If I could talk I could tell you about so many holidays and other family get-togethers. I have seen generations gather around me and then disappear to be replaced by a newer generation. But I’m only a table. A handsome table to be sure, and believe me I remember a lot, but no one can hear the stories I could tell. Tom and Mary DeNicolo bought me sometime in the early 1950’s, I don’t quite remember the date as I’m pretty old, but it was definitely prior to 1954, I had been on display in the “John M. Smyth” furniture store, a very upscale establishment on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. Mary DeNicolo had just gotten a job outside the home. Buying me and my “associates,” a buffet and China Closet was part of an overall redecorating process for their home.
The DeNicolo family, consisting of Thomas and Mary DeNicolo, Anne DeNicolo, Gloria DeNicolo, and the Matriarch Archangela Spennacchio (Nana or Grandmother to Anne and Gloria), lived at that time at 3552 West Huron St. on the West Side of Chicago. This was known as the “Garfield Park” neighborhood. They lived in an upstairs two-bedroom apartment and this is where they lived when Don Carriker met Anne.
Shortly after they met Anne invited Don to come for a Sunday dinner and meet the family. She also invited Fr. Nicholas Carsello, a favorite priest from her parish “Our Lady of the Angels” in Chicago. They ate while seated around me. That dinner was a fateful one. Fr. Carsello later sent Anne a note telling her that Don was “a nice pagan” all right, but she should have nothing more to do with him. Several months later Fr. Carsello baptized Don. He later performed a Solemn Engagement Ceremony for Don and Anne that was followed several months later by a Solemn High Nuptial Mass wedding in Our Lady of the Angels Church. It all began while they were seated in one of my chairs.
Before those things, however, there were many other family dinners – Easter and Christmas dinners were especially memorable with the whole extended family, including Uncle Frank and Aunt Teresa Campobasso, Pat and Sarah Spennacchio, Don, Anne, and the rest of the Tom DeNicolo family. I held the weight of a lot of great food; ravioli’s, spaghetti with Nana’s homemade “gravy,” and lavish Christmas Eve seafood dinners. The conversations and comments I heard at these dinners was classic Italian: From Nana: “Madonna mia, the ravioli’s broke up while they were boiling.” From Uncle Frank: (teasingly to Nana) “They came better last year.” And when the food wasn’t being put away fast enough Nana would say: “Manga, manga, (eat, eat)” piling more food on the plates of those protesting “No more, Nana, I’m full.”
When Don was still “new” to the family Nana, noting that he wasn’t eating vigorously would say to Anne, “He eats like a bird.” Later, after Don and Anne were “a couple” they often ate slower than Nana wanted. She would then say to Anne, “Someday I hope you’re rich enough to have a maid to take care of you.” All in all it was FAMILY enjoying life.
Years later, while Black rioters were burning huge sections of Chicago including the Garfield Park area Tom and Mary DeNicolo, along with “Nana” sold that property and moved to Barrington IL. I moved with them and continued to be a family center for holiday dinners. As the older family members passed on the dinners pretty much faded into memory.
When Tom DeNicolo died (Mary had died a few years earlier), I was passed on to Anne, who by this time had been Anne Carriker for well over 30 years. I served very few family dinners for several years while I followed Don and Anne through several relocations.
In 1995 Don and Anne moved to Springfield MO and for the next few years I again became the focal point for several family dinners – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, etc. But now “family” consisted of Don and Anne’s children, or at least some of them. My surface has been used many times as a “playing field” for such raucous games as “Spoons,” and “Pit.” As Don and Anne’s grandchildren came along and grew older, these dinners like those of the DeNicolo’s in an earlier time, dwindled.
In 2007 Don and Anne retired, sold their house in Springfield and moved out into the Ozark hill country near Chadwick MO to live on property owned by their children, Jim and Alicia Williamson. Since then I have hosted only a handful of family dinners. Most of my chairs were relegated to “storage” in the garage.
In August, 2011, I was passed on to Don and Anne’s youngest son and daughter-in-law, Nathan and Pam Carriker and moved with them to their new home in Mansfield TX where I will, hopefully, once again be the gathering place for another generation of family.
Thanks, Golden, creative writing is an outlet for me in my old age. (Most other "possibilities" have departed with my younger years.) I was the first non-Italian to marry into the family. You would guess rightly if you thought it was an interesting "adventure."
Don, it's so great to read more of your incredible stories. I chuckled after the first few sentences when I figured out that it was a kitchen table talking. What a great idea!!! t allowed you to share so much. That is as creative as it gets. Thanks again.
PS: I can only imagine being the first and only non-Italian to arrive. One of Christine's sisters married an Italian. She may as well be a true blood Italian after decades.
Marrying into an Italian family was a little grim, at times, at first. "Nana" -an immigrant- would not speak to me in first person until she was convinced that I was going to be a "fixture" in the family. She referred to me, in her broken English, as "that a-one." A few years later she softened up quite nicely.