Keep It Simple

Fully equipped with a massive hole in the passenger side floor, my family’s Chevy Chevette that we begrudgingly called, Little Red Fred, powered through the Jersey streets with the best of the 80's rock bands as her soundtrack. There was so much wrong with that car, but the cassette player was so right. The front seat was a prize to be won, regardless of the fact that whoever sat there would be fending off the occasional pebble or splash of water. 

Mom always had an extra pair of knee socks for my sisters and I in case a puddle “snuck its way in." She would frogger her way around puddles, but sometimes they were just unavoidable. That was an added bonus for us being Catholic School kids, Mom and Dad never had to worry about us dirtying the entire bottom half of an outfit. Change the knee socks and BAM you are good as new. Yes, we went to Catholic school and my parents were driving around a car with a hole in it at the time.  Ah the prices one is willing to pay for their children’s education. God love my parents. And God love my Uncle Butch who fixed that car up just enough to give to my parents, so we could pay homage to its memory all these years later. 

Uncle Butch was the family mechanic. If he couldn't fix your car, no one could. Capiche? He was one of my Grandmother's brothers. I say "one of" because there was twelve Tozzi kids and even that number is up for debate. This isn't counting the two miscarriages, two still born and two infants that they lost. My Italian, and apparently very Catholic (birth control be damned!), off-the-boat, Great Grandparents raised the remaining twelve children in a one-bedroom apartment downtown on Grand Street between Mott and Mulberry in Manhattan, better known as Little Italy. That means my Great Grandmother was basically pregnant for eighteen years of her life. Pregnancy number five, eight, fourteen- no skin off my GG's back. I did two years hard time and swear I will never walk or pee the same way again. I can't help but think she must have been some sort of Kegel Master. I mean you would have to be, right? There was no "stitch for him" going on in the 1920s and 30s that I know of.

The Tozzi clan consists of Uncle Tony, Uncle Leo, Uncle Paulie, Uncle Joe, Uncle Butch, Aunt Tessi, Aunt Anna, Aunt Gilda, Aunt Bobbie, Uncle Sunny, Aunt Grace and of course my beloved Grandmother, Celia.  Speaking of names, some of the above have super Italian versions. I cringe at the thought of botching the spellings so I would rather not go there.   
9-15-81, Dellapenta Sisters

Celia was the best Grandmother you could ask for. My sister and I still reminisce about her famous black leather bag, which was monogrammed with her initials. If I close my eyes real tight I can even smell it. It was just the right amount of Grandma's scent mixed with leather. Sounds weird I know, but boy was that smell so comforting. It takes me right back to standing beside her at her dining room table while she "packed"  her bag for church. Snacks, gum, coloring books, tissues and cough drops were all carefully placed in there for her grand kids and of course an envelope to give during The Offering at mass. My favorite was what my Grandmother considered to be potential candy. 

When prompted for a piece of candy, Grandma Dellapenta would dig into her Mary Poppins bag of tricks and pull out...... a Halls Cough Drop. We had the clearest nasal passages in the tri-state area.  If I could actually carry a tune,I could have been one of Mariah Carey's back up singers for how well taken care of my throat was. I however very unfortunately got my singing genes from my Grandmother who un-apologetically belted out every church hymn like she had the voice of the Archangel Gabriel. 
Grandma, Teisha, Kari and I- 7-5-03- Family Wedding.

Her voice-  a bit quivery and uneven -  more closely mimicked that of a seal. I realize the risk I am taking here. Don't be surprised if I report feeling a strange sensation of someone smacking me upside the back of the head in a future post.  

Grandma carried her arsenal of goodies everywhere we went.  There was no iPad or iPhone to watch. No electronic device to distract us. We would bring smaller toys with us on some rare occasions, but mostly we brought with us our little brains and used our - wait for it - imaginations.

Simple time, yet complicated hair styles. In the 80's and early 90's it was all about styling the bangs. If you were in middle school to your teenage years, you were feathering them. If you were a toddler to your early school years your mother was curling them under. I cannot help but think that if social media existed back then, no one would have been teasing their hair. There would have been too much evidence that it did not work for most people. If you were unlucky, the curling extravaganza happened every day, which yours truly hated. 

There is one particular morning that is literally burnt in my brain. I  don't use the word literal lightly here, folks. I may have been tap dancing while my mother was curling my bangs and felt the sizzle of the iron right on my forehead. Hey, this is what happens when you send your kid to dance school early! The problem was, I always chose inopportune times to "practice."  In my defense I was only four and the barrel on the curling iron was the size of a tree trunk.  

Just the other day my best girls and I got together and reminisced about those yester years. Because I am fortunate to still be close friends with the kids I grew up with, we really sink our teeth into those memories together and are in awe at how things have changed.  Some of these social media platforms are making us thirty-somethings feel like we are ninety-somethings. For example, my girlfriends and I are having trouble coming to grips with this whole Snap Chat extravaganza. Like, why send something that will just disappear? What's the damn point? If I want to send my bare breasts to someone in a photo I should own it, right?  Like, what's with these kids these days?

If you have the nerve to send a picture of your lady bits to someone- do it with vigor. Own it, people. Go for broke. You didn't hold back when you put that iPhone between your legs so why not send that bad boy picture like you mean it?  Get on board, next generation. You are late to the cool train.  Our generation would meet Joey Incitti in that damn school yard, in person, to flash him our two lady lumps. You know, like classy people. We would then wait for our mother to pick us up from practice at the planned time of 5:30, even though it ended at 5:00, because that is what we did.  We waited. There were no cell phones to call or text our parents.  My favorite was when I called my Mom collect from the swim club pay phone. That whopping dollar that it charged the house must have put us over budget because my mother would yell at me something fierce, "Stop calling collect! I said I would be there at 3:30."

"But, Mom, it's 2:45  and I'm hungry and have no money to buy anything."

Ignoring me, my mother would retort, "Don't ask me if you can have a friend over in front of them again. It puts me on the spot and isn't going to miraculously change our already planned evening. See you at 3:30, love you," Click. 
The three of us with Dad, 11-84

Our parents knew we would see our friends the next day at the swim club during the summer and knew if that didn't happen we would be outside all day with the neighborhood kids riding bikes. Point was, there wasn't this frenzied desire to have play dates because every day was a play date, because people were social. Really social. In-person social and if we decided to eat our lunch earlier than normal, too bad for us. You were sent with the food and money you were sent with and that was that. There was no Mommy and Daddy rushing over with Bon Bons to feed you because you had sent a sad face Emoji saying you were hungry.  We dealt with it and went back to our friends and waited, because that's what you did. The immediate fixes of today did not apply to our yesterday. 

When we got home after being with friends we did not text them, Facebook them, or put a status on our twitter feed talking about them. We went home and spent time with our families, pets, and imaginations. We wanted to engage and create memories. We wanted to take pictures that we often cringe at today because we didn't know they had come out poorly. We didn't know because we didn't have digital cameras to immediately see the image we had just posed for. But, that was OK, because there was an element of surprise and it showed us that no one was perfect. It made us authentic. It made us live. 

This isn't to say that I think our generation was a bunch of saints. Let's be honest, when you are twelve through fifteen you are a complete hormonal mess and therefore - probably a complete asshole. This is why I question Snap Chat, Facebook and Twitter's morals here. You are allowing complete assholes to operate machinery that is contributing to the bullying issues in our country? 

Let me put it to you this way. Eleven year-olds are not allowed to drive cars, gamble and go to strip clubs. They should therefore not be able to operate an app that involves suggestive and unmonitored behavior that can result in the demise of someone else's well-being. I challenge the social media platforms to have age restrictions. Cyber Mic Drop. 

Listen, I am speaking as a concerned mother of two very impressionable little girls who are growing up in a world where technology has taken over every facet of our lives. We can't leave our homes without our cell phones. We check social media sites like answering machines. When our kids are of age and using this technology (whatever age that may be for each household), I want them to be able to turn it all off when they need to. Why should they be answering to the demands of cell phone notifications? It seems like an awful lot of responsibility and demand for a young, impressionable brain to me. 

Who knows, maybe I am mourning the simplicity of my childhood. Like the fact that MTV actually played music videos. There was no YouTube to readily play videos whenever we wanted so we eagerly put on MTV to watch them and waited to see which would be number one that particular week, as though it mattered. Or maybe I miss sneak watching Beverly Hills 90210 in the basement with my sister. It seems like yesterday that I was introducing my friends to movies like The Lost Boys, My Blue Heaven and Soap Dish - because that's what my cooler older siblings watched. There were no apps to download. No cell phones to tend to. Life was playing with the neighborhood kids, getting in trouble for not coming home for dinner on time and piling in the back of a Station Wagon because it was cooler to sit facing the cars behind you. This way you could wave at them or harass them... I'm talking to you, Pete Snead! 

Sure we had electronics - I mean my Grandmother was the Nintendo technician. If your game didn't work after blowing on the inside panel or inside the actual machine, she would come out with a Q-Tip and a cup of rubbing alcohol and - BAM - brand new game. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the recommended way to clean those tapes, but hey - it worked. Grandma was a genius! Back then It was OK to lose. Not every kid needed to get a medal of achievement because not every thing is meant for every person. That's what kept things special. That's what made life exhilarating. 

That is what I want for my kids, my friend's kids, my future niece or nephew and your kids. Don't they all deserve that?

The Tozzi clan would be slapping all of us upside the head if they could. I could just hear my Grandmother saying, "What's a matta with you? Put down the phone, yeah." She often inserted "yeahs" at the end of her sentences as if to agree with herself. I'm sure without a shadow of a doubt she would be resistant of the new technology because it would interrupt meal time and her fine cuisines, "Enough of this Facebook, it's time for meatballs, yeah." 

This is not to say that these technologies are all bad of course. I'm able to Face Time my Dad and sister whenever I want without them missing a beat in our lives. I'm pretty sure Madison uses it as a ploy to stay up later, but nonetheless it keeps us connected. Likewise, text messaging has kept me up-to-date on my friends and families' lives more than a phone call possibly could at this ridiculously busy and hectic time of my life. 

I however plan to keep things as simple as possible for my two little crumb crunchers at least until my husband and I feel we can handle the kids with these new technologies. Besides, I will need time to adjust and plan out how I am going to Inspector Gadget my way into their accounts when needed. Because under the age of 18 there is no privacy!  Wow, I sound like my mother.

It's like what Mema said when she read my diary when I was 10, "I made those hands. So if you think you can write something in your diary at this age and assume your mother isn't going to read it- you are out of your mind. Maybe if you cleaned your room yourself  the right way. (Who knew there was a wrong way?) you would be better able to hide it." My mother was so wrong here that she was actually right, much like our Little Red Fred. So, word to the wise, Madison and Chelsea, it's going to be 1989 in our house until we say otherwise. Why? Because we said so. You will thank us later, when you have your own version of Little Red Fred stories. 

Signed with lots of love and a left-handed sequins glove,
Mommy Dearest xoxoxo


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