Building and Rebuilding

Since March I’ve been spending money. After my father’s estate was settled, I tried to imagine how he would want me to spend his hard-earned money. I decided he would be happy if I invested in something that would make me happy. Something tangible. Something that would make my life better. With this in mind, I decided to make our home more wheelchair accessible.

We began making changes two summers ago when Ken’s relatives pooled their money and had a wheelchair ramp built. A few months later, an van with a wheelchair lift came into our life. Our transformation continued the following January by moving our washing and drying machines upstairs. So, I continued the process with my windfall.

First we remodeled the kitchen, opening the doorway by twelve inches and building in a table with no legs at a higher height so Ken can easily sit at the table. For me, I got a sink as big and deep as a pig trough, more cupboard space, easy-to-keep clean flooring, and new lighting. Needless to say, I LOVE my new kitchen.

In the living room, I had the contractor eliminate the 1950’s half wall and spindles so when Ken blasts through the front door he has a clear shot into the living room. I also had him widen and extend the flooring so Ken can park his wheelchair off the carpeting. Oh yeah, and we replaced the carpeting throughout the house too with a short pile that’s soft on  my feet, but tight enough to take the wear of his motorized chair.

To finish off our home improvement project, we had the contractor paint the kitchen, living room, and hallway. I gotta tell you, it’s like we moved but didn’t have to pack.

I’m sure my Dad is happy we used his money to improve our home because he and my mother always kept their place in tip-top condition.

What’s next? The garage. Yup. But we already discussed that project and it’s lack of progress.


APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2 Continued

Chapter 12

Warsaw, Poland — July 1939—Uncle Hans drove Heidi to the Gessler mansion the next morning. As his tiny niece ascended the front steps and ran the bell he wished he had the means to hire her himself. A woman with dark curly hair answered the door, and Heidi disappeared into the house.

Hans relaxed into the upholstered car seat and reflected on how happy Heidi made his children. Since she came to visit, her joyful disposition breathed life back into them. She filled the void their mother left; something he could never do.

Hans also saw changes in Heidi. Her initial shyness disappeared in just a few short days. She gained a great deal of confidence as she ran the household while he worked,  Hans dreaded the thought of not having her around.

Heidi stayed in the large house for almost an hour before she returned to the car with a brilliant smile.

“Uncle Hans, I’m hired!” She bubbled as she embraced him.

Hans wanted to be happy for her, but his voice couldn’t mask his disappointment. “That’s wonderful, Heidi.” He turned on the ignition and stared ahead.

Heidi jabbered on. “Mrs. Gessler wants me to start on Wednesday.”

“That’s only two days from now!” Hans frowned.

“Yes. She said she would prefer for me start today, but she wanted to make sure my room is ready. You should see it, Uncle Hans. A huge window looks out to the backyard which is filled with wild flowers. The bed is big enough for four people! In my wildest dreams I never thought I would sleep in such a wonderful room.”

Hans raised his eyebrows. “You will live with them?”

“Yes, Uncle. The position is for a live-in nanny.” Heidi’s face brightened. “The children are adorable, and the rest of the house is as beautiful as any king’s castle. A grand piano sits in the living room!”

Hans remained silent realizing he couldn’t counter an offer the Gessler’s made to Heidi.

Heidi bubbled over. “Best of all, Mrs. Gessler is an artist. Her wonderful paintings are displayed throughout the house. When I admired a painting of a ballerina, I told her I dreamed to become a dancer. She offered to introduce me to the national ballet troupe. She serves on the Warsaw orchestra and dance company. so she promised to get me an audition! Isn’t that wonderful?”

Hans forced a smile and nodded. He didn’t want to burst Heidi’s bubble. “Yes, Heidi. It is wonderful for you. But won’t you be lonely without your family around?”

“I suppose. But three children under the age of six will keep me very busy.” Her laugh sounded like musical notes traipsing up the scale.

Hans remained silent.

“Uncle, do you not want me to take this position?”

Hans cleared his throat. “Of course not; you should take the position–” His voice trailed off. “I am being selfish. I am sad your visit proved to be so short. ” He took a breath. ” I apologize.” She reached over and touched his hand on the steering wheel. “Please do not be sad. My weekends are free when Mr. Gessler is at home. He travels during the week, so that is when Mrs. Gessler needs my help. Uncle. I can visit you and the children then.”

“I wanted to suggest you stay with us whenever you are not working.” A slice of a genuine smile formed on his face. “I love this job makes you so happy. Tell me one thing, though. Are the Gesslers Jewish people?”

“Yes, Uncle. Does that make a difference?”

“No,” he said. “I just wondered.”

Chapter 13

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August, 1939—Rosalie Lombardo’s August wedding turned out to be the biggest event of the summer. Donna Jean stayed at Josie’s house the night before the wedding, so she could help Josie with her hair and make-up.  Donna prided herself on the art of primping and preening, so she took over the challenge of enhancing Josie’s best features.

The simple floor-length butter yellow bridesmaid dresses looked beautiful on all the girls. A small slit in the back of the dress allowed for easy walking in the sheath design. The bodice rose up modestly to the neck and a demur capped sleeve covered the top of their slim arms. The girls slipped the light yellow crepe creations up over their hips and zipped the dressed closed, As they wiggled into the tight-fitting dresses, Donna Jean wondered how Rosalie’s plump sisters would look in such a fitted gown. She thought these dresses must be Rosalie’s way of getting back at her older sisters for all the grief she endured as the youngest in the family.

Holy Trinity Church opened the doors at nine thirty for the ten o’clock wedding. Angelo and Rosalie’s baptisms, first communions, and confirmation ceremonies took place in this church. The congregation watched the pair grow up in the faith. Angelo’s parents owned a flower shop and decorated the church with yellow roses on the ends of all the pews. A matching large bouquet sat on the altar.

The girls arrived at the church around half past nine. Rosalie’s Aunt Melina ushered them to the church basement and helped them pin on crowns of yellow roses and baby’s breath with silk white with yellow ribbons falling down to their waists. The attendants carried white baskets filled with yellow roses and white carnations.

Rosalie and her mother entered through the back door to the church, and Donna Jean gasped when Rosalie entered into the church in her wedding dress. Petite Rosalie wore a fitted silk and antique lace dress with a dropped waistline. An organza skirt flowed down to the floor, and when she walked, it appeared like she floated.

“Rosalie, you’re so beautiful!” Donna ran to her and gave her a hug. “You look like a bride on top of a wedding cake!”

Rosalie’s thick red hair was pulled into a pony tale at the top of her head, and thick curls cascaded down to her shoulders. A sheer white veil trimmed in antique lace fell from a tiara.

Josie stood frozen. How could this beautiful bride be the same girl who used to get stuck in apple trees and wore bandages on each knee until her twelfth birthday?

“Josie, you okay?” Rosalie asked.

The question jarred Josie into the present. “I’m fine, but you’re just so darn beautiful you take my breath away. You look like one of God’s angels.”

Rosalie blushed. “I wonder what Angelo will think when he sees me.”

Her mother gestured with her hands as she spoke in her broken English. “If that boy does not appreciate the way you look, he’s stupido and does not deserve you. I will take you home!” All five bridesmaids howled at the joke. A few seconds later a deacon rushed into the basement shushing them.

In another few minutes, the girls lined up for their entrance. The five bridesmaids walked down the long aisle on a white cloth the ushers rolled out for them. After they all reached the front of the church, the organ paused and then played  Eduardo waited in the back of the church and stared at his daughter with glistening eyes. He took her tiny gloved hand and threaded her arm through the crook of his arm. He whispered, “Sei cosbella mia figlia.” Eduardo Told Rosalie she never looked more beautiful.

“Graci, Papa.” Rosalie smiled and appeared as calm as a warm summer’s night. The congregation stood and waited for her to pass by. The first notes of “The Trumpet March,” acted as Rosalie’s cue to begin her journey down the aisle to transform from a single girl to a married woman.

A small tear teetered on the edge of Eduardo’s eyelid. He took his first step to give his daughter to another man who waited for her at the front of the church.  He smiled at friends and family who stood to witness his little Rosie change her name from Lombardo to Armani.

Angelo’s eyes stayed fixated on Rosie. He stood tall and proud in a new navy blue suit perfectly tailored to his muscular frame. He also wore a special red bow tie his mother gave him that morning. As Rosalie and Eduardo got closer, his large brown eyes widened, and he held his breath.

Eduardo stopped at the step leading to the altar. He lifted Rosalie’s veil, placed a gentle kiss on her cheek and put her hand into Angelo’s calloused hand. Eduardo turned and took his place beside his wife in the front pew. He removed his handkerchief from his inside breast pocked and dabbed his eyes. Eduardo cried through his smile. Maria’s eyes leaked too.

Angelo helped Rosalie up three more steps to stand in front of the priest. At that moment his nervousness disappeared. He waited for this day since his thirteenth birthday, and he thanked God for his beautiful bride.


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