I am delighted to welcome Patricia Salmone, author of The Italian Thing, with a short story that takes us on a journey through an elderly woman’s life to a place where dreams can come true. Put your feet up and grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine…
JULIA By: Patricia K. Salamone
Cathy dialed her sister’s phone number.
“Hello,” came June’s soft voice.
“Hi, it’s me.”
“Oh, hi Cathy, what’s up?”
“Where’s mom June?”
“I don’t know.” she replied, “why?”
“ I called her and there’s no answer.”
“Cathy, I spoke to her a few days ago and she is fine. I am sure she is probably out shopping, or visiting with one of her friends.”
“I don’t know about that June, I called yesterday and she didn’t answer.”
“Did you leave her a voice mail.”
“Yes, but she didn’t call me back.”
“Cathy, give her a chance to get back to you. Mom is not a child, she’s a grown woman and free to do as she pleases.”
“Well, excuse me for worrying about our mother. She is almost eighty years old and anything can happen.”
“Cathy you are worse than mom and dad were with us, give it a rest. I am sure she will call you soon. I have to hang up, I’m due at the dentist in less than a half hour, don’t worry.”
“OK, but I hope she calls me today.” Cathy said. She hung up.
Julia was sitting at a table in Tavern on The Green restaurant in Central Park. The same restaurant she ate at once a month since her husband Hank had passed. As she sipped wine her thoughts trailed off. She was thinking about her encounter with him. Him, the unknown man with the haunting green eyes.
That was 48 years ago, she was a young woman of 29 then, but the memory was still vivid in her mind. It was on September 15, she had just left Tavern on The Green, it was a beautiful day and she decided to stroll in the park. Julia was soon to be married to Hank. The wedding was just three months away, a winter wedding. Her gown was a beautiful white satin ball gown. Her five bridesmaids would be dressed in red velvet gowns. Hank and the groomsmen would be wearing black tuxedos. The venue, cocktail hour, dinner, flowers, limo’s, photographer and cake were all taken care of. It was going to be a dream wedding.
As she walked she thought about Hank. He was right for her. Tall, dark hair, brown eyes, soft spoken and was settled in his job, he was an accountant. They had much in common.
Julia had stopped and was leaning against a big Oak tree. She was deep in thought, and enjoying the warm sun on her skin. Her long auburn hair being blown by a gentle breeze. It was time for her to leave she had been in the park for almost two hours and wanted to get home before dark. She had to walk around the tree to get back on the walking path. Just as she came out from behind the tree a man that was running collided with her. She was deep in thought and didn’t see him coming. He tried to stop when he spotted her but he was running fast, the collision was unavoidable nearly knocking Julia down. He managed to grab her and stop her fall.
Julia had been holding a dainty white handkerchief with a pink rose embroidered on it that her mother had given her. That was going to be her something old. It flew out of her hand upon collision. She let out a short scream and then a painful moan. He said. “Oh my God, I am so sorry, I didn’t see you until it was too late to stop! Are you alright miss?”
“Yes, yes, I am fine” she said, and as she looked at him it took her breath away.
She was looking into the most beautiful intense green eyes she had ever seen, surrounded by thick dark lashes. It sent shivers through her whole body. Julia remembered him apologizing as she was trying to get her wits about her, but all she could do was stare into his eyes. She felt like he was looking into her soul. She got slightly light headed.
“I am fine, no harm done.” He flashed a smile and asked if she wanted to sit on a bench.
“No, no I have to catch a train home, but thank you.” All the time those eyes were burning an image into her heart. She turned and started to run toward the exit, as she left she heard him call to her.
“Hey what’s your name?” She only half turned and said “Julia.” she heard him call back “I’m Matt.”
He said something else but she was so flustered she didn’t catch what it was. By the time she exited the park her heart was pounding, but not from running. Stop it Julia she thought, why are you letting your emotions get the best of you. He is just a guy that ran into you by mistake. He’s probably married. She caught the train for downtown. She wanted to get to the safety of her apartment. Hank would be home soon and they were going out for dinner. As the train zipped along all Julia could think about were those eyes, they haunted her. Suddenly she remembered the handkerchief, he heart sank. She would go back to the park and look for it tomorrow she thought.
Julia and Hank lived in a two bedroom apartment in the East Village. They had dated for three years. Hank proposed on Christmas in the third year. Julia was over the moon, the ring was beautiful with a two carat emerald cut diamond. That was two years ago. Hank had been anxious to get married, but Julia wanted to wait. She wanted to make sure he was the one. They started planning the wedding almost a year ago and Julia was happy. Now she had a sick feeling about it.
She had just enough time to take a shower before Hank arrived home. When Hank walked in she flew into his arms. “Oh Hank I am so glad you are home.”
“Hey sweetie, what’s the matter?” Her heart skipped a beat and she answered.
“Nothing, I’m just glad to see you,” and gave him a long sensuous kiss. They made love and Julia tried to drown her thoughts in Hank’s passion.
“Another glass of wine Madam Julia?” the waiter asked, jolting Julia back to the present.
“Yes thank you, and I am ready to order.” The waiter brought her another glass of wine and her meal. Julia thanked him and opened the book she had brought with her. She always brought a book with her, but never really read it. She would eat her lunch and then take a walk on the foot path. It was fifteen years since Hank passed away Julia thought. Maybe it’s about time to stop hoping, but something inside her wouldn’t let go. Julia stood up and walked toward the subway to catch her train home.
The telephone was ringing as Julia entered her apartment. She picked up the receiver.
“Oh hello darling, how are you?” Julia said.
“Where have you been? I am a nervous wreck. I thought something happened to you.”
“I am fine Cathy, I went out to lunch and took a walk in Central Park.”
“Mom, don’t you think it is a little too much taking the subway, especially with your health problems.”
“Cathy, a pacemaker is so common, there’s no need to worry. I am fine.”
“Mom, I called you yesterday and you did not pick up, I left a message but you never returned my call. When I called you today and there was no answer I got worried.”
“I’m sorry Cathy, I meant to call you back yesterday, but I started doing something and I guess I forgot, anyway I am fine and there is no need to worry.”
“Well as long as you are alright, but please if I leave you a message call me right back, before you forget.”
“Alright dear I promise. How are my beautiful granddaughters doing?” Julia asked.
“They are both fine. When are you coming to visit them?”
“I thought maybe both you June and the family would like to come into the city and visit on Sunday. We could have dinner out and take the children to Rockefeller Center.”
“June and I thought we could all get together at my house, I could send Ralph to pick you up on Friday and you could stay for the weekend.” Cathy replied.
Julia did not like going out to Long Island, but she said. “OK, Cathy, that would be lovely.”
“Great mom, I will see you Friday evening then. The girls will be thrilled!”
“Alright honey, see you on Friday, give the girls a big kiss from me.”
“Will do mom, Love you, bye.”
“Bye Cathy, love you too.” and hung up.
Cathy called June to let her know that their mother would be spending the weekend at her home in Huntington. She invited June and her family for Saturday dinner. She also told June she wanted to speak to her about something important.
“What is it Cathy? Is everything alright?”
“Yes, everything is fine here, but it’s mom. I think we should try and talk her into moving out of her apartment and into a retirement home here on Long Island. She is getting older and I worry about her being alone. If she moves closer to us I would feel better.”
June was quiet for a few seconds. “June?” “I’m here” June answered.
“What do you think?”
“I think you are dreaming. Mom was born in Manhattan and has lived there all of her life. We were raised there in the same apartment that she still lives in. She doesn’t even like Long Island, and you think she will give up her place and move here?”
“She’s getting older and I worry about her. What if something happens to her. I would like to talk to her about this at dinner on Saturday, just back me up OK?” Cathy asked.
June said she wouldn’t say anything against the idea, but told Cathy not to push too hard about it or she would interfere. The sisters hung up.
Julia sat at her dining room table sipping a cup of tea. She didn’t understand why she was looking for a man that she met once. She had married Hank. He was a good husband and father to her and the girls, and yet over the years those green eyes would haunt her. Now she looked forward to the fantasy of the green eyes. She knew she was in love with the man who looked at the world through them, and now was her chance to find him. She had never told anyone about her experience, but never forgot it.
Just an old lady’s fantasy she thought smiling. Maybe I should just give it up. I will probably never see him again, and even if I did what would I say? Hi I’m Julia, you bumped into me in Central Park almost fifty years ago, do you remember? Stop acting like a silly school girl Julia told herself. You are a grandmother with beautiful grandchildren, two good sons-in-law and two wonderful daughters. Hank was a good man, but never gave her that feeling that she felt in that instant when she looked into Matts eyes. She often wondered now if life would have been more exciting, more romantic, or possibly not as safe or comfortable as her life with Hank.
At my age I am entitled to have a fantasy she thought, and as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone I can hold on to mine. She often wanted to ask some of her friends if they had any special fantasies, but never did for fear of blurting out about Matt. She started writing about it a few times, but always discarded her writing’s in the trash for fear of someone finding and reading them.
Ralph called Julia on Friday. He was on his way to pick her up for the weekend. She was packed and ready to go. Her grandchildren were such a joy to her and she looked forward to spending some time with them.
She and Ralph chatted about his girls and Junes children. How they were growing up so fast, and what a joy they were to Julia. Ralph also mentioned it was too bad that she didn’t live closer so they could all see her more often. Julia felt a little pang of guilt. She loved living in the city, but she also loved her family. Now that Hank was gone there was really no reason for her to remain in the city, except for one thing. Those intense green eyes. She still hope to see them again one day, and get to know the man who made an imprint on her heart.
Ralph finally pulled into his driveway. Julie and Karen came running out to meet her. Hugs and kisses and bursts of excitement erupted from the girls, and Julia’s love for her grandchildren pored fourth. The girls and Ralph helped her with her luggage and the wrapped presents in the trunk.
“Oh gram, are these for us?” they asked in unison. Julia smiled.
“There is something here for both of you and for Jack and Judy, but you will have to wait until tomorrow when your cousins are here.”
“Gram please give us a hint.” Karen begged. Julia just smiled and said.
“No my darlings you will just have to wait, but if you can guess what it is I will let you open your gifts tonight.” Shouts of glee came from the girls and the guessing began. After several guesses Cathy told the girls to let Gram get settled in and have a cup of tea before they tried to guess again. Julia hugged her daughter and with a little giggle said, “they will never guess.”
“Mom, I hope you didn’t go overboard, they have enough toys.” Between Cathy and June the four children. The oldest Julie was fourteen, her sister Karen was going on thirteen. Jack was eleven and Judy was turning ten in a few months. Julia knew they all wanted an I pad, but their parents were holding back getting it for them. Julia had purchased four of them, but had them wrapped in different size large boxes so they would never guess what they were about to receive.
Hank would have loved the idea she thought. She also felt sad that Hank had passed before the grandchildren were born. Jack resembled Hank, with his soft brown eyes and gently manner. The girls were all giggles and drama just like their mother’s. She was thankful for such a wonderful family. She did think about moving closer to them all. She was not getting any younger and she might have to forget her silly obsession about finding Matt.
Cathy made a delicious dinner and afterward the board games came out and they played games until it was bedtime for the girls. They had tried to guess what their gifts were about fifty times, but each time the answer was no. The anticipation was building and Julia loved it. Finally the girls were off to bed and Julia and Cathy sat on the sofa to chat while Ralph made Martini’s, Julia’s favorite. They talked about Manhattan and how the girls worried about Julia living alone. Julia reassured Cathy and Ralph that she was fine.
“There are many elderly people living alone in Manhattan and I have plenty of friends around me. We get together a few times a week, and we are there for each other. There are plenty of places to visit, and restaurants galore. Transportation is wonderful. I have lived in Manhattan all of my life and I really don’t want to sell my apartment. One day you girls and your families will be happy to have a place in the city, and all paid for too.” They all laughed.
Ralph said, “Amen to that Julia.” Cathy shot him a look and he backed off. The rest of the evening went smoothly and soon they all turned in.
June had called and asked Cathy if it would be alright to come earlier as the children were excited to see gram. It seemed that Julie and Karen had called their cousins and told them about the gifts that their grandmother had brought with her.
Julia slept soundly and before she knew it there was a knock on her door. “Gram? Are you awake?” she heard Julie ask.
“I am now sweetheart. Come in.” In walked Julie with a tray containing a cup of tea, toast with raspberry jam and a glass of orange juice.
“Oh Julie, thank you so much you little darling. It looks delicious.”
“I made it myself gram, I know how much you like raspberry jam.” Julie replied with a smile.
“I love you gram.” she said.
“I love you too.” Julia said. They chatted about school and boys, and how exciting high school was.
The day started early. June her husband Mark and the children arrived just before lunch time. The children were crazy with excitement about opening their gifts. Finally Julia told them it was time to get their gifts. Each box had a name tag, and to make sure they each took the correct box. Everyone was waiting with anticipation including the adults. Julia would not tell anyone what she had brought for the children. The screech’s of delight that erupted from the living room made Julia smile.
“What on earth did you buy them mom?” asked June. She didn’t have to wait long to find out. The children came bounding into the kitchen all yelling at once.
“Gram bought us I pads!!! Thank you Gram you are the best!!!” They all kissed and hugged her and thanked her numerous times, as they danced around. They then disappeared down stairs to the play room to set up their I pads.
June, Cathy and the men sat at the table laughingly scolding Julia for buying such expensive gifts.
“Mom it isn’t Christmas, you could have waited, the holidays are just around the corner.” Cathy said.
“Grandma’s make every day Christmas.” Julia said with a smile.
“You spoil them mom.” June added lovingly.
“I guess they really liked them.” Julia said chuckling.
Cathy suggested that it was such a beautiful day and wondered if everyone would mind if she had a barbeque for dinner instead of eating inside. Everyone agreed, there would not be many more warm days before the chill of winter would make it’s presence known.
Ralph and Mark went out doors to clean off the deck and make it presentable for when dinner time rolled around. June and Cathy were left alone with their mother in the kitchen.
Cathy took the opportunity to start the conversation with her mother.
“Mom could I ask you something?”
“Of course dear, you can ask me anything.” She answered with a smile.
“OK then here goes. June and I were wondering if you would be interested in moving closer to us and the children. You could either rent or sell your apartment. We all would love to have you live closer to us so we could visit more often.” Julia was taken back a little, but tried not to look shocked.
“Why would I want to sell my home, I love living in the city. All my friends are there. My goodness I have lived there all of my life.”
“I know mom, but you are getting up in age and we worry about you being alone. They have wonderful retirement villages on Long Island. I thought maybe you would like to visit a couple of them. Just to see what they are like. You would have your own little apartment and you can go and come as you please. They have all kinds of amenities and there are plenty of people your age that you would meet. We could come pick you up on weekends and you could visit with all of us more often. I know the children would love to see you more. Right June?”
“Of course we all would love seeing you more mom.”
Julia’s mind was spinning, she did not want to hurt the girls feelings, they did make a good point about seeing the grandchildren more, but this was quite a shock to her. Julia did not think of herself as “old,” but apparently her daughters did. She didn’t want to blurt out an answer that would hurt their feelings, so she said.
“I don’t know about this. I know that you both worry about me, but I feel fine, really. I would have to think about this for a while. Why don’t we talk about it again after the holiday’s.”
Cathy was about to give more reasons, but June jumped in and said, “alright mom, you think about it for a while, and if you like we can have some brochures sent to you and you can read about them, OK?”
“That would be fine.” Julia answered. “And now I am going down to see how an I pad works.”
She got up from the table and headed downstairs to the play room.
When June was sure she was down with the kids, she said to Cathy,
“Well, that went surprisingly good, but let’s not mention it again. Let mom think about it for a few weeks, and don’t badger her Cathy, because if you do she won’t even give it a thought.”
Cathy promised, but she was happy the seed was planted, and hoped it would blossom.
Julia spent a few hours with the grandchildren trying to learn how to use the I pad. She did not own a computer, so learning how to use the I pad was impossible for her. Her grandchildren were all trying to help her at once and she found it very confusing. They had a great time and Julia made them laugh wildly whenever she would try to do something on the pad, and it would be totally wrong. She finally told them she was going back upstairs to make a cup of tea, “that I can do very well,” she said. Her grandchildren promised to help her again later.
Cathy and June were in the kitchen, preparing the food for dinner. They teased her about all the laughing from below and asked her if she was now an official I pad user. Julia just laughed and said,
“I think it is beyond me, I just got the knack of using a cell phone.”
“Which you never use anyway.” answered Cathy laughing.
“I am starting to use it.” Julia said smiling. “Now, can I help you girls with something, this is more my speed.”
“No mom, we have it under control, you just have your tea, and would you like a pastry with that?” June asked.
“I would love something sweet right now.” she answered.
The barbeque went beautifully, the time flew by and soon June, Mark and the children were getting ready to leave. Hugs, kisses and more thanks from the children, promise’s to see each other again soon, and off they went.
Julia helped Cathy and Ralph clean up and then they all went inside to have a Martini. Julia was leaving the next morning. Cathy wanted her to stay and said Ralph would drop her off on Monday and then head to work, but Julia said she would rather get home Sunday because there was less traffic.
The children were exhausted and went right to sleep. Cathy did not mention anything about the retirement home since that afternoon. Julia was grateful because she did not want to think about that right now.
The ride home was pleasant there was barely any traffic and Ralph kept the conversation light.
He made sure Julia was safe inside her apartment, and headed home.
Julia unpacked and made herself a cup of tea. As she sat drinking the tea she thought about the conversation she had with her daughters. I am getting up in age she thought, but I don’t feel like I need any help. I love my home, and my friends. I have plenty of activities to keep me busy and more restaurants than I will ever be able to eat at. Julia loved visiting the art galleries, and museums. Central Park and Rockefeller Center, the RCA building, she even still liked to go atop the Empire State building and spend a few hours on the observation deck. She would have none of that living in a retirement home on Long Island.
The telephone rang and her thoughts were put aside. It was Trudy, they had been friends for years. Trudy wanted to have dinner at Luna’s Italian restaurant and she invited Julia to join her. They set a time and would meet in front of Luna’s at seven that evening. Trudy was good company. She was about the same age as Julia, but she was a happy go lucky gal and had an antidote for every problem. While they were eating Julia told Trudy about her daughters wanting her to move into a retirement village on Long Island.
“Why? You are very capable of taking care of yourself, why would you want to sit around making jewelry and play bingo and cards all day?
” I wouldn’t.” Julia said.”
“Did you change your will and decide to leave everything to a young man, do you have a lover?”
“Heavens no Julia laughed, I do not have a young lover and even if I did I wouldn’t leave anything to him. I would just use him for sex.”
The two had a good laugh and Julia’s spirits were lifted. She forgot about retirement homes, and they both ordered another glass of wine.
Over the next few weeks, the weather changed to winter. Julia would think about moving every once in a while, but she still had lunch at Tavern on the Green every month, unless it snowed, and still hoped one day she would see Matt.
Thanksgiving day the family came into the city and they had a wonderful dinner at Julia’s favorite restaurant Peacock Alley in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Dinner was delicious and after they went to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree. The children loved it they went ice skating while the adults sat and watched drinking hot chocolate. Cathy did ask Julia if she had given any thought to what they had discussed about the retirement home. Julia said she was considering it and would let them know soon. They did not speak about it again, and Julia just enjoyed watching the skaters.
Julia had been considering her options, but the thought of not being able to possibly find Matt was a haunting thought for her. She could not understand why the need was so overpowering. Maybe it is just a pipe dream, or an excuse to not leave the city. The thought of seeing her family almost every week and spending more time with the grandchildren was also very tempting. She did not want to think about it any more that day. She decided to go Christmas shopping.
Julia took the subway to thirty fourth street, and went into Macy’s. She loved the decorations and the holiday music that was playing. When she was done shopping Julia decided to stop in a little cafe to grab a bite to eat. It was getting dark and she had no lunch that day, she was famished.
The cafe was busy but she managed to get a table. It was small but nicely decorated with white tablecloths on each table. Julia’s table was near the hostess station so she could see the customers that entered, but she could also see out the window. All the stores window’s and light poles were beautifully decorated.
She was looking out the window not really paying attention to the customers entering. A gentleman apparently came in but he was told there would be a wait. He was asking the hostess how long the wait would be, when Julia glanced in his direction, she was shocked! It was him, it was Matt, she’d know those eyes anywhere. Her heart started beating and that light headed feeling came over her.
The hostess advised him it would be about a twenty minute wait. He smiled and said “that’s fine, I’ll wait.” The hostess asked for his name, his answer was “Matt.” Julia stood up and started walking toward him. He noticed her and smiled. She didn’t know what came over her, but she was walking right up to him. Now she was right in front of him, she was sure it was him.
She blurted out, “excuse me but I overheard you say your name is Matt.”
“Yes.” he smiled.
“I know you don’t remember me but we met many years ago.” His beautiful green eyes still had the dark lashes, he was older and had gray hair, but his smile was still the same. He looked at her and said, “Yes I remember you, you haven’t changed much, I could never forget such beautiful blue eyes. I have something that belongs to you.”
“Really?” Julia asked.
“Yes.” he answered.
“Would you like to share my table, I am dining alone.”
“I would love to join you, thank you.” The hostess smiled and they went to Julia’s table. As he took off his coat to hang it up he slipped his hand in his coat pocket and took something out. He sat down opposite Julia and handed her a small white handkerchief with a pink rose embroidered on it.
“I believe this belongs to you Julia.” he said. Julia’s heart was pounding the excitement she felt was overwhelming.
“This is the handkerchief my mother gave me many years ago.” she said staring into his beautiful green eyes.
“I was hoping we would meet again, I went back to the park many times looking for you.” Matt said. Then he said. “I am surprised you remembered my name.”
Julia smiled. I have a lot to tell you Matt.”
“And I you Julia.”
They ordered dinner and wine and sat for hours. Filling in the time gap. His wife had passed away many years ago, but they never had any children. Julia told him about that day in Central Park, and about Hank and her family. How she never forgot him and went to the park once a month hoping to see him again. She felt like she knew him all of her life.
He smiled and said “I feel the same way, but I knew one day we would meet again, and this time I am not letting you get away.” He lifted her hand to his lips and gently kissed it.
Julia answered. “I am not going anywhere.” and smiled.
About Patricia Salamone
Patricia Salamone was born in New York. Raised in the borough of Queens. She had 5 siblings including one brother that passed away in August of 2003.
The Italian Thing is her first published book although she has been writing since the age of 8 years old. She married and has 3 children who are grown with families of their own now, and they have blessed her with grandchildren.Patricia retired from AT&T in 2008 and was able to concentrate on her love for writing.
About the book
Join me in my hilarious recount of how I explored my heritage during a more-than-memorable trip to Sicily. I detail our adventures and misadventures as my husband and I visited our relatives in Naro. I share how we got to know the locals, their customs and lifestyle, and how everyone seemed to think that “everything will be fine” no matter what troubles they were in.
During those weeks, we went through culture shock despite the fact that we are both Italian. In the end, it was “the Italian thing” in all of us that made ours an unforgettable trip!
*Includes 26 original photos!
Buy The Italian Thing
Connect to Patricia
My thanks to Patricia for this lovely story that illustrates that you are never too old for love, romance or for dreams to come true.