Saturday, September 10, 2016

Chapter 42

"So I'm confused, if Steve and Carlos are a couple, then who was the girl he told me about?"

"There was no girl," Angelo laughed.  "It was only Carlos.  Steve'd sometimes slip when we were all together, and call Carlos, Angel.  I thought it was a joke 'cause if there's anyone else less like an angel once he gets started it's Carlos.  But like he said, he'd say Angel and we'd both say 'What?' It never occurred to me that they started calling me Benny because of that.  I guess Carlos didn't want to give up his angel status, even for someone whose name was actually Angel." he laughed.  "When you told me what Steve said, it just didn't click.  Now it's so clear I wonder why I didn't see it before."

"Well, you're pretty easily distracted.  It's one of your many charms."  'Deo said with that glint in his eye.  "I don't know how you function with all those thoughts that go through your head on a second to second basis and still have brain power to walk and talk at the same time."  he laughed. 

"And so now Ralph and Bruce are an item?"

"Looks like it.  It's funny though, the two quietest people in the group hitching up.  I wonder what they talk about." Angelo laughed.

"They seemed happy enough.  I guess we just have to see where it goes from there."

"Yeah, now we just need to find someone for Parker and Ethel and we're all set."

"We'll be set once we get these canopies back up."  groused 'Deo.  "I just wish my mother would leave these things up permanently and install a bigger pool.  I just keep imagining everyone trying to get into it at the same time, the water all being displaced and having to call the fire department to pry everyone out of the danged thing."  He laughed.

"Georgia Sardines, packed fresh every day."  quipped Angelo, causing both of them to laugh again.  

Angelo sobered.  "I don't mean to put a hole in your balloon, but, how is Beth Ann these days, Dae?  Any better?"

Amadeo shrugged and continued erecting the canopy tents.  "Some days are better than others, but I still worry about her."

Bethie had been having a few problems since the babies had been born, sometimes sad and disinterested, sometimes crying for no discernible reason.  She'd not only not lost the baby weight but she'd gained a little more, and she was sure that no matter how much Dante told her he loved her that he was only saying it and not meaning it.  She'd been losing sleep, worried that if she fell asleep that one of the babies would need her or something would happen, and she was frequently fatigued.  She was constantly worried about Nathan, sure that something was wrong but not able to put her finger on what the problem was since at eight weeks old he was now nearly as big as his sisters, and a very happy, healthy baby boy.

As the day of the party drew nearer, Johnny and Natie, as well as Dante and Terri had asked her over and over if she was sure she wanted to have this party.  There was still time to cancel it, but Bethie insisted that she was fine, and Dante said that perhaps having a party would cheer her up.  Natie, Teresa and Carmie, for their parts, had been going to Bethie's house to help with little chores and keep her company.  Telling her stories to cheer her up, taking her out to stores, the movies, the park where they walked along in the sunshine with the babies cooing and giggling in their strollers, and some days they'd have lunch at the local diner.

August twenty second, the babies' party, was a success.  The invitations had specifically asked that people not bring anything since this would be the Rossi's way of thanking everyone for all their help and care, and their way of introducing the newest members of the Rossi family.

People showed up with food and gifts, not only for the babies, but for Dante and Bethie as well.  Beth Ann, who was overwhelmed began to cry.  She was nearly crushed between concerned neighbors until she finally calmed down enough to tell them that she was happy and grateful, not sad, at which point she was nearly crushed between the neighborhood ladies who all wanted to hug and pet her.

Natie saved her daughter in law from sure death by cutting through the throng, smiling, gently patting shoulders and kissing cheeks and apologizing that she needed Bethie to help in the kitchen.  Once there Bethie sighed and hugged Natie.  "Thank you, mamma!  I didn't mean to cry, it's all so, nice... everyone's so... it's... more than I ever..."  she began to cry again.  Natie hugged her and rocked her much as she did the babies.

"Oh sweetheart, you didn't need to be brave for us!  We love you Bethie, and if you weren't ready to face all these people and have the party right now we'd have understood.  Do you want me to ask them to leave?"

"Oh no, mamma!  You can't do that!  You put so much time and care and planning into this party.  It would be ungrateful of me to do that to everyone now."

"Do you want to go lie down for a little bit, honey?"  asked Dante, walking into the kitchen and putting his arms around his wife.  "We can take a break, let everyone admire the babies and then when you feel better we come back down for a bit for dinner.  All right?"

Beth didn't answer immediately, which was a sure sign that that's what she wanted to do but wasn't willing to put anyone else out.

"It's settled then, Bethie,” said Natie.  "You and Dante go on upstairs and rest a bit.  When you feel more like yourself you come right back on down.  I promise we'll take care of the babies." she said, patting the younger girl's arm and hugging her.

Beth Ann began to cry again.  "I don't know what I'd do without you."  she said pitifully.  The absence of her parents at the party was as evident as would be the absence of colors in the state flag.

Natie sent her son and daughter in law off with kisses and hugs, and reassurances that they'd be called as soon as the babies needed them for anything.  She determined that at least one of the children was going to need their mamma at one point during Bethie's rest period.  What she really wanted to do was drive to Atlanta and smack some sense into the poor child's ignorant parents.  Unfortunately, she knew that very little would get through to people as narrow minded as them, and would just reinforce their low opinion of 'Damned Yankees' and of Italians in general.

Natie went back to her guests and pled fatigue and overwhelming gratitude on Beth Ann's part, and explained that the poor girl needed to rest.  Everyone was very sympathetic, especially since it meant that the babies weren't fatigued or overwhelmed and would be staying with the rest of the party goers.  

Young children were sent outside in the front yard to play with older children and some adults who enjoyed the sunshine to keep an eye on them, while the men busied themselves in the kitchen, sauteing onions and peppers, frying green tomatoes, and marinating the steaks just so. 

The women, for once were shooed out of the kitchen, and instead sat in the living room, drank iced tea and lemonade, and passed the babies from one set of arms to the other, marveling at every movement and sound the babies made.  The babies for their part basked in the praise and adoration and, if the women hadn't known that it was possible for children so young, they could have sworn that the babies seemed to be in a competition to see which of them could say or do the cutest thing and get the most oooooh's and ahhhhhh's from their admiring crowd.

"Oh, come on, mamma, put him through his paces!"  Amadeo joked, placing a blanket on the carpeted floor.

"'Deo, you just behave yourself!"

"I am behaving myself.  Is it my fault I'm so proud of these babies that I want people to know the amazing things they can do?"

"They're babies, not puppies." Natie scolded.

"What's the difference?"  Amadeo laughed, gently taking Nathan from his mother's arms.

"Get over here and I'll show you the difference."  Natie remarked, crooking her finger at her son as she reached to the side of the chair she was on and into the magazine rack. She pulled one out and began to roll it up.

Amadeo grinned, put the baby on his stomach and tickled the infant's ribs slightly on the right side.  

Nathan rolled over onto his right side, to the ooooh's and aaaahhhhh's of the watching ladies.

"Give him a minute, wait for it."  Amadeo said mysteriously.

Everyone clapped as Nathan continued to roll to the right like a little barrel, ending up with a wide grin, once again on his stomach, and anointing the blanket beneath him with happy drool.   "Lalalalalalalala."  he told his adoring audience.

Amadeo picked the little boy up and began to chant;

"Round belly round belly," he said, running a finger around the baby's belly in circles.  "Put a penny in," he said gently poking the little belly button as though putting in a penny.  "One step," he said, walking his fingers up the child's belly.  "Two step," he said, walking his fingers up the child's chest.
"Chinny, chin, chin," he said, tickling the baby under his chin and neck.

The baby babbled happily at his uncle and grinned.  Amadeo leaned down and planted a raspberry on the baby's neck, to which the infant wriggled and sang, "Lalalalalala!"

Amadeo grinned and began to sing, 

'There's a garden, what a garden
 Only happy faces bloom there
 And there's never any room there
 For a worry or a gloom there.'

'Oh there's music and there's dancing
 And a lot of sweet romancing
 When they play the polka
 They all get in the swing.'*

A couple of the ladies joined in, the two holding the little girls holding their hands and directing while Amadeo manipulated his nephew's body to kick one leg out after the other and bounce in time to the music, much to the pleasure of the little boy, who as usual, joined the singing in his toneless way.

"I think we have a new singing sensation in the making here!  Nathan Rossi and his Rosettes!"  Mrs. Campbell crowed, kissing the top of Mara's strawberry blonde head.  The hair on top was held up into two little tails with purple plastic barrettes which matched her little calico dress.

"Not at all!" declared Mrs. Witt, who held a pink ribboned Olivia.   "We have the first two, lady musical conductors, and our little Nathan here is going to be a world famous tenor!"

"Watch out Lawrence Welk!"  joked another woman.

"Watch out Bob Fosse!"  one woman laughed as she watched 'Deo make the baby boy dance and jiggle.

"Give me that beer barrel... I mean baby!  Give me that baby, you horrid, horrid, evil, rotten little boy!" Natie playfully scolded Amadeo, whacking him with the rolled up magazine which quickly began to bend and shred.

"I yield!  I yield!  Mercy kind lady!  I cry your mercy sweet lady!" he giggled as he bowed low and handed the baby back to his mother.  Natie took advantage of the bent position to smack him smartly across the backside before taking the baby, causing the magazine to give up and fall apart.

Amadeo gamely picked up the bits and pieces of magazine, and the 'stage' he'd set up for Nathan to perform on, then bowed his way out of the room to the laughter and delight of the ladies.

"Your son is priceless, Natie.  I wish I had one like him."  Mrs. Domville said, chuckling with the others.

"I'd say you can have him, Maggie, but he comes with a cast of thousands and I wouldn't do that to anyone who wanted to keep food in their refrigerator!"  Natie complained jokingly.

The women laughed again, and a thoroughly delighted Maggie Domville was next to hold little Nathan.  She'd been married when she was sixteen and had had seven children of her own.  Those had given her grandchildren and a couple of the older grand children had already given her great grandchildren, but she never tired of babies and treated all as though they were hers.

She looked down lovingly at the baby and cooed to him, telling him funny little stories and jokes, none of which he understood but he would chortle on occasion as though he did.  She knew babies this young didn't normally laugh and she delighted in the sound, but then she noticed that Nathan didn't focus on her face the way his sisters had.  He smiled just as brightly, but his gaze seemed to be glued to her right shoulder.

"Nathan!  Nathan!"  she called gently, almost a whisper.  Nathan smiled.  He looked in her direction and past her, as though looking through her, but he never focused directly on her.  She continued to smile as she reached into her skirt pocket for her house keys.  She dangled them silently in front of the baby where he would surely be able to see them but he didn't react to them.  She jingled them to his left.  The baby frowned in concentration at this new sound and turned his head but didn't seem to see the things that made the sound.  She jingled them again to his right. Once again, he turned his head but didn't focus on the keys.

She put the keys back in her pocket and called his name softly.  He sighed and cooed and smiled.  He turned his head in the direction of the voice but once again didn't focus on her face.

Some of the other ladies had also brought out their keys and were laughing as the girls followed the path of the keys, sometimes going cross eyed and frowning at the strange things being jangled in front of them, sometimes smiling at the pretty sounds.

Maggie worried at first but then kept in mind that while little Nathan had grown quite a bit in the six weeks that he'd been home, and even in the two weeks he'd been in the hospital, he was still small, and possibly a little behind in development compared to the girls who had been much bigger and stronger at birth than he had.  She decided to tell her suspicions to Natie after the party.  

She worried about how poor little Beth Ann would react.  It was no secret in the neighborhood that the poor girl had been having a bad case of the baby blues.  She wasn't a doctor and she wasn't entirely sure, but her own grandson, Devon had been exactly like Nathan at eight weeks, and she only had personal experience to go by.  She hoped she was wrong.

The party ended at ten o'clock that evening.  Parents with young children had left much earlier, and even the Rossi's own little triplets had been in bed for four hours, Bethie and Dante had come down for a few hours to greet the guests, eat and open presents, after which they'd gone back upstairs.  

The women all gave Natie ideas of what they or their daughters or daughters in law had done when they'd gone through the same thing.  Mrs. Witt had actually brought along a little basket lined with a bright, pretty cloth that contained bottles of various vitamins and sticks of incense.  She laughed deprecatingly at the incense but said that they were supposed to help mood, and that her daughter Meaghan swore by them.

The women quickly and efficiently cleaned the house while the boys cleaned the back yard.  Very soon, the dishes, glasses and utensils were washed, dried and put away, and the house put to rights while the men, who claimed they'd done all the cooking and deserved a break, drank ice cold beers in the living room telling war stories, jokes and complaining about their wives who aimed good natured complaints right back through the open kitchen door way.

Maggie made sure she was the last to leave.  It was nearly eleven but she needed to tell them her concerns before she left.

"Natie, Pazzo, do you have a minute?  I know it's late but I needed to talk to you.  I'd like to talk to Bethie and Dante but I'm not sure and I don't want to upset poor Bethie more, especially if I'm wrong, and I could be, but I had something I needed to tell you before I left." she apologized.

"Of course, Maggie.  Have a seat. What's wrong?" Natie asked, pouring out more iced tea as they sat in the kitchen.

Maggie told them what she'd noticed about the babies that afternoon and reminded them of her grandson Devon.  "Now I don't know, hon." she was quick to say.  "I'm not a doctor, and of course I have no way of being sure, only what I remembered from what we went through with Devon.  It's not the end of the world!" she assured them when she saw their faces.  "I'm a hun'ert percent sure he can hear.  But I'm afraid he might be blind."

Southern Joke: What's the difference between - 
A Yankee      - is a northerner who comes for a visit and then goes back home
Carpetbagger - a northerner who comes for a visit and goes back home loaded with loot.
Damned Yankee - a northerner who comes for a visit and never leaves.

* The Beer Barrel Polka, Jaromír Vejvoda, 1927

The Lawrence Welk Show, 
Aired from July 2, 1955 to April 17, 1982  

on the American Broadcasting Company

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