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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

#11.Part 4—16 Shetland

Inside was an entry way. Stairs went upstairs along the left wall. To the right was a large living room. A door at the back of the living room led to a large dining room. I don’t remember much about these rooms except that the furniture was dark, and there was never much light except in the kitchen. I believe the walls had a dusty rose old-fashioned wall paper with some sort of floral design. In the living room was doorstop that I adored. A white marble lamb. That is the only detail I recall. Except for the paint which I will get to soon.

So anyway, walking back through the dining room, you came to a door in the right rear corner that led to the kitchen. It was a huge room with an old gas stove to your left as you walked into the room. Counter space of a sort followed the wall around to a sink.  

In the left rear corner of the kitchen was a pantry. Steps along the back wall led upstairs to the bedrooms and bathroom. A door in the right rear of the room opened into an small enclosed porch of sorts and a door that led outside. 

Aunt Carrie once told me that when she came home from school, she came in the back way. On very cold days, her mother took off her slippers and let Aunt Carrie put them on to warm her feet.

(Oh, by the way, Eugene as pronounced by Grandpa with an Italian accent was Yawgin.)

It was not long after we moved to Pittsburgh from Detroit that my grandmother had what I think must have been a stroke. She would be sitting in a rocking chair by the door and as always was dressed in black. But let me back up a bit and tell about the visits before she became ill.

Above the sink in the kitchen was a narrow shelf. I remember this because there was something on that shelf above the sink that Eugene always pointed to when he looked inside his mother’s eyes with whatever that scope is called. He turn off the light, and as we all sat in the dark, he would tell her to look past him at that object, then look into her eyes.

I first went to 16 Shetland when I was probably 3 1/2. I never remember my grandmother talking to me. In fact, I always felt small there, with life going on in the world above and around me. This was not a world for children. 

Angela Sara didn’t speak English, always dressed in black, and could be found at the stove cooking. Domenic would never allow her to learn English. Her primary job was cooking. Yawgin would tell how one of the kids delivered a hot meal to Domenic at his shoemaker shop every day. There were six children: Benjamin who died very young . . . and in Italy. Apparently, Grandma had been nursing a child not hers for a woman who had been ill. A disease was somehow communicated from that child to Benjamin who died.

Remaining were Mary: listed on the ship’s manifest from Italy as Concetta. She and Angela emigrated from Maierato, italy in 1901.
And then born here: Joseph, Carolyn known to us as Aunt Carrie, Domenic known to us as Uncle Dom and Eugene . . . aka Yawgin.

I only saw Angela Sara animated once. I was four. She had cooked dinner for the family. Everyone was gathered around the dining room table. The room was full of light and laughter and food. Food was everywhere. Everything homemade. Aunt Carrie told me her mother was a master bread maker. And I remember the soup served in flat white soup bowls. 

But when I saw here after that she was sitting in the chair dressed in black, rocking. 

I don’t think 16 Shetland was ever a house of spiritual awareness or forgiveness. Yawgin tells the story of how he was angry at his father and went down in the basement to dwell with his rage. He hadn’t heard his mother come down and happened to throw a piece of coal out of anger. She thought he threw it at her and wouldn’t believe he hadn’t.

There is the story of how Domenic retired early simply because he was tired of working. Aunt Mary was teaching and turned over all her money to him. She would arrive home and go in the back door and just stand there while he berated her and hit her about the shoulders and arms. They told the story laughing, but no one thought it was funny. 

Domenic was an alcoholic. I can only imagine what he was trying to escape through vino. All I know is what I have told you. He was an angry man who loved opera, learning, and the mind. He had friends who were doctors, professors, and bank presidents. They would come to 16 Shetland and to shoemaker shop on Frankstown Blvd. to visit and discuss philosophical matters. 

Yawgin said the shoes his father made were exquisite. And that he was full of philosophy and discussion for his own friends. Not for his family, though. Yawgin got all As in school and skipped a grade he was so smart. His father would never look at his report card. Yawgin would go to the shoemaker shop and sit in the high chair where patrons sat to have their feet measured and fitted. He would talk, but his father never said a word or made an effort to converse. 

Once Domenic had a gun and was threatening to shoot Angela. Uncle Dom and Yawgin fought him for the gun. Yawgin put his hand over the barrel. Can you imagine if it had gone off. 

There was a funny story about the wine which Domenic drank and made himself. I wish I could have tried it. He made it in a barrel and once there was a real short guy in the neighborhood who managed to fall in head first. This story was always recalled amidst great hilarity.

There were all sorts of stories. 

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