I couldn’t let this year end without a final bit of CHRISTMAS & CANNOLIS life, now could I? This scene epitomizes the family love Regina has for her parents, and they her.
Ten days before Christmas and my regular customers were starting to purchase all their treats for holiday visiting and house parties.
I glanced around the crowded storefront when I came up the stairs. The display cabinets were being restocked, the line was snaked around the bakery’s interior and out the door, and the cash registers were making beautiful Christmas music with all the chiming as each sale was rung up. I didn’t see my mother in her usual spot behind the counter, so I did a quick eye roll through the place and found her. She was seated at one of the customer tables with my father, a cup of coffee in front of each of them. Pop was holding one of her hands as he was speaking.
After fifty-plus years of marriage, my mother stared at my father as if he hung the moon for her. I simply adore this. Who, in this day and age, can boast that their parents still love and honor each other after decades of family strife, deaths, crises, and war, and can gaze at one another as if they were teenagers finding first love?
This is what fantasies are made of.
“Hey, Pop.” I kissed the top of his head and pulled out the empty chair at their table. “What are you doing here?”
“I was out making the rounds and I missed your mama, so I figured I’d come in and steal her away for a few minutes.”
See? I love this.
“You need me for somethin’, Regina Maria?” Ma asked.
“Nope. Just checking on how everything’s going on up here before I have to leave for a delivery.”
Her lips pressed together into a line, and she lowered her head to stare at me from under her eyelashes. Why I tend to forget she knows everything that goes on inside my shop, despite only working at the counter, never ceases to surprise me. Of course she knew what cake I was delivering today. She’d probably circled the date on her internal calendar as a reminder.
Pop frowned when he noticed the look Ma was throwing my way. Fifty-plus years of staring across the breakfast table at your spouse every day can make you pretty attuned to the other’s expressions, and Pop had a black belt in reading Ma’s face.
“This the big-ass Pearl’s Place order?” he asked me.
And of course Ma had told him about it. Why would I ever think she wouldn’t share that?
“Not specifically there. It’s for a fundraiser that will benefit it.”
“So you don’t gotta actually deliver it to the hospice?”
“Good. You should never even have to think about that place, much less go there, again. Gave you enough sad memories for a lifetime, bellissima figlia.”
He reached over and grabbed my hand, squeezed it twice, and then glanced over at my mother.
“I know, Pop. But it’s been six years. I’m—well, not over it. But I can handle the sadness now. Much better than I could when Angie…died.”
At the word, my mother made the sign of the cross, kissed her palm, and then leaned over to kiss my cheek. Unexpected tears stung. I tried to blink them away before my parents could notice them, but that’s the thing about my parents: they’re both acutely tuned in to their children, despite the fact all five of us are adults.
“You don’t have to deliver it, you know, Regina,” Ma said. “Nunzie and Alby are responsible. They can be counted on to do a good job.”
“I know, Ma. But I’m okay to do this, I really am. Besides—” I stood and took a quick swipe at my eyes. “—it’s my bakery, and I’m the one who worked on the cake for the past five days. I want to see the expression on Con—uh, everyone’s faces, when I bring the cake in. The girls think it’s my best one yet, and I kinda agree.”
“Every cake you do is a masterpiece,” Pop said, no small amount of pride in his voice. “If youse was around in the olden days, you woulda been one of them old-world masters, only not a master ’cause you’re a girl. But you know what I’m saying.”
“I do, Pop, and thanks.” I kissed his cheek this time, then bent to do the same to my mother. “You two finish your visit. Drink your coffee. I’ve gotta get ready.”
“You’re coming for supper after Mass tomorrow, si?”
“Yeah, Ma. I’ll be there. I’ll bring some cookies for dessert.”
“Bring a couple-a boxes,” Ma ordered. “And nothing special for your brothers this time. Let their wives bake for them if they want pies and stuff. They don’t do much of anything else aside from get their nails painted and shop. It’ll do them good to do something other than spend money.”
Remember I told you that no one was ever going to be good enough for my mother? Proof of that, right here.
I want to wish you all the Merriest of Christmas’s, the Happiest of Holidays, and all the joy, love, and laughter you can garner in the New Year. Spend time with the people who mean the most to you – it’s time well spent!
Love you all ~ Peg