Sunday, January 14, 2007

What's Her Name? I Mean His...

My parents Lois and Big Vince had three children before I was born - all girls. When I arrived the morning of March 8, 1971, their dream had finally come a true – a boy! I was to be their last child and their only son, not to mention the last of the family name. Little did Mom and Dad know they now basically had four girls.

I was their pride and joy, named after my father and my grandfather. My grandfather was Vincent James, my father was Vincent Jr. and I was crowned Vincent James II. The family name would now live on, tradition would stand and I too would have a son one day and name him Vincent James III…or at least that was the plan.

By the time I was one-year’s old, I had bold, beautiful cerulean eyes and the most sublime curly blonde hair. I was absolutely adorable, if I can say so myself! My mother thought so as well, as she proudly paraded me around the neighborhood in my carriage; however the reaction she received from others wasn’t always one she had anticipated.

“Oh Lois, look at her. She’s beautiful.”

“Lois! The baby is adorable, what’s her name?”

“Another girl, oh my you have your hands full. What’s her name?”

Did these people know something Lois didn’t? “His name is Vincent,” my mother would always snap back. But it was an easy mistake…everyone knew Lois had a few girls and with those beautiful, long, flowing blonde curls, it was hard to tell.

Always looking out for my best interest, my parents decided to put an end it once and for all during the summer of 1972 and finally took me to see Enzio, the local Italian barber.
Enzio was an old school Italian, fresh off the boat from Italy; he owned the local barbershop in our neighborhood and specialized in two types of cuts – the crew cut and the Italian slick back. This was the man my mother decided should be responsible for my very first makeover?

From the photos, it appears as if I was thrilled to see Enzio or maybe I was just enamored by my own image in the wall of mirrors before me? (Some things never change.) However, once Enzio put the clippers to my head the elation evaporated. I started to cry and my mother even had to hold my head. (Still to this day, I hate getting my haircut; I have little faith in my stylist’s skills and always fear for the worst. I wonder why?)

I’m sure I was wondering why my parents would allow this strange man to shave my head and rob me of my precious curls. Everyone loved them after all! Did they have any idea how difficult it would be and how long it would take to grow them back? What were they thinking?

However, when it was all over there would be no more thinking required. I was definitely a boy, no doubt about it! My parents solved that dilemma pretty well and all was fine…until I started to speak.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Christmas in Queens

For as long as I can remember, every Christmas Eve my parents would bundle me up in my coat and hat, hand me a plastic baby figurine that was supposed to represent the Baby Jesus and instruct me to trample through our front garden (or what we in Queens consider a garden – more like a patch of dirt) and place the baby in the manager.

My father, being the construction worker that he was, would build a makeshift manger out of spare wood every December, assemble it in our front garden and then strategically place the plastic figurines that resembled Mary and Joseph, the three wise men, a shepherd and a few sheep in and around the manger. Baby Jesus however, would always remain inside our house where he and the rest of us would eagerly anticipate the night of his birth. Then come Christmas Eve, I would lay Baby Jesus in the manager and officially kick off our Christmas celebration. This annual ritual was of course, always captured on film. As the years passed, the allure of the tradition began to wear thin. Some years the garden and the manger would be covered in snow complicating my task even more, or it would be pouring rain and my umbrella would never quite keep me as dry as I had hoped, or it would just be plain freezing cold out. I mean, did I really need to subject the little guy to those weather conditions?

By the time I reached my teens, I couldn’t wait for my sisters to start having kids so I could pass the obligatory torch or in this case baby, along to their children. However, my first niece Francesca wasn’t born until I was twenty years old, and even then I still had to do the honors and carry both her and Jesus to the manger. When my second niece Stephanie was born, the entire family and I couldn’t wait for the two girls to grow up and take over the tradition. I was relieved and thrilled to say the least!

However they both simply refused. These innocent little girls ages two and three, threw fits and temper tantrums, adamant about not stepping one single foot into our garden or going anywhere near that manager. They wanted no part of this tradition and believe it or not everyone simply accepted their belligerence. As a result, the torch was never passed on and that bastard Baby Jesus would remain my responsibility and mine alone.

I am now…well let’s just say I’m in my thirties, yet still every Christmas Eve my parents become far too elated as they grab their cameras, toss the Baby Jesus my way, and insist that I once again perform the honors. Like an obedient child, I still give into their wishes as I squeeze past the rose bush hoping not to catch my cashmere sweater on a branch or thorn, try not to crush any plants with my freshly polished Kenneth Cole loafers, squat down between the now overgrown shrubs and pose for my annual photo op. And in that moment, much like the figurine I lay in the manger, time stands still and neither one of us has grown up or changed much - we’re still just our parents precious baby boys.