A New Mother for Dominic and Eugene

img023Dominic and Eugene sat side by side on the piano bench in the front room of the strange lady’s house. Their father, Nick Renzi, had come into town to find a new mother for them. The woman who met them at the door was old and her stern expression frightened them. Surely this woman wasn’t going to be their new mother.

A woman with dark hair and round glasses came down the stairs. She gave them only a fleeting glance then looked at their father. She never smiled at him as she shook his hand. Would this woman would be their new mother?

They sat as still as two rambunctious boys of 6 and 10 could sit, crowded together on the narrow piano bench, their dangling legs swinging back and forth, not touching the floor. The tight collars of their dress shirts made their necks itch and they pulled and tugged at their sleeves. From across the room their father gave them a stern look and motioned for them to be still. He pulled his shoulders back to show them how they should sit.

Soon the adults went into the kitchen and continued talking in Italian. The woman with dark hair and round glasses never said a word. Did she even have a voice? They only heard the voices of their father and the older woman. It seemed to take forever before their father came back in the room and said it was time to go.

As they left the house, their father turned to the woman with dark hair and round glasses and said – “Boys, this is Lena George, she will be your new mother.” They looked at Lena and didn’t know what to say or do. She stared back at them with a blank expression. “Say good-bye to your new mother,” their father prompted.

“Good bye mother,” Dominic said, not sure whether he was supposed to hug her or shake her hand so he did neither. The woman stared at them as if she were in a trance – she was looking at them but didn’t see them. She didn’t look very happy about being their mother. Dom and Eugene crowded close to their father, one on either side, as they went down the front porch steps out into the bright September sun.

The next week one of their uncles brought Lena’s suitcases and trunks to the farm and carried them up to their father’s bedroom. Two of their mother’s sisters came to the farm and packed up all of her jewelry, dresses and shoes that had been in the wardrobe and carried everything away.

“Aunt Jennie and Aunt Amanda will take good care of you while I’m away, their father said that night as he was packing his suitcase.

“But Papa, we want to go with you – where are you going.”

“Lena and I are going on a trip to Washington, DC, New York and Canada. That’s what people do when they get married.”

“Can’t we go with you?” they pleaded.

“No, you’re not old enough. It will just be Lena, her nephew Harold and me.”

“Why does he get to go with you on your wedding trip – that’s not fair!” shouted Dominic. He’s only 13 and I’m 10 – that’s not fair!”

Nick sighed and shook his head. He didn’t know why he agreed to let Harold go on their honeymoon. Of all the things Custode demanded when she agreed to let Nick marry her only remaining daughter, this was the most unreasonable. A 13-year old boy going on their honeymoon! He would never hear the end of it from the guys he worked with on the railroad.

But his boys needed a mother and Alverda thought Lena would be a good match. At 33 it was unlikely Lena would ever find a husband on her own. Maybe if they had time alone together she would warm up to him. But that was unlikely to happen on their honeymoon with Harold in tow. Everything Nick had heard about Custode was true – she called the shots. Whether out of love, respect or fear, her grown children did whatever she demanded. And now she was controlling what would happen on his honeymoon. How humiliating!

As their father drove down the hill, his car vanishing into a cloud of dust, Dominic realized this was the first time since their mother died in May that their father had been away for more than a few days. Their aunts had taken turns staying with them at the farm over the summer so why did they even need a new mother? Couldn’t things just stay the way they were?

When Nick came home three weeks later, Lena was with him. They ran to hug their father and he kneeled down and hugged them both –one on each side – his blue eyes twinkling with joy at the sight of his sons.

“Give your new mother a hug,” he said, pushing them toward Lena who stood there with the same blank stare she had when they met her at Custode’s house in Dunbar.

Eugene being the youngest and eager to please his father ran over to Lena and reached up to hug her around her waist. Lena stiffened and pulled away but Eugene clung to her, looking up with his trusting brown eyes, his wide happy smile beaming up at her. He was glad to have a new mother, he didn’t care what Dom said.

Lena looked down at Eugene, and with what Dominic would later describe as her other expression –  eyes squinted and nose wrinkled up as if a most horrible smell had suddenly filled the room – Lena firmly grabbed each of Eugene’s tiny wrists and pushed his arms away, twisting out of his embrace.

Dom ran over and grabbed his younger brother’s arm, “Come ‘on Gene – let’s go outside and play.” He glared back at Lena – trying to match her cold, icy stare. He didn’t care what his father said, this woman was nothing like their mother. Their mother was pretty and always smiling – even near the end when the goiter made her neck bulge out. Dom could still remember his mother’s soft hands as she stroked his forehead when she tucked them into bed at night.

Dom never want Lena to touch him or his brother Eugene. He was too old to be tucked-in anyway. He didn’t want this new mother and no matter what his father might think, he could tell that she didn’t want them either.



November 8, 1928 Wedding of Nick Renzi and Julia Giordano




9 thoughts on “A New Mother for Dominic and Eugene

    • Unfortunately it didn’t. But I’m lucky to have found Dominic who remembers sitting on the piano bench. All in all one of Lena’s brothers made up for Lena’s shortcomings and Dom has happy memories of being part of the George family (but not if his stepmother Lena)
      Thanks for commenting.


  1. My impression of Aunt Lena was that she was not a happy person. Always very negative. I don’t
    Think I ever saw her smile. I know her eyesight was very bad. Dom could verify what I say.
    I remember Dom taking over the house on Limestone Hill “the farm”.
    He said the ceiling in her bedroom was bubbled & in danger of falling. Due to her poor eyesight, she wasn’t aware of it. I believe Aunt Rosie was living with her at that time. After her move, Aunt Rosie went to live with Harold
    Aunt Lena was moving to an apt. On Prospect St. in Connellsville. She was a cleaning lady at Connellsville State Hospital. A walking distance from the apt.
    I know there was an estrangement between grandma & Aunt Rosie. I don’t why.
    I feel it was Grandma who created it as Aunt Rosie was a dear, sweet little lady.
    God bless my dad who must have had his hands full keeping some sense of order in this family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carole – Obviously I am adding details about family members I never knew to try to capture their personalities. In some ways the task might be easier if there wasn’t anyone who remembered the people I’m writing about – I wouldn’t worry that I might offend someone. But it is such a gift for me to be able to get first hand accounts from people who knew them so I want you (and anyone else reading these posts) to tell me if I’m being unfair to any of your relatives or if something strikes you as being off or not consistent with how you think that person would have acted.
      Both you and Dom told me about the piano bench and that Lena was aloof (or worse) from Dom and Eugene. He said he never remembers seeing Lena kiss his father.
      Good to know about Lena working at the hospital- I hadn’t heard that before.
      No doubt your father had his hands full.
      Do I remember correctly that Aunt Rosie lived with your family for a time? If do do you remember when?


      • I don’t think Aunt Rosie lived with us for an extended time but probably when she came she stayed awhile. Patty Jane seems to think that she did.

        A side note. Dom Renzi’ s wife, Patty was my sponsor for confirmation.
        Catholics have godparents for baptism & sponsors for confirmation .
        I would have thought Dom would have been baptized as an infant.
        Confirmation, at that time, was usually when older than 12.


  2. Gene and I always said. we wished Aunt Phil could have been our mother WE loved her and I’m sure she loved us. Bill her son. was my God father and he really watched over me until he past away. He became my boss whend he was the Fayette banks loan manager I was in training to later I became the loan manager. What a great guy.Bill played football for. Pittsburgh… then b was drafted and he Played football for. Navy. then later after discharged he played for West. Virginal. Hard to match that resume.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dominic
      When was Bill named as your godfather? Was it at confirmation? I think it is different in the Catholic church than in Protestant churches when godparents are named when the infant is baptized/christened.


      • At Conformation . I had a picture when this happens. but cant locate May have sent to someone. The Dunbar school was in background. I will relook. Many many thanks for all your work. (((( Can you believe February and it was 70. Bring on Spring. Diana and I took a two mile walk on CACTUS ISLAND .SHE STILL ON OXYGEN BUT MUCH BETTER)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. In the Catholic religion your parents choose your godparents for you because you’re an infant. In Confirmation, you choose your own sponsor and you also choose a Confirmation name because you are around pre-teen age.

    Liked by 1 person

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