For displaced, misplaced, and nostalgic ex-Bronxites

The Bronx Will Always Keep My Parents Alive


by Annie Poggiano Fico

I

was born in October of 1954 in the Bronx at Bronx Leb anon Hospital on the Grand Concourse. I grew up near Arthur Avenue and 187th Street at 636 Crescent Avenue.

Dion and the Belmonts used to sing in front of the candy store across the street on the corner of Belmont Avenue. I remember as if it were yesterday: looking out my kitchen window right at Dion and the Belmonts while they were singing. I thought they were so cool at the time. I also remember people yelling down at them to shut them up. Then they would call the police to make them stop. Well, that didn't work; they got famous anyway.

We lived in that area until I was twelve years old when we moved to 235th Street and White Plains Road, but the greatest memories I have are of shopping on Arthur Avenue. The smell of the Italian sausages when you walked down the street, the corner store where all you smelled was the fresh prosciutto, the romano cheese and the awesome green olives in a huge barrel (which doesn't seem as huge today but to a little girl was huge at the time). The smell of the fresh-baked Italian bread has never left me. We used to go into the store when I was a little girl. Every time we were in that store a little old man would give me three green olives; that was the highlight of my day.

My parents shopped every Saturday and when they came home it was the best meal ever. It was like a feast with the fresh mozzarella, the fresh bread and the great dried sausage with the roasted red peppers. I had to taste it all. My father would never buy store-bought chicken. It had to be from the corner store where they killed the chickens and rabbits. You bought them live and they would slaughter them there, skin them, wrap them up and my dad would bring them home. My father would then put them in the freezer and only after three days were they allowed to be eaten. I still don't know why the three days, but that's the way it was. Who was I to ask questions? That was the only thing I would never eat because I had seen them alive and couldn't handle eating what I had just pet. This went on for years.

I especially enjoyed the feasts in the summer like the Feast of St. Anthony and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The smell and taste of the zeppolis that looked as good as they tasted. The Italian ices at De'Lillo's Bakery. The processions in which these little old Italian ladies have walked for years and are still faithfully part of, every year. The church is the most beautiful, warm church I've ever been in. This was where I was baptized and received my sacraments.

For years on Valentine's Day my father used to buy for my Mom at De'Lillo's Bakery a velvet heart that was imported from Italy. They used to save him the biggest one every year. The year my father passed away, I went there because I knew they would have the heart waiting for him. I bought it for my mother, and they felt so badly that my father was no longer alive but I asked them to please always save that beautiful heart for my Mom which she loved so much. I continued to buy the hearts for my Mom for six years, until she passed away. My mother had saved every single one of them for years. No one bought the beautiful velvet heart after she was gone.

Even though my parents passed away over twenty years ago, when I go back to the old neighborhood, it seems like they are still alive and well, there on Arthur Avenue. It brings back so many great memories The people there knew you and treated you like family. They really cared. It wasn't just a business for them but also a tradition, something I miss very much. I have lived in New Jersey where I raised my children then moved on to Pennsylvania, but no matter here I go it never seems like “home”. "Home" will always be the Bronx for me. Like they say "You can take the girl out of the Bronx but you can’t take the Bronx out of the girl" and it's so true. When I do go back to the neighborhood I feel so safe and happy. It seems like it will keep my parents’ memory alive forever. I was little but it seems like the store owners are still all the same people. When I'm there it seems like time stops. The same faces, the same friendly smiles, the warm loving people who are there are like no other people in the world.

May the Bronx live forever. I will treasure the beautiful memories for the rest of my life.




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