Photo of Marion Petsco and photo of Marion Petsco Pandolfo & Frank Pandolfo. Excerpt from my 2006 Christmas letter: Most personal, was the death of my Aunt Marion—Auntie Marion. All my other aunts are Aunt; Marion was always Auntie. She died a few months short of her 90th birthday; these last few years were quite hard on her physically—mostly, the loss of her eyesight. I would phone her most weekends and we would chatter away long distance for an hour or two. She had wonderful long-term memory and enjoyed talking and talking about growing up in West Virginia and going to and living in New York. When she was about 12 years old, her brother Johnny was driving up to New York [Grandma and Grandpa Petsco were living apart by then, and Grandpa lived in the city.] and her mother put Marion in the car as Johnny was leaving, saying, “You are going, too.” Marion was stunned. She had no inkling. No change of clothing. Nothing. It took her years to put it all together, but she remembered that there was an old man in West Virginia who would constantly stare at her, fixated. Grandma Petsco was, if anything, savvy, and in a moment decided to move her daughter out of harm’s way. Marion liked New York, and going to school there. She would sometimes work for Kalmar’s, Uncle Louis’ parents’ restaurant. They would dress her in a gay Hungarian peasant costume, and she would stand by the subway train exit, handing out fliers about Kalmar’s. Easter, birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Auntie Marion was always at our house. Especially, Christmas. Marion would be right down on the floor playing with Larry and me, just like another kid. And what fun it was. She would romp and shriek and yell with the best of us. She insisted on hanging up one of her nylon stockings Christmas Eve; no ordinary, puny holiday sock for Auntie Marion. Christmas morning her nylon would bulge with bananas, apples, candy, walnuts in their shells, Hershey bars, and, always, an orange down in the toe. More than once, Larry and I thought she got the better deal. She would go to the park with us, to the zoo, to the circus [which I detested and still do, though it was supposed to be a treat], to the lake, to Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, and she introduced us to the wonder of the Automat--food behind little glass windows that opened for the correct amount of nickels. When I was five, we traveled to Great-aunt Julia’s farm in Quebec. In the late 1940’s, Quebec was a trek on desolate, unpaved roads. Great-aunt Julia and her family lived in a forest in the middle of nowhere; even today that part of Quebec is boondocks. But Auntie Marion helped make the travel time pass. At the farm she and I hunted in the barn for eggs. It is my single earliest memory. Four of the Petscos, Helen, Marion, Julia and my father lived in New York, and Grandpa Petsco lived out on the Island. During the summer we would all go and stay with Grandpa Petsco for a few weeks, so there would be aunts and uncles and cousins and whoever coming and going. Ronkonkoma and Lake Ronkonkoma was largely peopled with Hungarians. There were lots of Hungarian social clubs around the lake and each had a hall where czardas-only dances were held. Fast czardas. Slow czardas. But only czardas. I was always amazed at how easily the family members slipped from speaking English to Hungarian and back again to English. And they spoke English without that prevalent Hungarian accent or intonation most Hungary-born Hungarians do. Of course, I could not tell if their Hungarian sounded too un-Hungarian to those from Hungary. Auntie Marion was a little older than most when she married Uncle Frank. They settled in Brooklyn, so our families continued to intermingle through the years right until Auntie Marion and Uncle Frank retired to Arizona. I recalled that Auntie Marion had had a huge crush on the singer Vaughn Monroe. She went to hear him sing many, many times. I mentioned this to her last year; she did not remember him, then she said, “Oh, yeah. Yeah. I think I do remember him.” But her memory of that was dim. But for someone nearing ninety, she was quite remarkable. She would continue one week a conversation we had started the previous week, not repeating what we had said, but continuing and adding to what we had said. I am glad we had those talks.
Posted on: Sun, 16 Jun 2013 21:46:30 +0000
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