AA’s Memories, Part Five

“In one corner of the room was built a waist-high brick oven. Mama baked bread, pizza, pigne (anise flavored Easter bread), and other goodies in it. She used wood to fire it and knew exactly how much and how long to burn it before removing the ashes and inserting the loaves to bake. No timer, no thermostat, and the results were always excellent.

A pantry in the opposite corner held most of our food – conserves, cheeses, and fruits. Prosciutto and sausages hung from the ceiling. The pantry was off-limits to us children except when Mama was present.

Once a year, in January, our pig was butchered with the help of uncles, cousins, and neighbors. A mammoth 3’x5’x3′ boulder with a very flat top graced our front door. We used it for myriad purposes all year long. It was our meat block on a special Sunday in January when every family member joined in preparing the parts of the hog for cooking or processing. It was a feast day for us children but much work for the men and women. Everyone enjoyed a great meal when finished. (The boulder I mentioned was one of many excavated by Papa and too large to be used in the construction of the house so he placed it and another on each side of the main door.) There was another door for the lower floor.

The beds were to one side of the room and a stairway led to the third floor. A very large storage chest was at the foot of Mama’s bed and a tall hutch on the pantry wall contained dishes and utensils. Each autumn corn husking was done in this room also and when completed, the floor was swept, fresh corn was boiled, and roasted and a good time was had by all, eating and dancing. This was usually a neighborhood activity. This floor was truly a multipurpose area.

The third floor consisted of 4 rooms, 3 of which each had a fireplace. This floor was rented most of the time. It had an entrance at the rear of the house, at the higher elevation of the mountain. At this level also was a smaller door to a huge bin that dropped to the second floor, used for hay to be lowered into the manger as needed. (I once fell through the opening from the second floor and hurt the back of my head falling into the manger. It frightened Mama as I was bleeding but recovered shortly thereafter.)

The construction of the house was in stages because funds would become exhausted and only by returning to the States could Papa earn money. Thus a few months before Louie was born, January 29, 1910, Papa went to Naples, the port of embarkation and was forbidden passage. Instead of going back home to Castel di Sangro, he approached another steamship departing for Buenos Aires, Argentina. There he was accepted and sailed to South America.”

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