My Autobiography by Michael Normandy, Sr.

Grandma and Grandpa Simonetti lived in the apartment on the first floor. Grandpa was a good man, white-haired and old for as long as I can remember. Anytime I asked what he did for a living, I was told he was a carpenter. All I ever saw him doing was cooking for Grandma or cleaning around the house.

He did own the buildings at 181 and 184. I imagine he kept busy as the handyman/maintenance man for both buildings. He was a quiet, soft-spoken, gentle person, never to anger or raise his voice. He catered to Grandma night and day.

Grandma must have been afflicted with rheumatism or arthritis, or both. My recollection of her was always in a rocking chair or supporting herself by holding on to a chair back. As the years went by, she abandoned the rocking chair and resigned herself to the bed. Maybe I’m callous, but the old folks, or the sickly, expected to be pitied. It seems there were very few attempts to help themselves. Grandma wanted to be attended to whenever there was anyone around. If someone was not close at hand, she made herself heard, loud and clear, until someone did respond. Most of the time it was Grandpa. With two daughters living in the same building, someone was always at her beck and call.

I've never seen any other photo of my grandma, Principia DiDonna Simonetti. I guess no one wanted to name a daughter Principia, after grandma, because no one did. However, ​there are a lot of grandchildren and even great-grands named Priscilla instead. There are also a lot of them named Beatrice. In fact, on one of grandma's legal documents, she is called Beatrice. We never did figure that one out. The Gallo sisters who grew up at 181 Maujer Street said they never remember anyone from grandma's family visiting her. We know she was born in Italy, either in Castellammare di Stabia or Torre del Greco. If anyone reading this knows more about her, we'd sure like to know! My sister Priscilla says in genealogy this is called "hitting a brick wall." She's been searching for over thirty years and hasn't found many records until they came to America.

I never had feeling for her as a grandchild should. Part of the problem was the language. We were not encouraged to learn to speak Italian. Too bad! Our parents should have insisted that we learn to read and write the family language. But this was America and all things foreign were to be cast away and forgotten. Only a few of my cousins spoke the "foreign" language, and then only when they had to.

I will say that no matter where we lived, and we lived in many different houses, Mom would go to see her mother many times each week. Since I was her darling son, I went with her. Everywhere and any place! I really didn’t mind because I would get to see cousin Louie. He lived in the same building as Grandpa and Grandma (Also known as "Nunna" - is that close to Nana or Nanny)

Louis DePrisco and Jean Picone
April, 1948

 

 

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Now Playing: 'O Sole Mio

Performed by Enrico Caruso 

From the Album "The Best Tenor Ever"

 

These Italian lyrics are in the Neapolitan dialect that

our Normandia and Simonetti ancestors spoke for

hundreds of years in the small town of Palma Campania,

in the province of Naples, in the region of Campania.

Each city/state spoke its own dialect. Italy, as we know it

now, was unified and became the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

After 1946, it became the Republic of Italy.

O Sole Mio

Che bella cosa na jurnata’ e'sole
n'aria serena doppo na tempesta
pe'll'aria fresca pare gia' na festa
che bella cosa na jurnata'e sole.

Ma n'atu sole cchiu' bello, oi ne'
'o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
'o sole o sole mio
sta nfronte a te ... sta nfronte a te.


Luceno'e llastre d'a fenesta toia;
'na lavannara canta e se ne vanta
e pe'tramente torce, spanne e canta
luceno'e llastre d'a fenesta toia.

Ma n'atu sole cchiu' bello, oi ne'
'o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
'o sole o sole mio
sta nfronte a te ... sta nfronte a te.

Quanno fa notte e'sole se ne scenne
me vene quase'na malincunia;
soto a fenesta toi restarria
quando fa notte e'o sole se ne scenne.

Ma n'atu sole cchiu' bello, oi ne'
'o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
'o sole o sole mio
sta nfronte a te ... sta nfronte a te.

Che bella cosa na jurnata’ e'sole
n'aria serena doppo na tempesta
pe'll'aria fresca pare gia' na festa
che bella cosa na jurnata'e sole.

Ma n'atu sole cchiu' bello, oi ne'
'o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
'o sole o sole mio
sta nfronte a te ... sta nfronte a te.

Luceno'e llastre d'a fenesta toia;
'na lavannara canta e se ne vanta
e pe'tramente torce, spanne e canta
luceno'e llastre d'a fenesta toia.

Ma n'atu sole cchiu' bello, oi ne'
'o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
'o sole o sole mio
sta nfronte a te ... sta nfronte a te.

Quanno fa notte e'sole se ne scenne
me vene quase'na malincunia;
soto a fenesta toi restarria
quando fa notte e'o sole se ne scenne.

Ma n'atu sole cchiu' bello, oi ne'
'o sole mio sta nfronte a te!
'o sole o sole mio
sta nfronte a te ... sta nfronte a te.

 

 

 

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