Pazzo l'uno: To Finally Be With Love

The Cinderella Theme in the style of Bach by  Eugene Zuckerman (flute)

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Sweet Pea stood outside the little school house, trembling at the thought of walking down the road, arriving at home and then facing her Momma. She was so upset because the teacher, not her Momma, told her she no longer would attend school. “Why?” was all she could say and that took all her effort. The stern, not to pleasant teacher quickly stated it was impossible to teach people who stutter and to go on home and understand that her Mother agreed with her.  Little Sweet was in tears and couldn’t believe Momma agreed..

Within the next days, Sweet Pea realized what her life without school meant. Not only had she been deprived of completing a basic education, she was to become a working member of her large family. At eleven years of age it was hard for her to understand all the complexities of the decision to pull her from school, the only thing she felt was guilt–guilt for something she hadn’t done.   She knew her family didn’t understand her at all, in fact neither parent stopped her siblings from teasing or nicknaming her Pazzo l’uno, a colloquial term in Italian that meant, “The Crazy One”. She knew she wasn’t crazy, she knew she stuttered and she knew the names she was called and the words that were often spoken to her were hurtful to her.  Sweet Pea didn’t know what made her stutter, she knew the harder she tried not to stutter the more difficult it became to stop stuttering.

Day after day, without any rest, Sweet Pea cleaned the large grey house set by the railroad tracks, did the laundry and ironing for her Mother, as well as, cleaning the house and doing  other chores her Mother gave her. Day after day, little Sweet Pea became their Cinderella,  the tiny little girl was the one that now took care  of the family chores.   Sweet Pea often cried as she realized her hopes and dreams were impossible to achieve.  Her young mind often dreamed of the day she could study to be a nurse, yet now she knew this would never happen.   Stuffed between her sisters to sleep, she quietly prayed to God to understand what she had done wrong, to understand why she stuttered.   She thought that if she could stop, then she also could be seen like any of her other brothers and sisters.

As she grew older, only by a few years,  her Mother decided she should begin working in the outside world to bring additional money into the family. First it was the job at the grocery story restocking the shelves, sweeping and generally keeping the place clean. Then a second job was added ironing in a laundry.

The jobs kept her busy and with any free time she had she was still expected to help her Mother at home. Eventually, Momma became pregnant with her 7th child and Little  Sweet Pea was told she was  to be responsible for the  baby when it was born.  The child care started early in the morning before she went to work and continued through the night after she returned  from her second job.  Regardless of how tired she was, she knew Pammy depended on her.  As the years passed, Sweet Pea became recognized as  Pammy’s mother that their Momma, besides Momma was too busy with her eighth and final child.   It was a boy and oh how special Momma treated him and the other siblings spoiled him.   It was like two families, their’s and Sweet Pea and Pammy’s family.

The years past without Sweet Pea ever being able to go to social events or forming teenage friendships that help in the development of young girls. By the time 1940 arrived Sweet Pea was nearly nineteen and worked as a waitress,.  Sweet Pea was a funny waitress that still stuttered, chewed her fingernails and continued to give all of  her money that she earned over to Momma.

One day at the cafe  a very tall, well dressed man walked in. Sweet Pea noticed him but held back from staring even though she knew she was interested in him.   No,  good Italian Catholic girls did not show interest in men.

This man, Danny, kept coming back and always sat at  her table. Day after day she remained aloof, frightened to speak too much to him, yet she couldn’t help thinking it was nice that he was interested in her. Sometimes he was a little too forward like the day he said she looked terrible chewing her nails, but he had made a point that she couldn’t ignore.  And she was aware he never mentioned her stuttering.

One day,Danny arrived with a group of older men. Sweet Pea wondered who everyone was. She went to the table to take their orders and Danny announced that this was Shrimp, his own nickname for her, and that he had some long range plans for her. Next he made a point of telling her which of the gentlemen was his father and that the men were all cousins.   After they had eaten, Sweet Pea cleared the dishes and then began to offer them a refill of coffee.   As she asked Danny’s father if he wanted coffee, his hand patted her butt and said that he sure would like some.   Flustered and a little angry Sweet Pea  immediately responded by pouring hot coffee onto his lap, spouting out “Damn You” and running to the kitchen without looking back or ever returning to the table.

Two days later, Danny reappeared, sat at Peapod’s table and tentatively Sweet Pea came to take his order. Danny was just like he always was. He smiled, called her Shrimp and gave her his order.

In the weeks to come, Sweet Pea finally accepted his invitation to go to a movie. The movie opened the door and Sweet Pea and Danny started seeing each other.   She was delighted and never thought twice about Danny being so much older than her.    Danny showered her with little gifts.  She was awestruck when he gave her a half dozen real nylons, she knew what they cost and how hard they were to get.

Within a short time,  Danny became aware of Momma’s hold on Sweet Pea.  He never mentioned his disdain at how she was treated, but rather decided to leave it alone for Sweet Pea’s sake.  It was clear that he would let Momma Enzensio know that he thought Sweet Pea was special and that he would be close to her from now on. Soon after, he started buying her clothes, shoes and then came a a ChinChila coat and a fox fur coat.  Momma was beyond herself with jealousey.

Next came the war.

Sweet Pea was overwhelmed. Someone cared for her. Someone was there to protect her. Someone wasn’t going to let Momma get the best of her anymore. The tide was changing, yet Sweet Pea was saddened when Danny told her he was going to join the Navy and that for now he wouldn’t marry her or become engaged to her while he was gone. He was afraid that if he died she would decide to remain alone if they were married and he wanted her to be free.

The first year of Danny was at war, the loneliness Sweet Pea felt only was shown when she was alone.   She still worked and did the things Momma wanted yet, Momma’s control was a little less since metaphorically, Danny stood watching over Momma’s shoulder. Momma contained herself  until the day she found out Danny listed  Sweet Pea to get part of is salary each month.  The money went directly to the bank and momma could not touch it.  Next, Danny wrote a letter to Momma and Sweet Pea tell the both that Sweet Pea no longer needed to work, that she would be taken care of from then on.  He signed off by writing, “Shrimp, now you don’t have to work!” Oh was Momma annoyed.   Not only were her funds cut off, possibly her laborer would not help her with all the chores.

In the days and years that followed,   Sweet Pea  often locked herself into her room where she quietly cried and prayed her Prince would return to her.

Without notice, three years later Danny was at the door.

He was still in the Navy and he needed to visit his parents, but that didn’t damper Sweet Pea’s delight that he was home.

Early on a hot, rainy August  morning Danny and Sweet Pea vowed their ties to each other in the families’ catholic church.   Very shortly, Sweet pea would be Danny’s own “Shrimp” after she  walked down the aisle in a satin wedding gown with yards and yards of train.   Just before she began the journey to the altar, she looked out onto the parking lot from the little ante room she was in.   There in the parking lot Sweet Pea was shocked to see Danny’s aged Mother, Father and sister climbing the first steps into the church. Just recently Danny had said his Mother refused to be at the wedding. Danny had become Catholic and Mother did not approve.

When the ushers had seated the inlaws in their pews, the processional began. As Sweet Pea neared them, all she could think of was, “Why don’t they like me, what do I say?”    She held tighter onto her Pappa’s arm and in two more steps she was at the altar with Danny and let the worry pass for then. When the mass ended and she turned with Danny, Sweet Pea had little problem smiling at her  in laws.

As Sweet Pea entered the car, her worries returned momentarily, but once again the excitement of the day overtook her.   Her Momma had prepared a  breakfast and afternoon reception for the wedding party and there shouldn’t need to be worry.   At the close of the all the festivities , sitting in her room just after she changed from her gown to the  honeymoon travel suit, Sweet Pea took a moment to reflect upon her day. The one thing she was happy, appreciative of and surprised about was that her Momma, without being asked took over entertaining her in laws for the entire day. She never left their side which meant Sweet Pea never had to be alone with them. As she sat there thinking a rap sounded at the door. As she opened the she saw it was her Momma. Regardless of the past, Sweet Pea wrapped her arms around her Momma, kissed her sweetly and thanked her for the wonderful day she had given her, particularly in that she provided Sweet Pea with a day without worry.

The couple left the reception with rice and rose petals  being thrown at them and cheers from all to send them on their way to their honeymoon. That evening in St. Louis, Sweet Pea knew her world would be different from that night on–Her Prince Charming had saved her from the daily drudgery of work for Momma and Prince Charming, in turn would always adore his Cinderella until his dying day!

During the next fifteen years, little by little Sweet Pea stopped stuttering  It happened a little bit at a time, but she knew there was a significant difference in her when she was able to pick up the phone and say the word “Hello”, rather than an anguised “Yes”.  From then on the pace increased and within another two years a stutter was never again uttered.

When her Pappa died she had to attend the funeral alone.  No one accompanied her to the coffin and Sweet Pea fainted.  She was awakened by her brother’s calling her Pazzo l’uno.  When her Momma died her own family came for war.  Danny, her daughter and sister in law enjoyed sitting silently until a sibling uttered the shameful name.  Each were duly subdued by her family and as they left the chapel her sister-in-law turned to Sweet Pea’s family to say, “You all should be ashamed!”  It was the last day they were ever able to call her “Pazzo l’uno”.

Sweet Pea smiled warmly in the glow of her own families love!

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