My grandfather's parents were "Beatrice" and "Giuseppe." The grew up together in southern Italy in the 1880s and 1890s. When they were children, they used to go to school at the same time, although to different schools. On the way to school, Giuseppe used to weave in and out of the tiny side streets and then pop out in front of Beatrice to tease her. Sometimes he would go to her house with his little white dog (with bells on the collar) to try to catch a glimpse of her at the window. Sometimes he would go to her window with a few friends to try to serenade her, but her brothers would go to the upper windows and throw water on them.
When they became teenagers, Giuseppe's aunt would go from house to house doing women's hair. When Giuseppe's aunt went to Beatrice's house, she would bring Beatrice messages from Giuseppe. At the time Giuseppe was an apprentice tailor. Beatrice spent a lot of time weaving cloth to sell in order to fund her dowry.
One day, Giuseppe's father (a jeweler) came to call on Beatrice's father. Beatrice was terribly excited at the possibility that they might discuss her romance with Giuseppe. She listened to their conversation from behind the door. To her immense frustration, all they talked about was bird hunting. Just as he was leaving, however, Giuseppe's father asked if Giuseppe could have permission to call on Beatrice. Beatrice's father agreed.
Giuseppe duly called on Beatrice on a number of occasions, but he and Beatrice hardly spoke to each other at all during these visits. She just sat by the fire and knit, while he talked to her parents. Eventually, Giuseppe and Beatrice married in 1900. In 1901, they became proud parents of my grandfather, and immigrated to the United States the same year.
Beatrice was raised to take care of the men-folk and to function as a second mother to her rather wild brothers. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, she would knit a woolen sock every night before she went to bed, because the boys wore them out so fast. Beatrice lived until 1966 and enjoyed a very close relationship with my father, who was her oldest grandson. My father recalls that his grandmother felt very strongly that the males in the family should be waited on. If my father were ever going to bring a chair from the kitchen to the dining room for example, his grandmother would make him stop and would tell one of his aunts to do it instead. My father was never to pick up his plate or carry any platters, but rather was expected to allow his aunts and female cousins to serve him and the other males. A typical old-world grandma, Beatrice was very hard on her daughters while coddling her son and grandsons. Family wisdom has it that the reason two of my great-aunts never married was that Beatrice insisted that they stay with her to take care of her in her old age.
In 1929, Beatrice's oldest son, my grandfather, married my grandmother, a progressive, birth-control-loving, Jewish feminist. I can't imagine that there was much love lost between my grandmother and my great-grandmother. Apparently Beatrice's "my son can do no wrong" mentality won out, and my unconventional grandmother was tolerated at family gatherings.