The last day of school before Christmas vacation the kids at the high school spent their time making hand made cards for their parents and otherwise talking and laughing, and sharing their wish lists with each other, some smacking themselves on the head for not thinking of one thing or other, some boasting that they'd gotten it the year before.
With a large family, even one that was well off compared to the majority of families in the town, the Rossi's kept the wish list to the top three per child, although the lists were waived in the cases of the grand children who received things their parents hadn't even considered putting on the lists, which the grandparents demanded be written and presented by no later than November 1st.
Amadeo had, on November first, startled his father by asking for one thing.
"Absolutely NOT!" said Johnny, firmly. He was seated at his desk and had welcomed the intrusion into his study in the hopes that he'd get a happy break from his work.
"But dad..." the supplicant tried to argue.
"No buts! You are not getting a motorcycle."
"Its not a motorcycle, dad, it's just a scooter."
"Just basically a bicycle with a motor on it.
"If it's a bike with a motor it's a motorcycle." his father maintained.
Johnny Rossi put his hand out in a familiar gesture, "Devo fare il mio punto sul tuo posteriore?" he asked. (Do I need to make my point on your backside?)
Amadeo's jaw had clamped shut. "No sir." he'd replied through his teeth.
"Do you think an attitude is going to make me change my mind?"
Amadeo relaxed his jaw. "No, sir. Sorry sir," he'd said respectfully. "May I go now?"
"Go on," he said, “And don't bother trying to go over my head and ask your mother because we discuss all matters of this magnitude!" he called as his son left the room.
Amadeo was a little put out. He really hadn't thought that a scooter was that big a deal, especially since he'd found one that needed a little work and it would cost as much as three reasonably priced presents, but his father hadn't even let him get that far.
'Deo had gone to the living room and sat on the couch to sulk. He wasn't normally one to engage in such a pastime but he felt that this was an appropriate occasion. If his father had at least listened it wouldn't have been so bad, he'd thought, but he hadn't gotten past the words motor scooter before his father had said no.
Terri had sympathized when she'd found him in the living room several minutes later, but she'd agreed with their father, citing all sorts of horrible things that could happen on a scooter.
"I could step off of a curb and get hit by a truck. Should I avoid curbs too?" he'd asked sarcastically.
"No," she'd replied mildly, "Just use your head and look both ways before you cross." Then she'd gotten up and walked away.
" 'Deo? Dae?! Madman!"
"What?" Amadeo groused at Milo first for breaking into his thoughts and for calling him Madman again. He was just glad that they were in the gazebo and not at school where anyone and everyone could have heard and started calling him that just to get under his skin.
"I asked you three times, what were you hoping to get?"
"What I want and what I'm going to get are two different things." he grumbled. "What I want is cool and fun. I mean, I'll be grateful for anything I get, but I really wanted that Lambretta this year."
Milo rolled his eyes. "Me too. All I got was a lecture on how expensive they are, and how dangerous they are, and did I think my parents were rich enough to afford a motorcycle and hospital bills and who was expected to pay for the gas..." he sighed deeply.
"My dad didn't get past 'NO!'" Amadeo said. "And once the Drill Sargent has spoken his words are carved in stone and can't be broken even with a jackhammer."
So how much was the scooter you wanted?" Angelo asked.
"It was only $150.00." 'Deo complained.
Angelo's and Milo's eyebrows shot up. "Only?!" Milo asked in shock. "Do you realize how long I'd have to work to earn that kind of cash?"
"Yeah, working for your parents. But in a real job... I wonder if I could get a job somewhere and earn the money, then they can't say no."
"You're sixteen, I think they can still say no." Angelo said quietly. "I mean, I'm not sure but..." he shrugged.
Amadeo let out a huge sigh. "I'm being an idiot anyway, it's not like I'll die if I don't get a scooter. I'm just acting like a spoiled brat, I guess."
"You guess?" Milo laughed.
Amadeo smiled and shouldered his friend, who made a show of trying to stay upright on the stone ledge.
"What do you do for Christmas, Ange? Anything?" asked Milo, knowing that Angelo's family wasn't religious and didn't attend any of the local churches, though they'd been seen dressed casually, driving through town in their car early Sunday mornings and coming back in the early afternoon.
"Not much, really. Mom makes a fantastic dinner, as usual. Sometimes Matt and Mark come over, sometimes not, it depends on the year, they switch between our house and their wives for holidays. This year they're both going to be with their in laws."
"Anyway, we do gifts. Usually little hand made things. Letters to each other. Books or candy. We keep the store-bought stuff to a minimum though."
"Can't stand the crowds?" Milo asked knowingly.
"Crowds? You haven't seen a crowd til you've lived in New York." Angelo laughed. "Nah, it's not the crowds. Mamma and pop say that Christmas is too commercialized, and that people forget the real reason for the holiday. So we just have a small tree, and give each other little gifts."
He didn't mention that they normally didn't exchange gifts with friends, but Angelo had picked several of his better artworks to give as gifts to his friends. This would be the first Christmas that he had real friends to give gifts to.
"Mamma does this thing I love, when she sets up the manger." he said, gazing peacefully at nothing in particular, "She's very secretive about it, but she'll go around the week before Christmas and gather up little things." He measured about a half inch between his fingers to show the size.
"No one knows what because we've all been forbidden to ever look, but she wraps them up, and on Christmas day there they all are in the kresh at the foot of the manger with the statuette of the baby that she hides somewhere until early that morning."
"That's a great tradition." Milo said admiringly.
"I like that." Amadeo said thoughtfully. "Would you mind terribly if I adopted it?"
Angelo smiled shyly. "No, I don't mind."
Amadeo wanted so badly to kiss his boy at that moment.
"Go ahead." Milo said.
"What?" Amadeo asked, coming out of his reverie.
"I can see that you want to do it, so go ahead."
"What are you talking about?" Amadeo asked, hoping that he was hearing what he thought he was hearing.
"Kiss him!" Milo yelled, smiling. "If you're self-conscious I'll turn my back but I can tell you want to kiss him, so go ahead."
"How did you know? How long have you known? Who else knows?" Amadeo asked.
"I knew..." Milo looked up at the roof of the gazebo thoughtfully. "The day Angelo nearly got run over by that car and you chewed me out. As far as anyone else knowing, other than Steve and his band who, if I'm right are the same way, I'm pretty sure it's still a closely guarded secret. But..." he shrugged, "as far as how I knew? Man, you're my best friend. I've known you since we were five.
We're like brothers, closer than most brothers."
"And you're OK with it?" Amadeo asked softly, "When did you first suspect? I thought I was really good at hiding it." Amadeo asked, stunned. Judging by the expression on Angelo's face he was feeling the same way.
"Yeah,I'm OK with it. I suspected a couple of years ago, when all the guys were talking about this or that girl and you just stood there with a smile and didn't say anything. The other guys just thought that with so many sisters you had more respect for girls and wouldn't talk about them like that, but I saw the way the other guys looked at the girls and how you looked at them, and it wasn't the same look."
Milo looked embarrassed for a moment and then continued, "When I first suspected about you and Angelo I wasn't happy and I wasn't sure I could handle it. But what you said about Mikey held for you as well. If anyone treated you badly because you're a little different... would I stand by let them hurt you? The answer was no. I thought to myself, if I'd been like that, and you found out... I know you'd never have hated me for it. You know?"
"You got that right, Tonto." Amadeo said quietly with a gentle smile. "I know it's not the easiest thing to say or admit to but... it's what we are. I appreciate your understanding and not.... well, turning your back on me. Calling me names and such. And I've heard some really despicable things said about people... like us."
"Yeah, me too, which is why I couldn't stand the idea of someone doing it... saying those things to you. Your secret is safe with me, all right? Wild horses and all that junk. OK?"
"Jerk." said Milo, shouldering his friend.
"Idjit." Amadeo said, returning the gesture.
"So, get to it. I'll close my eyes, just don't do what my older brother does and make all those smoochy sounds, that's just gross." he said, closing his eyes and humming tunelessly.
Amadeo looked around to see if anyone was nearby then looked at Angelo who had apparently been struck dumb by the entire conversation.
"Well, you heard the man. Kissing but no smoochy sounds." he said, leaning in toward Angelo and kissing him soundly but soundlessly.
Lambretta was a line of motor scooters originally manufactured in Milan, Italy by
Fernando Innocenti, 1947