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Chapter XXXIV - Celebration

It was the fall of 1976 and my eightieth birthday was approaching. I felt an atmosphere of mystery in the air and I knew that preparations were being made for this milestone. I felt that when one reaches the epitome of one's life there should be a celebration commemorating the years of experience in every step of life and the wisdom acquired through those experiences. Furthermore, seeing all of my loved ones at this celebration would mean a well-earned reward.

The time was getting close and I wasn't noticing any indications of preparations. I asked Marie if she knew anything and she said, "No comment." I began to suggest that I should start to make preparations to celebrate my birthday as usual at home. Marie said, "Ma, don't worry about it."

I said, "You know they will come and I won't have anything to offer."

She said, "Don't worry. There will be something." I wanted her to tell me what it was but she would not. I knew that when Marie would not talk, she just would not talk.

A telephone call came from Helen the day before my birthday to tell us she planned to arrive in Newark at a certain time that day. Now that really convinced me something was going on! If Helen planned to come from Missouri to celebrate my eightieth birthday, it was bound to be a good one. Now I would have the pleasure of not only having a nice birthday but the joy of seeing Helen, too.

Why should I be so expectant about this birthday? For me it was the coronation of my life lived as best I could and enjoyed fully.

Helen arrived and Marie and I went to the airport to meet her. She said, "You didn't have to come. I could have taken a taxi to your home."

I said, "I knew you could but we didn't want to miss one minute of your company. You came all the way from Missouri for my birthday and you can only stay for the weekend. I want to be with you every minute."

We chatted all the way home because there was so much to say. At home we continued our conversation and I said, "Helen, I really did not expect you to come."

She said, "I really had not planned to come since I couldn't stay any longer than a weekend because of my job, but at the last minute I just couldn't resist it, so I picked up the telephone, made the reservations and here I am."

I said, "God bless you for it."

Marie's voice broke up our reverie as she said, "Ma, you have to get dressed and it's getting late. I want you to look especially nice."

I answered, "How can I look nice with this patch over my eye?" She said, "Everybody knows you had an eye operation."

Helen said, "I didn't bring a long dress."

I said, "You brought yourself and that's enough."

Finally we were on our way and Marie kept driving. I said, "Where are we going?"

She said, "You'll see in a short while."

It was a country like atmosphere when she stopped the car. When I asked where we were going she said, "Right there," and she pointed to a sumptuous building. She said, "The DeVenezia Construction Company had just finished building it."

I said, "You mean you took me here to see what the boys have built! They have built many nice places."

She replied, "Just follow me."

I did that and when she opened the front door it was dark inside. Then there were thunderous shouts of Happy Birthday and the music began and the lights went on. I was blinded by the brilliance of the many lights and then arms were grabbing me and people were kissing me.

When I was finally able to collect myself and open my eyes I saw all of the faces I loved and many more. There were friends from long ago and a few relatives. I was overjoyed. I was asked if I were surprised. What could I say! My cup was full to the brim and I was inebriated.

I did not eat any of the delicious food or partake of the drinks because I was continuously busy with my well wishers. Everyone was having a good time. Coffee and a piece of my birthday cake were served. I was asked to cut the first piece of cake while the musicians played the "Happy Birthday" melody and the people sang in a chorus.

When I finally sat at my place of honor with a beautiful centerpiece in front of me my oldest grandson Johnny, 41, and my youngest David, six, presented me with my favorite flowers, a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses. They also handed me a Bingo card drawn by my grandson Teddy and urged me to open the envelope that came with the card. There was the sum of $350.00 to enjoy my favorite pastime Bingo, the gift of my 40 grandchildren.

I felt blessed by the Lord for having given me the most precious of all gifts, the trust of such a large family.

The celebration did not end there. My children had conceived the idea of giving me the best testimonial of their love by each writing a short essay entitled "I Remember Mama." Each, in turn, went to the microphone and read his or her essay starting from Colette, my first born, to Marie, my youngest.

Everyone was very composed as he read his composition. Many of their remembrances are in this tale. I listened full of restrained emotion. Their stories were our stories, the stories of a family living a life of harmony with one another. What more could one wish out of life? The love, peace and understanding of one's family is where the joy of living begins.

I felt as though I were on a stage and in a way I was. It was my birthday, music was playing and couples were dancing. Each of my sons requested a dance with me and so did my sons-in-law. I felt like a bride instead of an old woman. Even the personnel and management of the Birchwood Manor joined in the merriment and vowed they had never had a better time. When we got home late that night I felt it couldn't have happened to me. I must have been dreaming. However, all the gifts and the "I Remember Mama" book put together (so artistically) by Marie was not a dream.

I had wanted to be with my children and their children on my eightieth birthday, but the demonstration of their affections overwhelmed me. More than anything else I appreciate the affection and concern they have for me. I believe Nicola is very pleased in Heaven for the good children he fathered.

I thought on my birthday that I would retire and live a peaceful life, but it was not to be. The next day my two daughters Helen and Marie made me promise to write this narrative, and a new leaf had begun on my eightieth birthday.

First of all I want to thank God for the strength he has given me in enabling me to write this tale. It has not been easy to live again some painful facets of my life, but the bad is always mingled with the good. My share of good has been very large. Having had the chance to live in this country has brought the challenge to grow. I feel I owe a lot to my country of adoption for housing the future of my descendants. My closing words are "God bless America."

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