Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The White Lie That Was Meant to Be
My maternal grandmother, Antoinette LaPreta, LOVED to talk about her childhood. In a previous blog post I mentioned how she had lost all her precious photographs in a basement flood, so she compensated for that loss by telling stories about growing up. My paternal grandmother, Gaetana Parrini (Gussie), wasn’t quite as chatty. But when asked a specific question, “How did you meet, Grandpa?” “What was your mom like?” then the stories would come flooding out.
“So Grandma, how DID you meet Grandpa?” “I went to school with him.” Hmmm, seems like a typical scenario. But boy, oh boy, it was NOT love at first sight. For Grandma anyway. Grandma told me Grandpa always said it was love at first sight for him, but for her, well, let’s just say she was less than interested. My paternal grandfather, Pasquale Tomasetti (Pat) would regularly ask Gussie to go out on a date with him. He was relentless. Go to the cinema together? Maybe they could study together? Nope, nope, nope. My grandma smiled remembering how relieved she was to learn that Pat would be leaving New York for Tennessee to study to become a civil engineer. Whew! He’d be out of her hair for a few years. Maybe if she was lucky, he would meet someone at college, get married, and live in Tennessee permanently.
Then one day…Gussie heard Pat was coming back to town. Gussie had to think quick. She told her three sisters, “If Pat asks about me, tell him I’m engaged to be married.” Well, sister Minnie was the first to see Pat. “Minnie, how’s Gussie?” “Gee, Pat, she’s engaged to be married.” “What?!” Pat later sees sister Josie. “Josie, is Gussie really engaged?” “Pat, I can’t lie to you. She’s not engaged.” Pat heads straight to Gussie’s house. “Gussie, how could you make up that awful lie? Now, to make up for it, you can’t say no to a date with me.” Gussie felt terrible about the lie she concocted. She agreed to go on a date with Pat later that day.
Small kink: Gussie already had a date that afternoon. She couldn’t cancel it…that would be wrong. She planned to meet Pat under the “el” (elevated train) near their homes in Brooklyn that evening. Her first date ended with the gentleman riding the train with Gussie to her stop. “It’s not necessary to walk me down the stairs. Thank you, it was a lovely date.” As she walked down the stairs from the el, she saw Pat. He was dressed so handsomely: a long overcoat, a hat, beautifully-tailored pants. (Grandma was a seamstress, she noticed these things.) When she walked to Pat…he grabbed her and kissed her. (A pretty bold move in the 1930s!) “I’ve waited a long time for that kiss.” Pat and Gussie were together from that day forward.
I’ll be sharing many more stories about Grandma. I’ll also share what I know about Grandpa, but I was not fortunate to meet him. He passed away in a car accident in 1950 when my dad was only 13. Through my grandma’s stories, I feel I knew him. (I wish I really did, though.)
(My grandmothers were my professional inspiration for becoming a personal/family historian. They – likely unintentionally – taught me the importance of preserving our family history.)
In the top picture: (Standing) Grandma (Gaetana Parrini Tomasetti) & Grandpa (Pasquale Tomasetti). (He's also pictured in the graduation cap and gown.) Sitting in front of my grandpa is my maternal great grandmother Angelina (Trentalange) Parrini. Next to Angelina are Angelina's parents: Giovanni and Gaetana Trentalange.