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Mama’s Not-So-Little Secret

(by Jo Gonsalves)

Several years after Mama had lost her battle with cancer, I was in Los Angeles visiting with her two older sisters, Virginia and Theresa. Aunt Virginia had come to live with Aunt Theresa for a few months after her husband passed, but the arrangement was destined for failure from the start. Aunt Virginia was strong-willed and opinionated, and held fast to her old country Sicilian ways, while Aunt Theresa was a fiercely independent modernist who embraced her new country and openly scoffed at tradition. My mother served as the buffer between these two, and with her gone, they were doomed to argue over everything.

Picture me, sitting between them on Aunt Theresa’s silk brocade living room couch, munching on her famous rum cake, sipping from my tiny cup of espresso, as they reminisced about their dear departed sister, Angie. We were looking through faded sepia photographs that Aunt Virginia brought out to share with me. There they were, posed against the stone walls of the family home in Valderice, Sicily, my mother and her two older sisters as young girls dressed in knee socks and drop-waist dresses.