Yesterday the weather was beautiful. Breezy, sunny, warm not hot, and a joy to be outside. We played a game of Scrabble on the new patio, sipped a beer, and laughed together. I tried to ignore the frustrations of my backyard which is still under construction.
It all began when we decided to build a new garage. The old one leaned to the left so badly I thought it might fall over. The paint peeled, the roof went organic, and the concrete cracked in at least a dozen pieces.
The general contractor demolished the old garage, left the outdoor stuff under one of our large trees, and the other “perishable” stuff went down to the basement. The cement contractor came a couple of days later and removed the garage floor, the old patio, and the complete driveway with an excavator which kept the neighborhood boys and me entertained for the afternoon. The next day, the rain came.
Now we had mud and were held captive for three days. Yuck. On top of that, the contractor found a city water shut off and our troubles increased.
Our contractor went to the city and told the people who hand out building permits what he had found. He got shuttled from one inspector to another, each of them saying it was unbelievable we had a water shut off on our property. Then men started to show up in our backyard. At least four inspectors from different departments made our acquaintance. It turns out, we not only have water lines running across the middle of our back yard, but we also have sewer lines! What were they saying? I couldn’t replace my old garage with a new one on my property? I couldn’t believe it.
I found myself in front of the Public Works Committee and plead my case. They approved my planned garage with stipulations which would come from the City Attorney. Do you see why I hate politicians? Nobody wanted to make a decision.
Two weeks later I received a letter from the City Attorney, along with a document I need to sign in front of a Notary Public, which means BOTH Ken and I must go to the bank and put our signatures on the document BEFORE we can get a building permit.
I’m pooped. I just want a new garage and at this point, I will sign most anything. Hopefully, in a couple more weeks I can hide my garage stuff in a new building and be able to cut the grass.
Color me exhausted.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS
Berlin, Germany, 1937—People considered Leisel Fuchs an Aryan beauty. Her large almond shaped blue eyes sparkled, while her long butter blond hair framed her flawless oval face. Her high cheekbones always appeared a soft shade of pink without any make-up. In another world Leisel surely would be a movie star or at least a pin-up for male athletic lockers.
Her parents expected Leisel to be bright, polite, and thoroughly versed in how to run a household. As the daughter of a Nazi senior officer, she needed to be especially careful because other officers scrutinized her public behavior and would report to her father if they caught her doing something unladylike. Then she would face her father’s wrath.
Henrich Fuchs grew up as a butcher’s son in a poor section of the city, but he never talked about his childhood. His neighbors happened to be Jewish shopkeepers, and as a youngster he played with their children. His attitude toward his old neighbors changed after he joined the Nazi party. Like his brethren Nazis, Henrich believed Jews were inferior beings and should be punished according to the new laws. He joined other SS Nazis humiliating and beating Jewish men on the streets. He participated in the “Krystal Naught” and laughed as synagogues burned and store windows of Jewish shopkeepers crashed into the streets.
Henrich and his dutiful wife enjoyed the fruits of his high rank in Hitler’s elite SS. They lived in a beautiful home situated in the best part of the city. Leisel’s parents instructed their perfect Aryan girl the new regime understood the way to prosperity. Her father believed Leisel would make a beautiful wife for some worthy SS officer he would hand pick. On the surface Leisel bought into her father’s dream of pairing her with a handsome Nazi to produce a large family of perfect Aryan children.
Deep down, Leisel aspired to be more than a perfect wife. She wanted to attend the university and become a professor of mathematics or astronomy.
Lacrosse, Wisconsin – 1937—Rosalie held the position of the fourth child of Eduardo and Maria Lombardo. Her crop of thick, red hair caused people to think she hailed from the Irish ancestry, but her dark chocolate eyes attested to her Italian heritage. Her unusual coloring caused a controversy in the Lombardo family because all of her sisters, brothers, and many cousins sported dark curly hair. Rosalie stuck out like a bastard stepchild and many whispers of her legitimacy wafted through the family.
Eduardo ignored any such remarks knowing his daughter took after his beloved mother. The first time he held his little girl, he cried believing God blessed him with his mother’s spirit. His last memory of his Mama lingered in his mind. He still pictured her tear-stained face when he set sail for America at age sixteen. As the years went by, his mother’s image faded in his mind, but with the birth of Rosalie, kept his mother’s love alive in his heart.
Eduardo found life in America challenging. He suffered the stigma of being Italian and the humiliation of speaking poor English. Racial slurs and jokes about his heritage often came his way, but he ignored the stupidity of others. He kept his head high, worked hard, and always tried to be a good American citizen. At eighteen he married Maria; at twenty he owned his own home, and at twenty-two he opened his restaurant.
He envisioned creating a bistro like one he frequented in Italy . He rewired, painted, and fixed the plumbing in an old building on Main Street to pass the city inspector’s stern eye. His best friend Guido painted the bare white walls with colorful frescos of Italian villas with mountainous backgrounds and a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Often when Eduardo admired Guido’s work, he got homesick.
When Lombardo’s Restaurante first opened, Eduardo cooked his Mama’s old world recipes. Six round tables covered with red and white checked tablecloths sat in the little cafe, while Italian music wafted through the little establishment from a phonograph. Tables filled up every night before the Depression for the good food and the ambiance. Eduardo created a little piece of southern Italy in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.
After the Depression in 1929, business got tough. The overflowing customers who waited over thirty minutes for a table, stopped coming all together. Eduardo found it nearly impossible to keep food in the bellies of his eight children. After ten years of drought, the restaurant started picking up as more men went back to work full time.
Tonight was Rosalie’s sixteenth birthday party. Her friends planned to eat dinner at the restaurant and then go out to see a movie. Eduardo didn’t understand how his youngest child grew up so fast. His petite daughter grew into a stunning beauty. Her long red hair fell on her shoulders like a veil, while her dark brown eyes sparkled-especially when Angelo Armani made an appearance.
For most of those sixteen years, the Lombardo family lived next door to the Armani family. Rosalie and Angelo became friends when they wore diapers. They attended Catholic school together, and everyone said the two made a good match.
Angelo proved to be a good kid, but the day he dropped out of school Eduardo demanded Rosalie stop seeing him. He believed any man who wanted to be serious about his daughter needed an education to be successful in America. He couldn’t bear the thought his daughter would suffer because she married an uneducated man.
Angelo’s father teamed up with Eduardo on the benefits of completing high school, but their lectures fell on deaf ears, and a stubborn Angelo took a job as an assembly worker at the Autolite plant. He only told the truth to Rosalie one night as they parked by the river.
“Your father isn’t happy with me.” Angelo stared ahead trying to conceal the tears forming in his eyes.
“I can’t argue, Angelo. School is important.”
“It’s so hard, Rosie. I’m tired of failing.”
“But you’re so smart! You rebuilt this car we’re sitting in. The fence you built in the backyard is perfect. I don’t want you to quit either.”
“Oh, Rosie I can rebuild or build anything with my hands, but studying ancient history and algebra is not for me. Besides,” he pulled her close and placed a gentle kiss on her mouth. “I want to give you a house before we get married. Two years will go fast.”
Rosie returned his kiss. “Not fast enough.”
Rosalie never looked at another boy. As soon as she graduated, she planned to marry Angelo, give birth to his children, and probably work in her father’s restaurant until she turned eighty.