What’s Your Favorite Childhood Memory While Growing up Italian?


From time spent with friends around the block to the love and laughter among family, every Italian-American has that one all-time great memory.

By: Basil M. Russo, ISDA President

Children don’t have many memories because we haven’t had enough life experiences to create them. As kids we are always thinking about how much better and more exciting life will be for us when we get older. We think about everything our big brothers and sister can do that we can’t—staying up late, going to movies with friends, and sleeping over friends’ houses.

As we grow our expectations change, but they are still firmly focused on what life has in store for us.

By mid-life our outlook begins to change. We realize as much of life has passed us by as still remains ahead of us. This realization can be difficult for many people to accept. Many of us experience what is termed a “mid-life crisis,” which often involves us trying to recapture some of our youth in sometimes strange and silly ways. As we reach our Golden Years, we have little to look forward to, but a lot to look back on. Memories, especially childhood memories, often become a source of comfort and happiness for us. And for whatever the reason, memories tend to become sweeter and more meaningful for us, the longer ago the event occurred. And so as we grow older, we spend a good deal of our time reminiscing about childhood events that bring a smile to our face.

I’ve been blessed with a lot of great memories relating to my mom and dad, and my grandparents. But if I had to pick just one, it would involve an evening I spent with my grandfather. The night was June 10, 1959. We lived in the same house as my grandparents. In the evenings, my grandfather enjoyed sitting in his easy chair and watching any television program that featured Italian Americans.

I was 12 at the time, and I enjoyed sitting next to my grandfather and watching the Perry Como Show, or the Dean Martin Show. I loved him dearly, and the time I got to spend with him made me feel special.

That night 60 years ago was a big night for my grandfather because he would get to watch his favorite baseball player, Rocky Colavito. My grandfather loved Colavito.

Cleveland Indians outfielder Rocky Colavito swings at the plate in 1964 during spring training.

The Cleveland Indians were playing the Baltimore Orioles at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. In fact, this night would not only turn out to be a night in which baseball history would be made, but it would also be a night that would leave me with the most endearing memory I have of my grandfather.

It was the night that Rocky Colavito would tie the major league record by hitting four homers in a single game.

Mind you, my grandfather was a tough, crusty old Sicilian who rarely showed any emotion. However, each time Colavito came up to bat and hit a home run, my grandfather became more and more excited.

When Colavito hit the fourth home run in the ninth inning, my grandfather actually had tears of joy running down his face. That was the only time in my life I ever saw my grandfather shed a tear. He turned to me and grabbed my hand, and we both hugged each other. It is the most precious memory I have of him, one that brings a smile to my face each time I think of it.

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