Rita Watson’s Italian Kisses: June meant lilacs, brides and bocce
Late-blooming lilacs, biscotti, bridal bags and bocce balls were signs of June at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
Rita Watson’s mother, Clara Rose, in 1944, when she was 24 years old. Rita remember…[+]
By Rita Watson
Special to The Journal Posted Jun. 9, 2016 @ 9:00 pm
Late-blooming lilacs, biscotti, bridal bags and bocce balls were signs of June at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Although Grandpa’s garden was filled with vegetables, he made certain that there were flowers blooming. Grandma believed that houses close to the water should have flowers to counter the salty air that settled into walls and carpets. “Too much salty air makes the house musty. Even my baking aromas can’t fill the rooms upstairs as the flowers do.“
Grandma liked the double white peonies because of their lily of the valley scent. For color she arranged them with dark pink peonies. To the side, there was often a small vase of roses. However, Grandma said our mother‘s room was like a lilac garden. “When your father was home on leave [during World War II], they went walking one day. He broke off a lilac sprig and put it in her hair. She held onto that lilac for days before pressing it into a memory book.”
In June, there was often a friend of our mother and her sisters getting married. Grandma would proudly say, “They always wanted me to make the tray of biscotti. They said mine were better than any pastry shop, even Papa’s. Of course mine were better. I used flavorings from the old country. These were too expensive to make to sell in a store. “
Our mother and her sisters decorated the large trays with Jordan almonds, Italian candies and strands of tinsel. At receptions, it was traditional for brides and grooms to pass a tray of cookies to their guests. The bride usually wore a satin drawstring bag on her arm. After guests took the biscotti, they would open the bag and add a card with a cash gift.
Because our mother’s friends knew that Grandma could sew beautifully, they often brought her fabric to match their gowns so that she could make their bridal bags adding lace, seed pearls, or even a crochet fringe.
Grandpa also loved June. After having spent May planting his gardens, which forever needed tending, he took time for his favorite sport — bocce ball. Grandpa made a court on natural soil on the side of the house and planted tiger lilies within view so Grandma could enjoy looking at flowers while the men played their games.
Grandpa had said to her, “Nancy, I don’t see you all day. At night, when I am home playing bocce, I like for you to be there to watch.”
As Grandma explained, “What was I going to say? He takes good care of this family. So I sit and watch and enjoy the flowers. He looks over, smiles at me, and sometimes throws a kiss.”
Rita Esposito Watson — www.ritawatson.com — is a Journal columnist writing “Italian Kisses: Gram’s Wisdom.”