by Robin Antalek
SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY-
My childhood was a combination of magic and terror.
I come from a loud, sprawling clan of first generation Italian Americans who, for the most part, resided within walking distance of each other in the hamlet of Pelham, New York, a suburb of Manhattan.
They loved food, God, their newly adopted country, baseball and their family with fervent yet equal abandon. My earliest memories are of the wrap around porch of my grandparents’ home overflowing with cousins and aunts and uncles eating, drinking and talking all at once, of my older cousins wearing teased bouffant hair styles, and white lipstick, their hemlines inching way above the knee, of my grandfather and his brothers drinking homemade wine and smoking hand rolled cigars beneath the grape arbors in the backyard, of going into Manhattan, my hand held firmly in my grandfather’s, to watch the circus elephants arrive in town linked trunk to tail, of Jones Beach, of Coney Island, of rambling village parades where nearly half of those marching were related to me. Of holidays: of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, Halloween and the Fourth of July where the house was always full of people who had known me since I was born.