Growing Up in Two Worlds


Me growing up in two worlds. I’m sure all of us have very memorable experiences back to our childhood days. I am sharing you one of my nostalgic memories when I was a little girl and I even checked up my old photos too. So, here’s my story.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am a huge Neil Diamond fan. But actually, Frank Sinatra was, and still, is my all-time love but there are times when I have to turn to Neil Diamond and I usually listen to his music every time I walk at the Y.

I have renamed my music playlist to “Walking List” to hold a number of his songs to get me through my hour of boringly walk on the track. One of my favorites for many reasons is Brooklyn Roads and probably for a few minutes I can wander back to my New York days. Although I grew up in Manhattan and Brooklyn, it was another world away. But recently as I was listening to his introduction to that song, it sort of spoke to me.  I heard him introduce Brooklyn Roads with some of these words:

“I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that if you wanted to truly write meaningful music you had to only dig into your own experiences in your life and find something deep or meaningful to write about.”

neil diamond: mangiamagna.com

So as I walked, I thought about what I just heard and it brought to my mind a summer day, sometime in the 1940’s when I was young. Not a particular day but it was during my early childhood days.

I grew up and played on the streets of New York City from September until the last day of school in June. Then we, my mother, sisters and brother headed to my grandmother’s farm in North Branch, New Jersey. It’s a world away from city life. My father remained in the city because of work but he eventually joined us on the weekend.  My aunt, uncle and cousins would be joining us too. My grandmother’s name is Nonna Giovanna and her house was a rambling old house on 100 acres with a multitude of rooms because it was also a working pension during the summer and a weekend restaurant during the other months. It had a garage, mainly used for holding feeds and farm equipment but there were rooms above. That was where we usually camped out for the 2 ½ months we were there, unless there was a room for us in the big house.

My Nonna Giovanna's white house in North Branch, New Jersey: mangiamagna.com   My Nonna Giovanna’s white house in North Branch, New Jersey

There was also an old barn where we would climb up on a rickety ladder walk across a beam and jump in the pile of hay. That fun was reserved for rainy days. Sunny days were for the outdoors. The farm was bordered on 3 sides by fields of green and corn.  The dirt road on the right led all the way to a path and railroad tracks.  A freight train, as I remember it, came by 4 times a day with smoke billowing out of its stack.  It came through in the middle of the night and I always marveled that someone else was awake too.

A part of my Nonna's farm: mangiamagna.com

A part of my Nonna’s farm

Every morning after I gobble down my breakfast, I see myself running as quickly as I can, through the squeaky screen door to the glorious outside, to the blue skies and green grass before my mother could catch me. I whistle for Happy, the most intuitive dog I have ever known, and off we go!

Me and Happy the dog: mangiamagna.com

Me and Happy the dog

Those were freedom and hours of wonderful things that filled my day. My sisters and cousins were much older so they would have to help in the kitchen.  My brother was younger, and my mother had him tied to her apron strings, so to speak. But me, I was free, free to run, to run across the gravel and grass and free to check on the animals – baby chicks, ducks, rabbits, a goat named Billy and my favorite, the little pigs. I took it upon myself to do a daily check to make sure all of the animals were safe. I gave some feeds for the chicks and ducks, a pail of slop from the back door of the kitchen for the piggies and fresh grass that I would carefully choose for the bunnies. Billie the goat could be mean, so although I always said good morning to him, I left his feeding to my cousin, Ric.

Me feeding the chickens: mangiamagna.com

Me feeding the chickens

Days on the farm were busy and the day was just the beginning. And I’m thinking, I might just grab a piggie or two, give them a bath, dress them up and wheel them around in the wheelbarrow like little babies. But first I’ll check to see if the young farmer from the next farm over will be doing any plowing today…
More to follow.



Buon Mangiata!

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