I believe it was 1941 and my mother, Faye, was 18 and still in high school. Faye’s younger sister, Pauline, was 16 at the time. A young man named Vinny wanted to take Pauline out on a date, but her parents told her that she had to bring her older sister, Faye, along with her. So, Vinny invited his 22-year-old “cousin” Tony to join them for a day at Coney Island. With all of my family tree research, I have never found Vinny, so perhaps he was a family friend they called “cousin”. His last name was something like Cammaleri, Cammareri? I’m not sure. My mom mentioned it once a long time ago, and now I wish I had written it down.
Anyway, they spent the day at Steeplechase and my mom told me that my dad kissed her in the Tunnel of Love. While the romance between Pauline and Vinny faded, it was just the beginning for Tony and Faye. Years later, my dad, Tony, would often joke that he met my mother on a blind date and didn’t put his glasses on until after he was married. Yeah, he thought he was funny.
Another time, Tony invited Faye to see “the glass ship”. He picked her up in a car and brought her to the bay by the Verrazzano Bridge and parked at what was then, lover’s lane. My mom said, “There was no glass ship.”
Faye had a boyfriend from grade school, his name was Allie. Not long after Faye had met Tony, Faye was at work and Tony had come to surprise her. She saw Allie across the street, without her knowing, he had also been coming to see her. Faye signaled Allie not to approach, and I think, that was the last time they saw each other. Many years later, in the 1970s, Allie passed away. Mom saw his name in the obituary and secretly went to his wake in Brooklyn. When she came home that day, she told me that she saw his sister there and that his sister was so surprised and happy to see her. Of course, she never told my dad that she went, but I remember her being as giddy as a young girl when she told me about it. Ah, the path not taken . . .
Tony worked nights while they were dating and one day she went to visit with his family. Because it was late when she came back home, his sister, Rose, accompanied her. Upon entering her home, her mother started yelling at her that it was so late and that she could “pack her clothes and leave.” When my mom told me this, I was in shock, so Mom said, “Oh, she was something, my mother.” But even Mom was astounded at the time. She eventually was able to explain that she was with Tony’s family, he wasn’t even there.
Tony and Faye were married on June 6, 1943, it was 90 degrees according to Faye and there was no air-conditioning in those days. Following the church wedding, there was a reception in the basement of Tony’s parents’ house in Brooklyn. (The same basement I describe in The Tin Box Secret.) After the party, Tony brought Faye back to what would be their new apartment for the first time. Early the next morning after their wedding night, there was a knock on the door. When Tony answered it, it was his new mother-in-law. Faye’s mother was holding her slippers and explained that her daughter had forgotten to take them with her.
Tony and Faye were married for 36 years and had five children together. Their oldest son was 18 years older than their youngest son. Tony passed away just before Christmas in 1979 from lymphosarcoma after a fifteen-year-long battle with cancer. Faye went on to live another thirty-seven years before she passed in 2016.