I grew up in a town in New York called Brooklyn, bearing the name of Carmine Salvatore Visone. On Sundays you didn’t ask if you were going to church; you got ready and went. I couldn’t even give an excuse, or complain that it was snowing or raining too hard because I lived right next door to the church. I could actually hear the organ music in my bedroom. It was a time when everyone treated each other like Family. We went outside to play, we got dirty, we bought chips and candy from the corner store. We played Red Light/Green Light, Kick the Can, Simon Says, Hide and Seek, Dodge Ball, Red Rover, Baseball, Stickball, Softball, and Football.  I even played handball and skully with the nuns who were my neighbors and friends… and who beat me at those games every single time.  We could ride our bikes to the store, or the park, and stay all day.

We ate beans and hot dogs, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and my mom made pasta almost every night, even though she would say pasta Fagioli, lentils and pasta, or soup with noodles wasn’t really pasta. The real pasta was on Sundays, and Fridays were always pizza or fried fish. We walked or rode bikes everywhere and never worried about safety. We never thought to lock our windows or doors at night. We had chores to do around the house, we helped clean off the table after a meal and ate our meals as a family at a table together.

Every single Sunday I ate with my grandparents, and all my aunts, uncles, and cousins, which was a tradition that we even follow today. We weren’t AFRAID OF ANYTHING except our parents. If you fell down you would just get back up. We shared an immense love for our entire family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents were all one. We always shared love, laughter, and our faith. On Christmas Eve my grandfather would make us all stay awake to midnight, not to hear Santa’s bells, but to have every single person kiss baby Jesus as he slowly placed him in the beautiful manger that sat on the mantle in the living room every year.

We respected our parents, our teachers (and especially our neighbors who we called by their proper names, and who acted as our guardians in our parents’ absence), the American flag, the principal, AND God. We said the Pledge of Allegiance every time we went to school. We left our houses as soon as we could in the morning and right after school till our neighbors would yell out for their children as a reminder to get in the house for the night. If one kid was called for dinner then we all knew to go home. We watched our mouths around our elders because we knew if we DISRESPECTED any adult there would be a price to pay. We had manners and respect; otherwise, someone else’s parents put you in your place. I would not trade anything for the childhood we had, for we had enough, we had love and all that made us the adults we are today.

It’s these traditions and values that we carry forward in our lives today. It is these traditions and family values that we bring to our children, our grandchildren, and hopefully our great grandchildren. As a family, together we use no cell phones, no texting, no computer games. We talk, we laugh, and every Sunday after church we sit for dinner and share our lives. This is our definition of family. This is our most precious gift.