On a hot July afternoon, the nonnas are sitting on folding chairs at the curb, crocheting lace trim on linen handkerchiefs, and watching their grandchildren play in water spewing from a fire hydrant. “Too hot to cook tonight,” one says, “maybe I make sandwiches.”
The others almost in a chorus pooh-pooh her. “You know you’re going […]
South Brooklyn, 1947, Palm Sunday afternoon. Palm fronds cover a kitchen table where the nonnas sit weaving strands into sculptures. Each twists and braids and ties the green- edged leaves into crucifixes, wreaths, and miniature crosses. They glance at one another’s creations admiring the braiding technique, but never saying so.
“Now we finish these,” one […]
The nonnas leave their apartments to shop for food and fabric, to pay their respects at wakes, to have coffee with one another, and, of course, to make novenas and go to Mass. Oh, they also throw in a spare afternoon to clean the church. Aside from these obligations, they rarely have to walk out the front door, because much […]
One of the nonnas’ greatest joys on Thanksgiving morning is to dress the grandchildren in ragamuffin outfits for their run around the neighborhood begging for coins, candy, crayons, or “anything for Thanksgiving.” The nonnas take the old custom seriously, and try to outdo one another in providing the children with clothing that makes them look as […]
The nonnas arrive at the storefront factory at 8:45am. Each carries a paper lunch bag filled with last night’s leftovers, no matter what they are (even pasta often turns up), stuffed into a sandwich. They greet one another as the forelady distributes the sleeves, yokes, and facings that they will turn into parts of […]