beneath these tendriled
branches, why turn away
from morning’s recognition?
Avert your face from plucking hands?
“True mystery,” sighs the bending bough.
“A puzzle,” flocked and wand’ring warblers sing.
Josephine Baldizzi came to this country as a young girl from Sicily. Her family lived on the Lower East Side of New York from 1928 to 1935, in a small tenement apartment at 97 Orchard Street.
In those depression years, there was no money for Christmas presents or decorations, so her father, Adolfo, traveled the city, scavenging fallen pine branches from other peoples’ trees. Returning home, he put his carpentry skills to work, drilling holes into a long piece of wood and using the scavenged branches to create a Christmas tree for his family.
Josephine told the story with obvious pleasure. “He would make his own tree, shape it, tie it to the wall, and then get ornaments and dress it all up,” she said. There were glass ornaments, some lights and tinsel for the tree. For the children, there was a tray filled with traditional holiday treats – marzipan, dried fruits, walnuts, chestnuts, and oranges. It was, she said later, both memorable and magical. (more…)
In the beginning, the word we used was “helping”. Helping wasn’t a burden, a demand or an imposition. It wasn’t a curse or a condemnation, something to be avoided at all cost or valued beyond all reason. Helping was something people did naturally, and it was the best way for a child to enter the mysterious and utterly appealing world of grown-ups.
Helpers garnered smiles of approval as they trailed behind Mother with a dust cloth or ventured into the yard to carry bundles of sticks for Daddy. Helpers cut flowers that made the house pretty and picked up their toys. Helpers collected windfall apples in a bucket or pulled low-hanging cherries from the trees. Helpers set the table and dried the silverware, folded the wash cloths and put newspapers in their box. If a neighbor who’d been called away was worried about her thirsty geraniums, a good helper knew to borrow a bucket and carry water to the flowers.
Helping, I thought, was fun. (more…)