Lots happened between the fifth and sixth grade. I grew closer to my Dad as he had a small café and snack shop which he worked frantically at. But what was truly neat as it was a family affair. My mom each day would start out at home taking care of the kids and making up large batches of her quick eat delicious stuff like tuna salad and egg salad. My Dad would rush home after the breakfast rush and leave me in charge while he drove home to pick up baby Gay and Faithie and of course, Momma. The food would accompany them too. We all rushed off to our jobs – Little Faithie had the responsibility of watching even littler Gary, a cyclone on wheels, a baby that had the energy and will to do anything and would. Mom and Dad would set up in the kitchen putting the kitchen in order (the big time) and fire the frill and set the oil to heat. Cousin Marilyn, about five years my senior arrived and worked the counter. My Dad wheeled out the big ices box and the accoutrements that helped me create mixed assortments of the best Italian Ice – or at least I truly believed. We were all set! The people arrived and the crowd grew. I, of course, believed they came for my ices but I acknowledged that my mother’s delicious homemade food was a great seller. Those that tasted her food and had tasted my grandmother’s cooking agreed that skill had been passed on to her. Though the customers delighted in the food they didn’t know what a perfectionist she was and any of the very few flaws she found she immediately eradicated.
Poor Faith would get exhausted dealing with our little brother and the heat and humidity of New York in the summer. She did a grand job of keeping the cyclone under control but there were times that especially our Mom would have to rush out to tamp that miniature whirling cyclone. Marilyn was a bit of a sulky teenager who when around my parents, especially my Dad, worked extra hard. Sometimes, when my Dad expected a larger than average day one of his food worker friends would work also in the tiny shop. Since I was a bit of a claustrophobic in front of the place under the awning with my ices was the best place for me.
Since my Dad was European trained in the restaurant which means so much more than it does today once a week we held a reservation only expensive dinner which he would get his friends to help him with and it seems like my parent’s schedule intensified while the three kids were driven home.
It was a difficult time for me because I was turning into a cynic. I didn’t much like how the education system was dividing us up and helping some while shunting aside others, especially late bloomers. In those days in Brooklyn you would attend Public School through the sixth grade, a Middle School, and then High School, and my destined High School was Lincoln, eventually churning out more famous creative artists like Joseph Heller, Buddy Rich, Arthur Miller, Neil Sedaka, Harvey Keitel, and Herbie Mann, but had a fair share of scientific leaning alumni like Arthur Kornberg, Richard Belman, and Jerome Karle.
There was an experiment that started in the Sixth Grade to turn the three middle years into two, and I, of course was in it as was my main competition, Dean, one of the few Greek-Americans in the school who drew a kinship with me because of shared ancestry. I was tired of the well-meaning but self-justifying of the teaching staff and I had a teacher in History, a subject I excelled at, who had us write Term Papers. I never did one, never turned it in. After she returned the corrected and graded papers to the students and the bell rang for the end of class she called me aside. “This is it!” I thought. She told me she had never read my paper but assumed she must have misplaced it. My work she said, was sure to have been excellent so she apologized for losing it and gave me an A. I had a chance, a moment to scream or hiss and say I didn’t write one, but I didn’t, there was a secret joy. I discovered that at least some of the time reputation would allow you to skate by. But I was also sad because much had been lost that day.