Aglio e olio: Chapter Two

Every white boy I’ve ever made spaghetti with garlic and oil for loved it.

I don’t know at what age human beings first become aware of what they look like and where they fit in; who their tribe is; what group they belong to.

The first four years of my life I lived in an Italian-Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx. I have no memory of awareness of anyone being any different from anyone else. The only difference, in my experience, between Italians and Jews is the day they go to church.

When my grandmother sold the house we lived in we moved to the projects, still in the Bronx but now with a more mixed bag of neighbors. (For those unfamiliar with the term ‘projects’ they are public housing – you know, for poor people.) I remember that our neighbors directly across from our apartment were named “Rivera”.  Since us kids were pretty the same age the doors were always left open and we floated back and forth between the two apartments.

Back in the old days your parent’s friends were called Aunt and Uncle.  My mother had a friend, Margie Yates. Margie was from Jamaica, the Caribbean Island, not the neighborhood in Queens.  And yes, Aunt Margie was Black.  I adored her. I loved to hear her talk, that Jamaican accent – musical and magical.

Walking home from school with my friend Sheryl, I told her she had to come up and meet my Aunt Margie, who I knew was visiting that day. I don’t remember any of that encounter but I do remember that when Sheryl and I went outside to play, I guess I was gushing about Aunt Margie. Sheryl blurted out (this is the 19050’s remember) “But she’s colored! My reply? “No, she’s my Aunt Margie.”

I was perhaps 6 or 7 years old and still wasn’t aware that what you looked like mattered.  No one had told me. I hadn’t experienced being different yet.

When I was 8 we moved to Queens and that all changed.

~~~ To be continued

7 thoughts on “Aglio e olio: Chapter Two

    1. There will be more, I actually have a point to make. This all started the other day when I made spaghetti with garlic and oil for lunch and my husband said “Mmm – my favorite” and I replied “All you white boys like it.”


    1. I’m really getting into writing these days – once you start you can’t stop. I think tomorrow I’ll do Aunts and Uncle and then maybe Chapter 3…


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