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about

This is my eulogy for my Mother
The chorus came to me right away, "Her blues shines through it all."
The verses, I wrote the first week, for her memorial where I spoke this eulogy--, but here is it in its entirety with blues chorus.

lyrics

“Her Blue Shines Through it All”
7/20/2016...7 days after

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through the whole life through
Her blue shines through it all

She came to us October 20th 1926, and she departed July 13th 2016.
That night I looked to the sky for her sunset.
You know when I talked to my mother
about how she survived everything
how she kept sparkling—I mean her sparkler, her blue eyes was her superpower!
So when I asked her how she got through it all and still kept sparkling her spirit,
You know what she told me? You’re not gonna believe this.
“Colors!”
“Colors!”
And that’s how I knew:

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
O her blue shines through the whole life through
Yeah her blue shines through it all

She blew my mind.
For her work she surrounded herself with colors:
every shade of pink of lipsticks and nailpolishes, blonds of hair dyes
and in her knitting, blues and purples, roses and creams.
And when she put on clothes, she wore purple from head to toe,
even her gloves her purple.
She’d never wear black.
Her sneakers she polished white once a week on Fridays.
She had this bottle of “Hollywood Sani-White” underneath the kitchen sink.
So on July 13th 2016 when I looked to sky for the sunset, I expected colors
long smooth brushstrokes of pinks
her pinks
her brushstroke perfect manicures. I expected the sky
to be brushed like her manicure.
But instead it was overcast. The sky was gray
a gray sheet of paper, a gray expanse.
I was stunned and confused.
I looked to the overcast sky and I yelled, “Ma where are ya!!!?”
And I drove left onto the Williamsburg Bridge
and there I looked up at the overcast sky,
and up there, over the bridge,
were two cut outs of eyes, her eyes,
with the brightest blue light shining through, pouring through
and a cloud shaped into a smile.
My Mother’s eyes were in the sky!
I looked up at her bright jewel eyes smiling down on me,
singing, rocking me to sleep, comforting me just like I was a baby
Her face in the sky was as big as when I was a baby,
and I felt that magic sparkle from her eyes
that I always felt looking up at her.
And I knew:

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through the whole life through
Her blue shines through it all

Audrey and Simba were in the car with me, and saw what I saw.
We were headed to my Mother’s patroness, La Madonna delle Monte Carmelo.
To the Basilica in Brooklyn to meet Nicole and Emily,
to pray for her, since she died during her Patron Saint’s “Feast of Mt. Carmel.”
All night long, pairs of bright blue eyes shown through the grey sky.
Her message was clear: “My blue shines through it all!”
And that is how you get through all the travails of life.
You keep on shining.

This is her story:
Two sisters married two brothers.
They each had two daughters.
Lucy & Rachel, and Lucy & Rachel.
Italian tradition dictated you had to name your children for their grandparents.
So all these four girls were named after their two grandmothers
Lucia Armienti and Rachele LeRario, the two grandmothers,
my great grandmothers.

And now I can invoke the linked names of six generations
from Great Grandma Rachele, to Grandma Rose, to my blessed Mother Rachel,
to my sister and brothers to their children, and their children’s children.
And I keep in consciousness the next generation, the children of these children,
the seventh generation I can contemplate.

Now, Lucy & Rachel, and Lucy & Rachel were raised as sisters,
in a six-room second-story walk-up on Teller Avenue in the Bronx.
My mother was the baby,
She was obsessed by airplanes.
Whenever she heard an airplane overhead as it would land into LaGuardia,
she ran to the windows of the apartment and she’d watch it
One day, on July 16, 1928, she leaned too far
so at two years old as she she was sitting up on the window ledge, she fell out,
in a seated posture, two stories, and a third story down
into the concrete sub-basement alleyway.
The neighbors all said somebody threw a doll out the window
but it was the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, La Madonna delle Monte Carmelo,
and my mother survived.
She’d need all kinds of surgeries and she’d wear leg braces
and she’d be a crippled throughout her youth
but she survived
and she would learn to walk again
and to dance
because:

Her blue shined through it all,
Her blue shined through it all
O her blue shined through the whole life through,
Yeah her blue shined through it all!

She had a beautiful sweet father named Giuseppe,
and he took her to Orchard Beach in the Bronx, as therapy
He buried her legs in the sand
and he held her hand and took her into the ocean
and held her up so the waves could beat against the backs of her knees.

And when she was able to walk out of the hospital for the last time,
her father held her hand. And this is what she always remembered.
She felt so bad leaving all the other crippled kids in the hospital,
all her friends,
This stayed with her. As did the genteelness of her father.
Her father with his gentle hand pulled her along, back out into the Bronx.

She always credited her parents, immigrants off the boat, for being progressive enough
to agree to the surgeries which were radical at the time.
Cause what they did at the time was an experiment.
They operated on her “good leg” to slow its growth, so that her legs would be even.
She was always thankful to Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
Throughout her life, she gave away as many scapulars as she could.

For years, til she was a teenager, the doctors wanted to show off her legs,
so she’d have to walk into these rooms and strip down
in front of many many male doctors
who tried to convince other families
to agree to the series of surgeries on their crippled children.
Finally, she said “I’ve had enough of that.”
She walked on.

In school, the two Lucys and the two Rachels caused a lot of confusion
because they had the same names.
“You never knew who the teacher was calling,” Aunt Lucy Rossi told me.
So their friends gave them nick names that stuck their whole lives.
My mother Rachele or Rachel was now called Lilly.
Her sister Lucia or Lucy was now called Patty.
So now you had a Lucy and a Lilly and a Patty and a Rachel.
No, you had a Patty and a Lilly and a Lucy and a Rachel.
All four of them made it into good old age.

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through the whole life through
Yeah her blue shines through it all

Born Rachele, called Rachel, then Lilly,
She loved music and became a great dancer.
She played the radio all her life.
As long as her foot was tapping, I knew all was well
Like a miracle in 1926, the year she was born
so was the Paramount Theater at 43rd and Broadway
as if it was built just for her.
She was born one month before its opening!
As a teenager she hung out there all the time.
“We’d spend the whole day there,” she told me,
“bring a sandwich, hear the live music, the big bands,
and they’d always have a movie.
We’d take the train there and back, and think nothing of it.”
She heard them all, and had all their autographs: Sinatra, Billy Eckstein,
The Modernairres, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, the list goes on....
She’d also go by the club house at Yankee Stadium where the players talked
to the kids casually on their way out of the park.
She had all their autographs too, DiMaggio, all of them.

She tells me of when she heard Sinatra’s voice for the first time.
“I was sitting on my bed, with the window open.
Someone on the block was blasting a radio.
The song filled the block. That Old Black Magic
That voice, I thought, that voice!
came into my room.”
And back to The Paramount she went, to get his autograph.

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through the whole life through
Yeah her blue shines through it all

She became a hairdresser.
The “in” hairstyles of her day were the “Permanent Wave,”
and “Two Swirl Curls & a Pompodor”
She loved that one. She’d give everyone that one.
She’d say, “This is perfect for your head. It will frame your face.”
Throughout my teenage life with her,
she gave Permanent Waves to her sister Patty, and her Mother Rose,
and to her neighbors, especially the elderly—she’d go into their homes,
and she’d cut the hair of her cousin Lucy.
She had a mission of beauty and making people feel good.

She taught me how to section a head.
“You wash the hair and dry it then you block the head with small pieces of felt.
The felt has a slit in it, perfect for the size of a roller.
You clamp it and block the hair.
You section the head, like bricks. Curl by curl.
This is one section of the head. This is another section. This is another section.
The rollers all fit. A normal size head is four sections on top
and a couple going down on the sides.
If the head’s bigger, you have more sections.
If the hair needs a trim, you cut it while it’s blocked.
If you see the wave’s going a certain way, you cut into the wave.
You have to look at the head to see the way the hair naturally goes.
Then you moisten the head with Permanent Wave lotion.
You take a piece of cotton, and it has to be saturated, each piece of hair.”

Permanent Waves smelled like ammonia.
all the plugs, all the clamps, all the curlers, all the papers, the rods
her gentle finger spinning technique so you didn’t stretch the curl when you pull out the roller.
But the smell of the ammonia,
I couldn’t take it,
so I ran outta the house.

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through the whole life through
Yeah her blue shines through it all

Once she described burning a woman’s hair.
“I was still in school.
I worked for nothing at the time. I made my own apprenticeship.
The shop was called Lou Bud’s. It was on Ahun-fiftieth Street off Third Avenue.
It was above a bank. I walked into the shop and said, “I want to work.”
I told him I’d work for nothing. I wanted experience.
He gave me a chance. He saw I was neat and clean, and efficient.
I knew what I was doing, I just needed experience.
I did a Permanent Wave, and I started kibbitzing with the girls;
we used to have a lot of fun. I forgot to shut the machine off. \
The customer said, “Miss, it’s getting hotter and hotter!”
I said, “That can’t be because it’s off.”
I went running to the back, I saw smoke coming up from her head,
and I yelled to my boss across the shop, “Mr Bud! Mr. Bud!”
And I motioned to him to help me. We pulled everything off, --one, two, three—
and put the cool dryer on.
We took the curlers off, boop, the hair came right off, boop, the hair came right off.
But it was all in here at the base of the neck. I was very fortunate.
She had exceptionally thick hair, what we used to call like a horse’s hair.
She never knew. She was very happy. I learned that lesson good.
Next time I paid attention. It never happened again.”

She’s got a couple of stories that she loved to tell, that are emblematic of her life:
One day she was wearing a brand new coat.
She earned the money working and saved and saved her nickel tips
and treated herself to this new coat.
It was black wool with a velvet collar.
Very stylish at the time.
Her father pinned on her lapel, a little gold angel.
One afternoon she was on a break from work
and she went into this fancy store—I think it was Bonwit Teller.
She put her coat on a hook and was just trying on new clothes.
And when she went to leave, she put on her coat
but it wasn’t her coat! It was this ratty old coat!
Somebody had switched the coats! And stolen her brand new coat!
So she went to the store security guy
and told her story but he didn’t really believe her.
He thought she was trying to get a new coat from an old coat.
They asked if there were any identifying marks on the coat.
Then she remembered the little gold angel her father had pinned on the lapel.
So she told the guy, “My father, this morning, pinned a little gold angel on my lapel!”
So they spread the word of this detail to the security guards throughout the store,
and there was a glint of something shiny that hit one security guard in the eye
off the lapel of a coat on a woman as she was leaving the store.
It was the angel on my mother’s coat.
And that’s how she got her coat back.

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through the whole life through
Yeah her blue shines through it all

Thank you Mom for teaching me to love the world,
how to be kind, how to sparkle,
to cook, to knit, to sew, to give haircuts, to section a head,
to cut coupons, to float on water,
to be a consumer advocate, to survive,
to shine through it all.

Thank you for being astute, street-smart, wise.
for seeing through to the heart of issues,
for never being distracted by B.S..
I will continue your nightly prayers for world peace.
I will miss your commentary on the news, the election,
your running commentary on Yankee games,
and UCONN women’s basketball games.
I will miss your blasting the radio in the house as you cooked gravy on Sundays.
I will continue your nightly prayers for World Peace.
I will remember how when we went to Italy, all through the north you didn’t speak,
not in Roma, or Firenze, or Venezia,
but when we got south, to Bari, to Acquaviva delle Fonte, and Cassano delle Murge,
when you met your first cousins Isabella, and Rosa, and “i tre Michele”
how you burst out into the language,
the dialect, the slang of the century before, of your mother’s youth,
and I’ll remember how we all laughed and laughed.
No one in Italy had heard those expressions for a generation!
I’ll remember how you outsmarted everyone.
Thank you for teaching me to never argue with a jackass.
Once there was a leak in the bathroom ceiling,
water came down from upstairs through the bathroom light fixture,
The local handyman came to look, and tried to put her off, saying,
“Next time there’s water leaking, call me back.”
“Oh what a good idea,” she said, and as he left, she sprayed water on that line
on the wall. She called him back. “You’re so right!” she said,
“it’s dripping again. You’re brilliant! Come you’ll see!”
And he came back and fixed the leak.

In her youth she was a heartbreaker. She lamented that.
“Boys I didn’t even know were sad around me.
I hurt their feelings if I didn’t say Hello. I didn’t even know them!
One boy, the landlord’s son Louis wouldn’t leave me alone.
He begged me to go to the movies with him.
He pestered me. I couldn’t stand him. He practiced the violin. He was terrible.
I can still hear it. eeeee-errrr eeee-errrrr
So one day I told him,
“Louis, tell you what. Give the money to Benny and I’ll go to the movies with him.”
Benny was a kid on the block she liked better.
And so that’s what Louis did, and my mother says, “Louis was so happy to do so!
and he stopped pestering me.”


And another thing...
In her 70’s and 80’s she drove around with her friend and neighbor Al Paoletta.
A bunch of seniors would walk into McDonald’s with used paper cups
and drink the coffee with refills for free.
Al drove. Al’s car had no reverse.
Mom would open her blinds as a signal to Al and Rosalee,
and they’d bring in food and all share their dinner.
They’d go to Nathan’s for hot dogs on coupons,
and Al would have to shout out the window,
“Scuse me Miss, do you mind if you leave that parking spot?
I need a spot I can drive into and out of... without going in reverse!”

Another story she loved to tell came from her adventures in her eighties
with her friends. Al’s friend Larry said, “Let’s go to Macy’s to get new watchbands.
I got a friend there who’ll give us a deal.”
So they went to Macy’s.
Larry had dementia. So when they got there, he said, “What are we doing here?”
And my mother, without missing a beat said, “Don’t you remember Larry?
You’re buying me a diamond ring. You proposed!”

Things she told me:
“One day you’ll find your niche”
“Broaden your circle of friends”
“If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”

Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through it all
Her blue shines through the whole life through
Yeah her blue shines through it all

In her last voice message to me, she says:
“I’m dozing off. I just want you to know I’m going to sleep.”

She always sang me to sleep with “Que Sera Sera”
and now I will hear that in her voice for all time.

Some of her last words to me were, “Let’s go home and make meatballs.”
I will Mom, I will.

credits

from Never Argue With a Jackass, track releases June 1, 2017
Al Hemberger on guitars, bass.
Annie Lanzillotto vocals.

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Annie Lanzillotto Yonkers, New York

Annie Lanzillotto is an author, songwriter, performance artist, orator and poet.

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