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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Madloch

Torre Somma

Both my grandmothers were great friends and often hung out together.

In the picture with Batman, you can see my maternal grandmother, Laverne (Edwards) Curcio.

Laverne grew up on a homestead land plot in Nebraska. She was a country girl. There was no indoor plumbing in her family house. As the second oldest of five siblings she had to start working very young and never graduated from high school.

Laverne met my grandfather on the side of the road when he was stationed in Nebraska.They fell in love. Everybody said Laverne was very beautiful in her youth.

After they were married, my grandparents moved to Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and Laverne worked in the packing department of B. Altman’s Department Store. I remember her hands being covered with bumps and calluses from all this hard work.

All her life Laverne loved to cook, and even though she was the only non-Italian person in the family, she cooked all the Italian food. My daughter still says that her macaroni and cheese was better than mine. She was also an avid coffee drinker and drank coffee with her every meal. I learned from her to eat tuna sandwiches with coffee, which is the best combination of flavors!

Laverne was quite a character! One day, when I visited her with my ex-husband, we found a water gun left on a newspaper in her living room. We started to play with it and I shot him in the eye. After he freaked out, I scoffed at him because being hit with water should not hurt so much. It turned out that there was ammonia solution in the gun. Grandma was using it to shoot the squirrels that came to her bird feeder. When she babysat my kids, Laverne often took them to the local cemetery where they played hide and seek behind tombstones.

Despite her hard life, grandma Laverne was a happy woman with great sense of humor. She had a funny way of batting her eyelashes at people. My daughter and I do the same thing at each other.

Grandma died when spending a weekend with my parents and my kids at the shore. I did her hair at the funeral home when she was already placed in the casket. I always did her hair and nails when she was alive. My daughter Scarlett, who was 3-years old at that time, went there with me. I think it was a nice way to say goodbye.

The younger woman, portrayed with her children, is my paternal grandmother, Lena (Prinzivalli) Somma.

Lena was born in Lyndhurst, as the oldest of eight children. In general, she was a timid person, but when needed she was able to speak up for herself. Both her children, my father and his sister, became teachers.

Even though Lena worked at Fairleigh Dickinson University, in the cafeteria, it was domestic life she enjoyed the most. She loved to cook and bake, and also enjoyed both crocheting and knitting. I remember her trying to teach me, but it never worked out. She did not travel or desire to go anywhere, however she did like the Jersey shore.

Most importantly, grandma was a big kisser and hugger – a great spoiler of kids. When I was in high school, my friends and I used to go to her house for lunch, and everybody still remembers her sandwiches. Especially her jarred peppers with garlic were amazing!

Lena was a very happy person and loved to laugh. We had a plethora of our own private jokes. Sometimes during family gatherings, I left the room and from afar flashed her or mooned her in a way so only she could see it. When this happened, she laughed so hard that tears ran down her face and nobody knew what was happening to her.

Grandma Lena died when she was 81. After her passing, for some time I lived in her house. We renovated it completely: ripped out the carpets, sanded the floors, and cleaned everything thoroughly. After all this was done, I found her pearl earring just lying on the floor in the middle of the room. There was an enclosed porch in this house, and numerous times I could swear I smelt her fresh cooking when I walked in. For years after her passing, Lena’s presence in her house was almost palpable.

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