he was a little scary, even when he was smiling
and joking. Yet, when I was hospitalized to have my tonsils removed, he was waiting on
the porch steps the day I came home with a huge teddy bear in his arms.
Several times, I watched him cut newspapers into neat stacks of dollar-sized rectangles
and then wrap a few real bills around a wad of them, holding them in place with a rubber
band before stuffing them into his pants and suit jacket pockets. Little did I know then
that Uncle Moe would become one of the “major gambling figures in syndicated crimes.”
(Gus Russo, Supermob, Bloomsbury, USA, c2006, pp.337-343.)
My mother, Selma—or the more formalized Americanized form, Sarah—was the baby
of the family. She had five older siblings who quickly tagged her with the nickname
Babe, a name that stuck for the rest of her life.
I must admit that I called my mother Placenta throughout my adulthood, and believe it
or not, she would always answer, even from across a room. She was quite a character and
is the only woman I’ve ever known who donned a shower cap and a bathing suit to
defrost the freezer in the years before the automatic defrosting mechanism was invented.
Her oldest sister, my Auntie Celia, was married to a good man, according to my
mother, but he died shortly after I was born. Sam Rice and his family owned jewelry
stores in Providence, Rhode Island. Unfortunately, Auntie Celia and Sam had no
children, so she doted on my sister and me all our lives. A sweet and gentle soul, she was
the epitome of kindheartedness and always spoke to me in a soft voice. She moved to
California about the same time my family did and spent the rest of her life performing
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