The Country House
American Venice was born of a land developer’s dream. He built homes on the Copiague’s marshland along the south shore of Long Island. A series of backyard canals led out to the Great South Bay. There were Venetian-style bridges above the canals giving the neighborhood a European flare.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression doomed the developer’s dream. Fortunately, my grandfather and his brother-in-law, Uncle Billy, found a bargain. They scraped together $400 and bought a little cottage with canal rights in American Venice, an hour’s drive from their Brooklyn home. It was called The Country House. It was 1942.
The Country House soon became the center of family summer activity. Family included tribes of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, and anyone else who was considered a relation. My dad, his siblings and cousins hold their greatest childhood memories from summers at The Country House. They swam, fished, clammed, and rowed down the canals and into the bay. The house swelled with cots, singing, card games, and food.
The Country House remained the center of activity during my childhood. My family and Aunt Betty’s family lived nearby The Country House. Everyone else traveled from Brooklyn for days, weekends, or weeks. My grandma was always there.
The Country House had an opened floor plan. Tall bookshelves separated the eat-in-kitchen from the family room. The structure dared kids to climb to the top to “spy” on the grown-up card games and meals. The upstairs had three small bedrooms and a large foyer where most of the kids slept. It was very easy to climb out of the bedroom windows and hide on the ledge.
On rainy days, when Grandma had had it with a dozen children racing up and down the stairs and climbing on bookshelves, she would hand out rolls of salami and wave her wooden spoon suggesting that we play charades. Our charade games always turned into a ruckus and ended with Grandma shouting for us to play Scrabble, cards, anything to just quiet down. At last, she would relinquish and let us run out in the rain.
At night, Grandma cooked the fish we caught, and a dad would overcook a hamburger or hot dog on a charcoal grill. We’d play catch or Ringolevio until the fireflies came out. On Friday nights we invaded Carvel and came home with chocolate faces and a bag of flying saucers. Some nights the station wagons were packed with pillows and blankets. The kids would play at the Drive-In playground in pajamas before watching the cartoon that previewed before the main feature. Most of the kids would be asleep with popcorn scattered in the blankets by the time the movie started.
One night a season, we would drive out to Jones Beach. We dressed in our best summer clothes. All the kids, moms, and dads, as well as Aunt Kate, who could not hear but enjoyed being in the happy company, came to see Guy Lombardo’s chug to the outdoor theater in his mahogany speedboat. My dad and uncles marveled at the boat’s brightwork and “classic lines.” Guy Lombardo arrived dry and dressed in his tuxedo, welcomed us all to the show, and lead the orchestra. We saw beautiful musical productions such as South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.
Summers were full of long, playful, salty days and sweet loving nights in the company of my abundant family.
Time marched forward and our lives steered us in different paths. Most of Grandma’s contemporaries no longer traveled or had passed on. Grandma rented the Country House and moved from Brooklyn to Sayville, a Long Island suburb, to be closer to her children, grandchildren, and her bonus—great-grandchildren.
In 1982, my husband, Matt, and I moved back home to Long Island after living in Pennsylvania. Grandma offered to sell us The Country House. I was so excited to think of starting a family in such a happy place. I couldn’t wait to show my husband.
The windows, walls, electric, plumbing—everything needed replacement. The flag pole was missing, the patio was torn up, and cesspool problems were obvious. Everything seemed so small. It was not The Country House of my childhood. Sadly, we passed on Grandma’s offer.
The Country Hose remains a wonderful memory. It was the place filled the definition of family, fun, and love. It could have been anywhere—a cottage near a lake, a farmhouse, a duplex in Queens. Location did not matter. What filled that little house mattered—folks who truly enjoyed each other’s company, the meals shared, the stories told, the children’s play, the simple fun. I may never be able to sit under the shade of that old climbing tree to wrap my arms around my children and grandchildren, but I was able to recreate that love-wrap in my own backyard.
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Good news, everyone. My very first Goodreads giveaway begins this Friday, July 14th and will end on August 14. Enter to win a Hug Everyone You Know ARC (Advanced Reader Copy). You may be one of the first lucky readers before the book is officially launched! Good Luck!
Huh? What is a Hug Pack-Kit?
A Hug Pack-Kit is a swag-bag for my Hug Everyone You Know valued fans to share with their ten best friends. Each kit contains a promotional pin and ten self-addressed-stamped-envelopes stuffed with a friendly letter, a Hug Everyone You Know postcard, bookmark, page hugger, and my business card. The material features the high praise book reviews, contact information, book release date (October 3rd!), and pre-order links. All the valued fans have to do is sign the friendly letter, address the envelopes, and pop everything into a mailbox. The pin is a thank you token just for the valued fan.
The idea of the Hug Pack-Kit came from my creative publicists, Caitlin Hamilton and Rick Summie (I came up with the catchy name). The kit is a promotional campaign for my book, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. I have learned that every successful book needs a promotional and marketing program to stir the energy and provide direction for the upcoming publication. It is a steady stream of cultivating contacts, content writing, and enthusiasm so by the time the debut rolls around, the book buzz is at a frenzied level and everyone needs to read the book.
Who wants to be a valued fan and be part of the energy and enthusiasm? I have 20 Hug Pack-Its to give away. Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) your name and address to receive your Hug Pack-Kit.
My first 5-Star review came in from Readers’ Favorite . Readers’ Favorite is a fastest growing book review and award contest site. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers such as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors. It is an honor to recognized as a 5-Star author. And I get to put a sticker on my book!
Reviewed by Christian Sia for Readers’ Favorite
Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer by Antoinette Truglio Martin is a heartwarming memoir that follows a woman’s struggle to cope with breast cancer. Antoinette Martin had always thought she was a healthy and strong woman until the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her world would crumble as she went through the denial phase to sheer stupefaction, through anxiety to embracing the reality. The long hours of waiting at the clinic that seemed like forever, the solitude that enveloped her in the dire hours of the night, and the sense of fear about the painful reality are things that Martin learned to deal with. But how does one wake up from a nightmare like breast cancer?
For Antoinette Truglio Martin, the answer was in her community —her family, friends, and close “everyone.” In this memoir, she documents how staying connected with the people in her life helped her to find the courage to embrace her reality and to
transform it into a life-giving experience. Here is a book that will bring tears to the eyes of readers — tears of pain and empathy, but also tears of joy at contemplating the wellsprings of life that are hidden within us, waiting to burst forth through our experience of pain. Antoinette Truglio Martin writes with natural humor and readers will find a lot of encouragement and hope in her writing.This book will show readers the power of human connectivity and how sharing our experience can become an inspiring journey, not only for those who listen to us, but for us who live it.
Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer is a painful and empowering journey, a book that will speak to those undergoing any hopeless situation; it’s a gift to receive, use and pass on. This book will give readers the strength and the inspiration to name their suffering and to triumph over it. It’s exciting, informative and, above all, entertaining.
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I propose a name change for the second Sunday in June. Let’s replace Father’s Day with Daddy’s Day. The alliteration makes it more fun to say and the meaning of the day is better represented. I am not naïve to believe that everyone gets a dad, and I am not about to take on the semantics and politics of daddy-hood. I am writing this little essay from my experiences to honor the men that are dads in my life.
In my world, a daddy is defined by love. Daddy-love is just as strong and enduring as mommy-love. I can say with conviction that I have the best daddy of all. He is and has always been a steadfast rock through all the ups and downs life threw at him. He has placed family first, always. I never questioned if his love was genuine. He was and still is true. I am also blessed with wonderful uncles—extended dads. These men were cut from the same cloth of daddy-hood virtues. My husband too was raised by a solid dad and earned his own daddy-stars by raising three beautiful daughters into amazing young women. And now I find myself
surrounded by another generation of young dads. My favorite son-in-law and nephews are earning those early daddy endearments; so sweet to watch.
In my world, the second Sunday in June is meant to honor the men who show strength in being a constant loving force in a child’s life. I’m calling it Daddy’s Day.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year with cancer.
“Filled with fresh air, light, and life, Hug Everyone You Know is an intimate conversation with an intelligent, funny survivor. The voice rings true, and the insights resonate well beyond the cancer moment. Highly recommended.”
-Joni Rodgers; New York Times bestselling author of Bald in the Land of Big Hair
My grandfather, Willy Truglio, had the soul of a musician. As my father recounted his stories, it became clear that Willy held a deep love and loyalty for his family, friends, and neighbors. He cast a wide net of devotion laced with music. My father, Bill Truglio, continues to convey his father’s gentle being.
My father’s work day was long—10 am until 6 pm, an hour home for dinner, then back to Truly’s, his men’s clothing store, to prepare for the next day. Before opening, he would stop by his parents’ home on West 7th Street, to see his mother and share the day’s second cup of coffee. Grandma’s coffee was legendary—the worst imaginable! No amount of sugar or milk could mask its bitterness. It didn’t matter. These daily moments with his mom were part of his being—part of Grandma’s as well.
Truly’s was the only place my father did not have a piano. He did, however, have a radio set to WQXR. It is still a classical music station! As a boy, I would go to the store after school to run errands, man the cash register that seldom needed manning, and clean the front windows. During those afternoons, men who had businesses on the street would sit in the store and enjoy a chat. Very few bought anything. They would discuss the neighborhood, business, and the war raging in Europe and the Pacific. Mostly, though, they talked about music. Conversations about opera, classical music, composers, and the latest conductors were serious and passionate. I learned so much from these talks.
Dad did have some reliable customers. Not only did they appreciated his workmanship, they also relied on his kindness. He patiently dealt with a deaf family who would come in to get their growing boys fitted. A local celebrity would attract a crowd when he parked his black Packard in front of Truly’s. Johnny Roventini was a popular radio personality and the voice of Philip Morris cigarettes. The poster ads had him dressed in a red bellhop uniform paging a “Call for Phil-lip Mor-ris.” He was from Brooklyn and attracted a crowd when he pulled up in front of the store in his customized Packard. Johnny stood all of four feet tall. Dad fashioned him men suits that fit his boy-sized body.
I marveled at Dad’s loyalty to his friends at the expense of his business. He sent out easy jobs to his boyhood friend, Hymie, who would slowly completed a poor job. While Dad fixed the sloppy work, he would swear never to give Hymie work again. But friendship always won out when Hymie would again ask for another assignment.
Dad usually worked alone but every now and then, another old friend, Louie, helped out in the store when he needed work. Louie had an unending list of grievances to complain about. He had a short fuse and was a staunch anti-communist. One Saturday morning, a man came in collecting subscriptions for the Communist Daily Worker newspaper. Dad gently declined but, winking at me, told him the man in the back room would be interested. The explosion from Louie could be heard above the thunder of the elevated trains. The poor guy had to flee for his life.
There was a disheveled black man, Mr. Stern, who came looking for a handout. He enjoyed listening and talking about music and was quite honest about his alcoholism. Dad would send him on errands and paid him in a free lunch. Occasionally, he let Mr. Stern sleep in the back room, cook over an open fire, and take a shower in the back yard with a hose. One day, a long-time customer insisted on examining a pair of pants she wanted to buy in the sunlight. Before Dad could stop her, she rushed through the back door into the yard where Mr. Stern was showering. What a sight! That old lady dashed through the store and out the door screaming louder than the soprano sustaining a high note on the radio!
On Friday nights, Dad would join his brothers and brother-in-law at my Uncle Mickey’s house to watch the boxing on TV and play pinochle.
They played pinochle for bragging rights and could remember every hand to hash over the mistakes. Inevitably, Dad would find his was to Mickey’s upright piano. Soon he was accompanying all singers no matter the key. Dad was always the piano player for every gathering.
When I was ten years old, the merchants on 86th Street decided to close on Sundays. It gave my father a relaxing day to spend with me and my two younger sisters, tune his baby grand piano and play the beautiful music he had heard all week on the radio. Early on Sundays, he would drive to the store to check on the awnings and the doors. One morning, he spotted flames leaping in a linoleum floor store window across the street. He ran to the upstairs apartment and rescued the family from the smoke-filled rooms. Another Sunday morning, when I was with him, he noticed smoke coming out of the stable for the peddle-cart horses. He made a sharp U-turn on 86th Street. I jumped out of the car and lifted the door latch. The frantic horses burst out and disappeared down 86th Street. I don’t think those work horses ever ran so fast.
That same year, Dad and his brother-in-law, my Uncle Billy, put $400 together and bought a tiny cottage on Long Island’s south shore, in Copiague’s American Venice area. The developer attempted to create canals, roads, and statues mimicking Venice, Italy. His timing was terrible. The Great Depression ended up bankrupting his dream. It was, however, an advantageous deal for a city family looking for an escape. It was called the Country House.
This tiny cottage became the focal point for the entire extended family. There was always a crowd. My sisters, cousins, and I were in heaven rowing, swimming, clamming, and fishing all summer. There were army cots and several thin mattresses. Kids slept in the attic. Mothers and aunts prepared volumes of food. Late at night while the cards were being played and singing echoed, Grandpa Vito cooked up a big pot of aglio e olio—a peasant spaghetti dish made with garlic, seasoning, and olive oil.
A piano was soon acquired and added to the second-hand furnishings. The Schultzes, who lived across the street, donated their piano to Dad because he played so much better than Mrs. Schultz and she preferred to sing. The little time Dad spent at the cottage was a great outlet for him playing the piano and surrounded by the people he loved.
After WWII, the small shops gave way to the encroaching department stores and supermarkets. Street vendors disappeared. Uncle Billy gave up his butcher shop to work for Pathmark. Dad was finding it harder to keep the store solvent. He was also missing out on spending time with his little boy, my youngest brother, Victor. JC Penney offered Dad a fitter’s position. He couldn’t believe the money he would be paid just for hemming pants. He worked there four days when, tragically, he suffered a heart attack.
My father, Willy Truglio, the piano player, died too young at the age of 53. Although he is missed, his legacy of love and loyalty stills plays like a song in our hearts and memory.
My grandfather’s piano lives in my parent’s living room. At Christmas, my dad plays from memory surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He may not believe he plays as well as his father had but the joy the music brings is just as powerful.
Diana & Bill, my parents
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The memoir is a wimpy patient’s journey through her first year with cancer.
My grandfather’s baby grand Steinway & Sons piano stands on sturdy mahogany legs in my parent’s living room. The rock maple case is encased in black walnut veneer giving off that classic Steinway & Sons presence. The Steinway & Sons name is scrolled in gold paint on the fall board. The white keys are ivory, and the black keys are ebony. Old baby teeth markings remain on the cheek of the case; ancient reminders of the generations that have lived with this piano. Sometimes the lid is tilted open exposing the finely crafted harp. While my dad played the piano, I remember being mesmerized watching the key hammers hit the strings mixing the individual strikes into beautiful harmonies. Even today, despite its centenarian-plus age, the timber resonates full-bodied music throughout the house.
My dad, now 84 years old, will sit on the piano bench and play his favorite carols and passages. He has long abandoned reading music but relies on finger memory and his musical ear. These days, as he plays, I think he conjures his father, William—Willy—Truglio, the piano player—a gentle man with a deep devotion to family and friendships, and a passion for music that surrounded his being.
My dad, Bill Truglio, told this story. He is Willy’s eldest son.
My father was named William Joseph after his mother’s fun-loving little brother who died a few months before the baby’s birth. Everyone called him Willy. The new century had just begun. Willy was the first-born American of Italian immigrants. My grandfather, Vito, worked the Manhattan docks while my grandma, Angelina (called Nellie), cared for her growing brood and took in homework from the garment factories. They began their life in a tenement on the lower east side of Manhattan. Life was crowded, noisy, and busy. Dad’s three brothers and sister were quickly added to the family. An additional brother, Alfred, came along when Dad turned 15 and baby sister Tosca was born ten years later. Newly arrived relations always came and went. The neighborhood hummed in Italian, Yiddish, and Irish brogues.
My father grew up running with his brothers and friends through the streets, playing stickball on the tenement blocks and later, in the Brooklyn alleys. My grandma was a good friend to everyone. She listened to woes, gave advice and helped a good cause by offering small loans. Sometimes the payback was in bread, a record, or a pair of shoes. Her greatest barter was a piano and lessons for her son, Willy.
I am not certain if he graduated high school, but I do know my dad had a great capacity to learn. He understood the workings of mechanics and electricity. I remember detailed conversations with him on the theories and applications of perpetual motion, magnetism, and gravity. And he studied music—classical music. He knew operas, recognized all of the masters’ work, and appreciated the details of classical composition Music was his art. Whenever free time availed itself, my dad could be found at his piano, working through a difficult piece of music or adjusting a harp string until it sang true.
During my father’s boyhood, music was everywhere. It was on the phonograph. Arias were sung a cappella in living rooms and kitchens, and there was always music playing on the street corners. Ragtime jazz and exciting technologies had emerged during that time capturing attention and fueling imaginations. At a young age, my dad earned money as a piano player in the movie theaters. He quickly learned music improvisation to convey setting and drama while watching the silent films. He played at weddings, in speakeasies and neighborhood bars. Later, he formed the Billy Doyle Band with his brother, Micky, and traveled to the Catskills, throughout the east coast and a few cities in the Midwest. Dad was Billy Doyle. He was the piano player accompanying Micky’s song and dance numbers.
Dad met my mother, Mary Caristi, in the late 20s. They were deeply in love, but a traveling musician was not an acceptable vocation for my mother’s family. Dad’s Uncle Tom set him up to operate and eventually own a men’s clothing store. It was in a popular shopping area on 86th Street in Brooklyn. I think that is the Bensonhurst area. I remember marking time by the west end elevated trains rumbling overhead.
The store was called Truly’s. Dad was the buyer and salesman. He developed and customized patterns, fitted garments, kept the books and swept the floor.
My parents were married in 1932 and lived with my mother’s family at 2202 East 5th Street in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. The household included Nonno, Nonna, mom’s 15-year-old brother, Tony, and a cantankerous parrot who periodically trilled “Puerto Rico!”, demanded café each morning, and squawked at Nonna’s insistence of his daily shower. The dining room converted into the newlyweds’ bedroom at night. Mom’s older brother, Leo, lived in the downstairs flat with his family. I arrived a year later. The living arrangements were tight, but everyone was used to it, and everyone got along.
Dad worked seven-days-a-week, eleven-hour-a-day. Slacks, draped on valet stands, and neatly hung jackets dressed the front windows, and the floor had a short maze of clothing racks. The industrial sewing machine and a heavy iron and boards were in the back. Just as he worked on perfecting his piano playing, Dad operated the sewing machine with delicate precision and wielded that huge iron with strength and rigor to create perfect creases and pleats.
The business started slowly. The Great Depression bore down on everyone. Sometimes customers paid in sandwiches, a record, or a promise. Like his mother, his greatest barter was a piano—the baby grand Steinway and Sons. Somehow it fit in the corner of the dining room/bedroom. He took loving care of the piano and kept it perfectly tuned by his own ear. When Dad played, the house filled with glorious music.
Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer
In less than five months, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer will be sitting pretty on book shelves and e-book libraries on October 3, 2017. I am learning that writing a book is only half of the process in getting it launched successfully and keeping it alive. I am in the process coordinating publicity and marketing campaigns. Press releases, book reviews, and blogger endorsements are a must. One cannot dis the value of collateral material (bookmarks, handbills, pins, and such). I believe my team and I are on track. Here are the highlights.
Everything is moving forward. My publicist, Caitlin Hamilton Summie has the ARC copies in hand (benefit of living so close to Ingram). My copies should be in my anticipating hands any day now! A few collateral materials have been delivered and proofs for more are almost done. I had the buttons done by Purebutton. The page grabbers were born by my fellow teachers. I designed the template and had it printed locally. I am having a Folding Party next week to get them folded and spark a pre-order frenzy (I hope).