15. Armistice Day

A FEW WEEKS LATER, Maria went into labor once again, unaware if her battle with the Spanish flu had harmed the baby within her womb. As usual, Serafino would be the only other person in the room in case of complications.

“Dio mio!” Serafino cried even louder than Maria did. “It’s a boy! He’s strong as an ox!”

It was the most triumphant day of all for the Di Gregorio family on Lehigh Row. It was the birthday of a son, Raffaello, on November 11, 1918. It was the day that World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. And here was the first Di Gregorio son, born on the first day of peace following “the war to end all wars.” On the day in which America had given birth to a new world, the Di Gregorios had given birth to a healthy new American boy, the grandson of Nicola. All earth, heaven, and history seemed to usher in a beautiful new age with this beautiful new son.

Serafino shared his vigorous yet smooth wine with the neighbors to toast the victory in Europe, to toast their new life in America, and to toast the destiny of the American-born son. For Serafino and Maria, all of their agonizing choices in the past, all of their enervating efforts in the present, and all of their ardent hopes for the future seemed to be validated on that glorious day.

“A-me-ri-ca!” Serafino strode from house to house, pouring his wine into the cups of his mutually adopted fellow countrymen. “A-me-ri-ca!” he cheered them on. “She is a BYOO-tiful country! Made more BYOO-tiful by my brand new American baby boy!”

The neighbors spilled out of their homes, assembled on one another’s front porches, and congregated in the gravel lanes between the rows of homes.

“A-me-ri-ca! She is the most BYOO-tiful country in the world!” Serafino crowed repeatedly.

The neighbors nodded and drank his wine repeatedly.