CONCORD GRAPES AND MEMORIES OF AN ITALIAN FAMILY
When I was a kid, the Ranzinos lived down the street from us on Bancroft Dr. They were a lively and loud New Orleans Italian family. They had 3 kids- the older two were older than my brother or me (they were in high school when we were in grammar school).
I remember that the older girl had a subscription to Playgirl magazine, which was truly fascinating. She one time ran over her pet kitten on her bicycle, and since the cat seemed totally unfazed by it, she did it again. I guess he really didn't mind. Mrs R. was a classic NOLA 'yat. She cooked constantly and said things like "We gotta go ta Schwegmann's to make groceries, dawlin'" and things like that. The younger child was about a year younger than me and we were friends. She had a lot of My Little Ponies, so we mostly played with them and made mudpies. Sometimes He'sBuggingMe and I would walk to school with the Ranzino kids and so we watched the Jetsons in their family room most mornings before school.
Their dad spoke no english that I could understand, but he was always saying "Bella bella" and that's all I needed to know. He was a very nice man. He owned a doughnut shop and would bring home the day-olds at the end of each day. The kids were sick of donuts, which made no sense to me at all. He'sBuggingMe and I ate our weight in twisted crullers, glazeds, cream filleds and jellys. They taste a lot better when they're day-old and free.
The dad apparently had fond memories of a vineyard back in Italy, and they grew concord grapes on the fence alongside their driveway. We ate concord grapes off the fence in between watching the Ranzino kids yell at each other, chasing their little dog Snookums and watching TV before school started in the mornings. You pop the inside of the grape out of the skin in your mouth and chew on the skin. Then you seive the sweet juicy pulp through your front teeth to filter out the seeds and spit them out. Preferably at another kid. Or Snookums.
Someone brought in to work today a bag of concord grapes picked off the vine this morning. I hadn't thought of the Ranzinos in a long time. I hope they're all doing well and realize how lucky they had it with those day-old doughnuts.