A Mother’s Tale

by | May 11, 2024

Above: Bruce’s mother and her siblings: Edythe Ucci, Frank Ucci, Dora Mastracchio (Bruce’s mom), Vicki Riccio, and Jesse Hoehl.

My mother has been dead 19 years now. Killed by a drunk teenager. The driver killed two beautiful people, my mother and my Aunt Vicki, and she forever scarred a third, my sister, Karen, who was driving the car.

It was a life-changing incident for all of us and though we try, we will never be the same.

Almost 50 years before, our father was taken from us by a heart attack, so we feel we have been slapped on both ends of our lives.

Still, we try to remember the good times, the memories, the lessons taught and learned, the sayings and simple pleasures. Our mother and father had an idyllic courtship of six years and a loving marriage. We try to keep that close to our hearts.  We like to feel that they lived the American Dream and that their story was: An American Tale. 

When they met she was 19, a young, innocent small-town Italian girl.

He was 25, and though from the same small town, he had traveled the country extensively. He had been to California. He had been to Florida. Out to Chicago. Over to New York City in a time when many from the town stayed put, maybe going to Scarborough Beach for a day.

But he, he was a man of the world as they might say, way back then in those heydays of the ‘30s and ‘40s. He had a wanderlust while most tended to settle near where they were born. He had The Wayward Wind before the song ever came out.

They courted for seven years. Her parents were strict. They frowned on a lot of the things young people did in those days. They had 12 children. Six of them died before the age of 10. They cherished the six who were left, and watched them carefully.

He was the oldest of his clan, and was a man of responsibility before his time.

Still, they had a lot of fun when they were together. He would suggest going to get a cup of coffee. They would end up having it in New York City. He had a canvas tent and they would set it up at Olivo’s Beach, next to Scarborough.

They would go there with her cousin and her cousin’s fiance and laugh it up, and romp, light-footed in the beach grass and sand on those golden, Rhode Island summer days, where the backdrop was a light blue sky, blue-green ocean water and the yellows, greens and browns of the shore.

He was years ahead of his time in many ways. He handled cameras and shot trick photos with ease, making one person look like two, and two people look like four. He handled cars and trucks the same way. 

They enjoyed one another and after a long courtship of six years, they decided on marriage.

He was 32. She was 26. Six years later they had their first child – a boy. The next year they added a girl. Four years later, another girl.

He owned his own businesses and things were good. They had a governess for the children. A new car. One of the first television sets in the town.

He was a good father. She, a good mother. They owned an 11-room house, and doted on their children. It seemed like the American Dream before that term became a popular idea. Theirs was a true American Tale, their own Love Story.

Then came June 23, 1955. 

She would never forget that date. Neither would her children. He had gone out. “Upstreet,” they used to say.

Someone came to get her. He had collapsed in his car on Main Street. A heart attack! They got him to the hospital. He didn’t make it.

At first she wondered what she was going to do. There was no insurance. She had three kids all under 12. There was no welfare. No food stamps. There was no AFDC. There were no Big Brothers. Or Big Sisters. No HUD and no support groups.

But, she was well schooled. Her parents had taught her well. She had a job, and she went about taking care of her bills. She raised her children and she raised them well. She took care of the house and the properties, and made sure her children didn’t neglect their education.

It was not easy. Her son bridled some. He went from being a good student to getting into trouble in school. There were no counselors and no psychologists to go to. They worked it out themselves. She never used force with her children. Always the spoken word. The story. The parable. The girls had their problems too. Fragmented households were not the norm back in those days, the ‘50s.

Most situations paralleled “Father Knows Best.” You know. Two parents, Daddy works and Mommy takes care of the house. Theirs was not that. It was not easy, but they made it through.

Basically, she did it with values. The old fashioned way. You worked and worked, then worked some more. You always paid off your debts even if you had to do it 50 cents at a time. If your clothes weren’t the best, they could still be neat and clean. You never took a step up the ladder without reaching back and pulling someone else up.

You gave help wherever and whenever you could. 

Always show respect for your elders, even if you feel they don’t deserve it. Always give others a helping hand. She practiced all that and more. She welcomed all who were brought to her home. Her kids brought home people of all colors, creeds, nationalities, persuasions and backgrounds. She made them all feel welcome, respected, and above all, she always fed them.

Her son brought home classmates from college and buddies from the service. They were always welcome. They were always fed and made to feel like one of the family. Her home was their home. They were never met at the door and turned away.

Up until the last she was like that. Her home a gathering place for her sisters, friends, relatives and others. You could find a crowd there almost any time of the day or week, but especially at breakfast, lunch and dinner and particularly on weekends, for that is truly her time. She loved taking care of people, waiting on them, serving them.

That was her way. Her time.

At 90 years old she volunteered at an “old folks” home taking care of people who were 30 years younger than she. She knit hats, scarves, gloves, booties and blankets for inner city poor, Indian reservations, anyone who needed them. She did all this while having lived on a pension for almost 30 years. She could make $100 and coupons produce food for a month. She knew how to “make do.” She knew the “Power of Ten.”

Yes, she recovered from an Idyllic beginning and a nightmarish run of chapters, to write her own American tale.

Unfortunately, the selfish acts of a drug and booze filled teenager ended her story at 95. The people who autopsied her said her constitution was so strong she probably would have lived another 10-15 years.

Though she never raised any president or CEO in her brood, she did raise three solid citizens who love their families, their town, their state and their country, and who also do their civic duty and their best to help others.

Who can ask for more than that?

Yes, I will always remember “Mama” and want you to know that there are others who remember too. We know where you and Aunt Vick are. There is NO doubt. We know you are getting things going up there and probably giving God a lot of “Ooo Dees.” Teach him a little bit about Simple Pleasures. I’ll bet he would like that.

See you in the not too distant future.

With Love,

Your Son

Author’s Note: Mother’s Day is coming up. Father’s Day too. Always make sure to love the people you love and also love the people who love you. Hold them tight and hug them when you

can. We found out twice that no matter how much, it is never enough, and you never know when you will never have that chance again. So here’s a HUG from me.

With Much Love and

In the Spirit of ALL that IS ……… 

Bruce Mastracchio grew up in East Greenwich, where he experienced those 28-hour days and 8-day weeks that contained the magic that made his hometown so special. Included in all that were the numerous characters that added color to the local life and produced many of Bruce’s remarkable stories.

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Joanne (Moscatelli) Horlbogen
Joanne (Moscatelli) Horlbogen
May 11, 2024 4:28 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this, Bruce! I remember your family well having grown up in the same neighborhood. Those were golden times!

Kasey Riccio
Kasey Riccio
May 11, 2024 5:46 pm

Like a comet blazing across the midnight sky, gone too soon. Miss you Grandma.
Happy mother’s day.

Donald Tunnicliff Rice
Donald Tunnicliff Rice
May 13, 2024 9:08 am

That’s a good story, Bruce. Very sad at times, but good.

Donna Wilson Rice
Donna Wilson Rice
May 13, 2024 12:20 pm

What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.
Donna Rice

M. Mezs
M. Mezs
May 13, 2024 4:21 pm

Beautifully said, Bruce. Thank you! We cannot, and should not, forget our Moms. They’ve put up with a lot. Unfortunately, too late for many of us to express those thanks directly, but not for all. Keep up the good work, Bruce. Your writings are priceless to many.

Donna Fish
Donna Fish
May 13, 2024 6:56 pm

Tartar’s is where I would meet my dad (if he had a job in or close to town) for lunch during the summer. Your mom and aunties would call me in to the kitchen … The hugs and kisses I would receive from those women were the best! And their pizza!! My mouth waters just thinking about how delicious their food was. I have such nice memories of them all, but especially Dora. ❤️

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