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Ode for Rose

Rosie, born at home on Hunky Hill among yards of chickens, gardens, arbors for wine,
tenth child of Elena and Giuseppe, twenty years off the boat from Salerno, who rented
their house for ten dollars a month but owned a radio says the 1930 census, neighbors to
Alterios, Penlios, Pighettis, Tenalios, and John Willikan, a black man Rose still knows by name.

Rosina became Rose, Angelo became became Rusty, Vito became Dewey,
Carmella became Caroline became Coxy, Nunziad became Nancy,
even Giuseppe became Joseph, who opened Joe’s Sandwich Shop
on West High Street in Bellefonte next to the old Bonfatto’s.

Rose lived upstairs and worked in the restaurant until they sold out. Frances Plozner
delivered fruit from the Baltimore docks and also brought bottles of wine for Joe, so
only a matter of time ‘til the wedding at St. John’s, sister Nancy as maid of honor,
Toby Plozner as best man. The wedding party had to go back to Joe’s restaurant.

Francis and Rose built a home on West Beaver with a garage, patio, green shutters,
and a “P” on the aluminum screen door. They grew tomatoes, peppers, eggplant,
peppers, zucchini, peppers, watering it all with rain they saved in a barrel. Rose
soaked peppers in oil for sandwiches or to eat plain on bread, they were that good.
Once, Rose ate a pepper so hot, her water broke, and Suzy was born.

Nancy owned the Hofbrau—a beer joint next to Saint John’s—and Nancy and Ro
made the hot wings that made everyone thirsty. Long John Silver’s every Friday
for fish; Tuesdays and Sundays, Ro played bingo at the Undines and St. John’s,
her dauber hovering over as many cards as they’d let her buy. When she hit
the jack pot, Ro did her happy dance. 

Rose cooked at Bellefonte Elementary where the lunch lady blew a whistle and stood
the bad kids against the wall. But Rose danced the funky chicken, and everyone laughed.
Rose spiced up canned sauce, stirred up stuffing balls for Thanksgiving. Everyone liked me
because I was so damn nice
. 37 years in that place, when Rose retired at 80,
they asked her to stay.  They knew they had a work horse.

Grammy Rose made The Easter Pizza and The Christmas Stromboli, which you must
wash down with a whiskey slush. You only live once; I hope to be the life of the party.
The day doctors pulled staples from her shoulder, Rose in a wheelchair gulped
down a tiny cup of drugs, My birth control pills! I’ll drink to that!

Rose, snow is finally melting in Bellefonte; the maples on Allegheny have opened
their tiny, red buds.  The lot where you grew those peppers, where you kicked balls
with your grandkids, has grown over in lawn. We had a great life, didn’t we? Rose asked
no one in particular the day she spoke with a stranger, Oh, we celebrated everything!


©2017 by Julia Spicher Kasdorf