Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spaghetti Sunday

It was late in 1947 when my stature in near adulthood comes to life.  And yes this little tale does indeed involve film production.

How do I remember it was late 1947?  My paternal grandmother decided to have the Leggio clan over for a spaghetti dinner one Sunday late that year.   Because I had just turned 12 years of age, I was now allowed to eat at the big table with the adults.  The kids (including my younger brother, Wayne) all had to sit at the “kid table” where, until this momentous occasion, I had previously sat (before turning 12).  So on this “spaghetti Sunday” I really felt special.

My grandmother's 2-story home was on the corner of Royal and America streets in downtown Baton Rouge.  The back of her house abutted the back of the then Governor's Mansion on North Blvd.

I sat next to my older cousin, Buddy.  I was crazy about Buddy.  He was 5 years older than me and was a lot of fun.  And “fun” is an understatement in describing the events of this particular Sunday gathering.

About half of the Leggio clan was  in attendance. Besides my brother and our parents there were 3 aunts, 1 uncle, 4 in-law spouses and about 7 cousins.  At the big round table were the adults.   At the small square table were the kids.

Buddy was a perpetual practical joker.  And since I was now among the adults I got to enjoy being in close proximity to his antics. 

On this particular occasion he had acquired a spool of white thread.  He tied the thread’s end to a black cardboard cut-out of a cockroach.   Our Aunt Estelle was a lovable, high-energy and high-strung lady.  Knowing where she was going to be sitting, Buddy draped the cockroach-end of the spool about a foot over the table’s edge just opposite her chair.  The white table cloth would essentially render the white thread “invisible”.  Buddy was holding the spool end of the thread.  (Yes, yes, I know you’re way ahead of me).

Grandma Leggio was busy in the kitchen cooking spaghetti and meatballs.  My uncle George busied himself going back and forth into the kitchen to check on Grandma’s progress.  George was a big man and was trying to be patient and control his ravenous appetite.  

Pretty soon everyone except Grandma (who is still in the kitchen) is seated, ready to enjoy Grandma’s famous spaghetti dinner.   Uncle George, of course, is still up and down checking on the kitchen progress.  

Buddy now leans over to me and says “Watch this.”  He proceeds to slowly reel in the white thread.  Now appears the “cockroach” next to Aunt Estelle’s place setting.  And NOW we hear a deafening “AAAAHH, a roach, A ROACH” as she leaps up, spilling her water and causing 2 or 3 other family guests to do the same.

I always wondered why my Aunt Lou wore a men's leather belt around her waist.  I now knew. suddenly Buddy is now yelling “Momma, Momma!” as Aunt Lou, Buddy’s mom, takes a belt to him.  And during this “roach” commotion we suddenly hear Uncle George now yelling “Momma, MOMMA!” Grandma, who has been clobbering George with a spatula, comes into the dining room announcing “George has eaten all the meatballs.  So it looks like we’ll be having spaghetti WITHOUT meatballs.”  

While my Dad is still laughing at Buddy's little prank,  my mom shames me for it and Aunt Lou defends me with "Audrey, that was entirely Buddy's doings, not Jerry Jr's"  And yes I dearly loved my Aunt Lou.

Dinner now ends and Uncle Jules requests that everyone join him and Aunt Frances in the living room.  He and Frances had just returned from a 6 week European vacation.  We were all going to be treated to 8 millimeter movie footage of their trip.  He had shot about 10 rolls of film.  (I told you this story would be about film production).

While Uncle Jules is preparing the projector with the first of his film rolls, we all settle into our seats in the living room (the “kids” get to sit on the floor) in preparation of the big travel log.  Neither Jules nor Frances had seen these processed film rolls.   Jules wanted them to be as fresh to him and Frances as to his family.

OK, the projector is now projecting.  But, OMG, what we see is a big flesh colored section of frame with just a small corner showing something that Aunt Frances disgustedly describes as a “beautiful country-side in Italy if Jules’ THUMB wasn’t in the picture.”  Uncle Jules was a cigar smoker.  When he shot the footage, his thumb would somehow wind up over the lens.   But because the eyepiece was clear it didn’t occur to him that the lens might not be clear.  And so his thumb was the dominant subject of their trip.   Nonetheless we all had to sit and watch about 30 minutes of “thumb” while Aunt Frances described what we were supposed to be seeing.

Fading memory does not allow me to remember whether or not we had dessert that Sunday.  But no amount of dessert could have substituted for the unending series of “entertainments” we enjoyed that day.   And, though my milestone 12th birthday had already come and gone, I considered this “Spaghetti Sunday” the best present I could have received, my very own special Thanksgiving.


  1. No one who has lived any length of time can run out of stories. Funny 12th birthday story. I kept flashing on the antics of Our Gang with the roach bit. Keep 'em coming.

    1. Thanks, Raymond. And I was glad to hear about your Broadway success. You keep 'em coming too, my friend.