As Suzie leisurely climbed the rear steps that lead to Nona’s kitchen for her usual lunchtime rendezvous, she heard her grandmother-in-laws excited voice from inside. Although she wasn’t able to hear what was being said, she knew something was wrong.
Quickening her steps, she hurriedly entered the normally serene family gathering spot where Nona always had something cooking, fresh brewed coffee and cold Iced Tea awaiting anyone’s arrival.
Sitting at Nona’s chrome table adorned with its yellow marbleized top and matching chairs, was Tessa, Nona’s daughter and Suzie’s mother-in law. With tear-drenched eyes, Tessa acknowledged Suzie’s arrival with only a nod.
Gently closing the door behind her while keeping one hand on the doorknob, Suzie cautiously asked, “What’s going on, is everyone in the family all right?”
While motioning Suzie to the table with a wave of her hand, Nona spoke up, “Yes Suzie, everyone okay, you no worry, get yourself some Ice tea and sedere-sit down while I get Tessa a cup of coffee.
Handing her daughter a cup of coffee, Nona continued half in Italian and half in English. “Mamma Mia-my goodness Tessa, grazie a Dio-thank God you didn’t loose your job.”
“I know Mama but now I feel so much shame to see my boss tomorrow.”
As Suzie looked over at Nona, she could see a slight smirk hidden behind Nona’s concern for her daughter and with a gist of a smile herself, asked Tessa, “Why are you home from work so early?”
“Oh Suzie, I look like idiot. This very nice man, he come into the restaurant this morning. He only order coffee while he read his newspaper. I tell him, I be back to check on him if he should want to order some food. He was at the restaurant a very long time and then I check on him a second time and ask again if he should want some food now. He wave one of his hands in the air and said, “Just get a sweet roll and you heat it,” so I heat it.”
“Maybe 30 minutes go by and I take my break in back room, then my boss come to me and ask me where is gentleman’s sweet roll at table seven? I tell him, I heat it, so he ask me where was it. In my stomach, I say. I heat it because the customer told me to.”
Then he laugh and said he would explain to customer that I just hear him wrong, but then I get mad and say, “No, I no hear wrong, the man tell me to heat it!”
Bolting out an irrepressible laugh, Suzie then asked, “But didn’t you think it was odd that he told you to eat it?”
Now smiling, Tessa replied, “Of course Suzie, you think I am stupdio? I just think it another crazy American custom I never hear of and no want to be rude and refuse.”
“What’d your boss do then?”
“He just tell me to take rest of day off and go home to relax. He see me tomorrow. Then I ask him if I was fired and he said no and not to worry because he have much worse things happen at his restaurant.”
Suzie’s husband was the first child in the De Luca family to be born in America after his parents and grandparents migrated from Italy. When they arrived here, they only spoke Italian and took great pride in their self-taught labors to speak English.
Suzie’s actual name is Heleena but she was given the nickname of Suzie by Nona during their first introduction to one another. Nona claimed that Suzie was, “Good American name,” but as Suzie learned later, H’s and L’s were the hardest letters in the English language for them to pronounce.
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