Melly grew up in a loving Italian family. Mama and Daddy were born in America, but Grandma and Grandpa (in whose house they lived) were from the old country. The food that was served in Melly's family was always nourishing and delicious, requiring hours of preparation and prepared with loving hands. But Melly was also subjected to various customs, superstitions and ideas that followed her grandparents across the ocean from Sicily to their new home in Brooklyn.

There was the superstitious notion that you could put an "evil eye" on your enemy, so one always had to be careful not to cross anyone, for fear of a curse being put on your head. Once the curse was on, there was no way to get rid of it.

On a nearby street, a family of gypsies moved in and opened up a fortune-telling shop. Ladies in long, colorful skirts and lots of dangling jewelry would read your palm or gaze into a crystal ball for a fee. Mama said to stay away from those people

One house in the neighborhood had a figure of a Black Hand painted on a signboard at the front door. Melly was told that these people were Mafia, and she should have nothing to do with them.

All of this negativity took its toll. Melly grew up fearful of many things and one of the biggest fears she had was the coming of Autumn. Autumn meant that everything was dying, the earth would become cold and barren, sickness would abound. Mama wouldn't let Melly out of the house without many layers of clothing to keep her warm. If she became chilled, Mama said pneumonia would happen and death would be near.

Melly grew up and spent most of her life dreading Autumn. Depression started to overtake her at the end of August, knowing that the flowers would soon die and the cold winds of winter would soon be blowing. Melly tried to pass these thoughts on to her daughters, but Debbie said, "Oh, Ma. You really don't believe that, do you? People get sick because of germs, not because they didn't wear their coats and ear muffs."

It took a long time to overcome her negativity and to appreciate the beauty of Autumn. Yes, the leaves did fall, but they turned glorious shades of gold, red and orange. There was beauty in Autumn. And though the flowers withered and the earth froze, she began to realize that this was not death, for the flowers and trees would bloom again in the Springtime. And if sickness came, you would recover. If you did not, there was the certainty of a better world waiting for you.

Melly loves Autumn. It's her favorite season. It's a season of Hope.


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