I Was Shipwrecked on the Andrea Doria! The Titanic of the 1950s–excerpt

From somewhere I heard, “Don’t be chicken! Get your suit on!” It was Patrick beckoning me, if not daring me. He’s nine, too. Why can’t I be as brave as he is? Now I felt really shy, especially since we were always needing someone to translate for us between English and Italian. Nonna led us to some chairs near Patrick’s family.

Patrick’s slender, energetic-looking mother extended her hand as she shaded her face. “I’m Germina Marino, and this is my daughter, Darlene,” she said. The teenage girl gave a smile that matched the warmth of her chestnut hair. Mrs. Marino seemed friendly and outgoing and immediately put us at ease. “And that’s my impatient son, Patrick.” She looked at me recoiling in the huge chair, then added, “Don’t let him rush you, bella. He’s got to be doing something all the time. Just can’t stay still.”

I was momentarily relieved—until I heard an unidentifiable animal noise, accompanied by a big splash that got us all. It was that wild boy. We wiped the water off ourselves and listened to Mrs. Marino tell one of the funniest stories we’d ever heard.

“Since I’m a ‘war bride’—I married an American soldier—my family in Italy invited me and the children for a visit. Four weeks ago, when the Doria was about to leave dock, my son was nowhere to be found. My husband even came onto the boat to search for him. An officer announced his name on the ship loudspeaker. That devil was busy climbing up to the funnel; he opened the windows and kept banging on it so he could wave to people on shore. When he finally heard his name, he didn’t know where to report. A crew member took him by the arm and made him face his father and the captain. If the captain hadn’t been there, that boy would have gotten a good licking!”

We all laughed, knowing that she was embellishing the story, but we wanted to hear more. Nonna was holding her stomach and wiping tears from her eyes as Patrick’s mother continued.

“But the ship had already left the dock, so my husband had to ride back to shore in a tugboat. All of this just added to the humiliation of getting a pizza slice dropped on his new suit while he was waving good-bye from shore earlier. I hope I can get that son of mine back to New York safe!”

I couldn’t remember the last time Nonna laughed. Certainly  not on the way to Genoa (the port of  departure).

 

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