graney. Graney's Romeo and Juliet uses both Shakespeare's familiar play as well as Felice Romani's libretto for Bellini's 1830 opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi, based on Italian sources. The four perform- ers taking on all the roles of the drama have also been asked to create the world in which they perform the story, a visual sculpture that interacts with these clip- pings of the greatest love story ever told in an enter- taining and enlightening way. 12 Nights is Graney's adap- tation based on Shakes- peare's play Twelfth Night as well as Barnabe Riche's 1581 prose narrative Of Apolonius and Silla, which has its roots in a 1531 Italian play called Gl'Ingannati (The Deceived Ones) and, further back, the mistaken-identity comedies of Plautus. All three stories center on a young woman who disguises herself as a servant boy, falls madly in love with her employer, and is required to woo another woman on his behalf, who falls madly in love with the cross-dresser. The Hypo- crites Company of four ac- tors plays all the roles, and again, has designed the multicolored setting for this comedy of errors. Romeo and Juliet will take stage on February 19 th at 8:00 pm, February 21 st at 7:30 pm and February 22 "d at 11:00 am. 12 Nights plays February 18 th and 20 th at 8:00 pm also February 21 st at 10:00 pm. The two pro- ductions will play in reper- tory at OBERON located at 2 Arrow Street, Cambridge. For more information on these productions and other winter/spring events, visit www. cluboberon, com. Mardi Gras is Upon Us ... Mark your calendar for Feb- ruary 28  to celebrate with the Friends of Copley Square as they host their Mardi Gras party at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. The Friends of Copley Square, a non-profit organi- zation that provides funding to assist the City of Boston with the preservation, main- tenance and beautification of the Copley Square, will host its fourth annual Mardi Gras Celebration. The evening will bring the feeling of the French Quar- ter into the heart of Boston's Back Bay. The event will in- clude a New Orleans dinner buffet, live music by The Bo Winiker Band and the Slip- pery Sneakers Zydeco Band, dancing and auction prizes. Guests are encouraged to come in festive Mardi Gras attire, including masks if desired. Individual tickets are being sold but for revelers who want to make a night of it, guests may purchase two tickets to the event, as well as accommodations on the evening of February 28 th donated by The Fairmont Copley Plaza and The Lenox Hotel. Hotel availability is limited, so guests are en- couraged to buy tickets early. To purchase tickets, please visit www.friendsof copleysquare.org. All of the proceeds from the event ben- efit The Friends of Copley Square. For more informa- t_ion on The Friends of Copley Square or to make a reser- vation, visit www.friendsof copleysquare.org or email friendsofoapleysquare@gmail.oarrL For events going on in Massachusetts this WINTER, Web site at .massvacation.om. 111 ;,-MA; e .