Easter Tradition / Pasqua Tradizione

Easter time 1960, I was 17-years-old and my brother Al and I were on spring break from school working at my dad’s gas station at E. 19th and Carnegie Ave. This was always a welcome springtime break.

The Saturday before Easter was always festive and active since all our regular customers wanted their cars hand-washed and sparkling clean. Our customers came from all walks of life; rich, poor and of all faiths and statuses. Lent had passed and special treats were everywhere. Our station was an intense hustle and bustle on all cylinders.{mprestriction ids="*"}

On that late Saturday afternoon, brother Al and I realized we forgot to go to dad’s cugino florist to get mom an orchid corsage. We remembered a little shop near Central Market – now the Progressive and Quickens Loan area – and motored there to find out what might be left. We entered and a tiny Italian man, no more than 5-feet-tall, asked what we needed. We told him but easy pickins’ was out of the question. He picked up on our facial disappointment.

He walked to the cooler and returned with a picture-perfect orchid. He winked because the store was moments away from closing and gave us a 50 percent discount. We couldn’t believe our good fortune and jumped at the deal. We wished him Buona Pasqua and, on our way out, noticed a next-door bakery with lamb cakes. Though they didn’t measure up to mom’s, we bought one.

That Saturday trip to the tiny shop at the Central Market became standard operating procedure until 1964. Mom passed away in December of that year. However, late in the day on the Saturday before Easter 1965, we went to that floral shop and that same little Italian had one orchid corsage left. He told us this was the “grand finale.” He was retiring and closing shop. This time he refused to take any money for that final orchid corsage. It was a tearful event. When we left we also noticed no lamb cakes in the next-door bakery as that business had been retired as well. There would be none at our Easter table. Mom was gone but certainly not forgotten. The next day we brought that beautiful corsage to her at the cemetery.

We’ve learned that the book of life closes on everything and, sadly, includes all the good things. But, change is like night following day; destined for everyone and needs to be expected. Buona Pasqua!{mprestriction}