In late October as Margaret Ann and Matthew’s birthday neared, I wanted to make them a cake like those we were used to. When I jokingly asked James whether I should make a vanilla or a chocolate cake, he insisted that only chocolate would do. Luckily I had packed in the steamer trunks my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and so I had plenty of recipes for cake. All I had to do was find the ingredients, so we made the forty minute trek to Casale. Baking powder and flour were no problem, and neither were icing sugar and chocolate. However we could not find food coloring.
On the morning of their birthday, I whipped up the batter and baked it in the 9x12 inch glass baking pan I had also brought with me from California. When the cake had cooled, I cut it in half width-wise so that we had two equally sized squares. That way each twin would have their own special cake. Without food coloring, decorating them was a challenge. I opted for icing Margaret Ann’s with vanilla frosting and Matthew’s with chocolate frosting. Since I had not found icing tips either, I snipped the end of an envelope, filled it with vanilla icing and traced a 2 on Matthew’s cake, squiggled a line around the perimeter and made one blob of icing each side of the 2 into which we could place candles. For Margaret Ann’s cake, I filled another envelope with chocolate frosting and traced the same number and two blobs for the candles, so each decoration contrasted with the icing underneath. The cakes were simple and the decoration amateurish, but the children were content as we lit the candles and sang happy birthday.
|Margaret Ann and Matthew's 2nd birthday celebration with James (l) and Paul (r)|
I cooked roast beef downstairs in my in-law’s oven for the birthday dinner, and we invited the uncles to come over afterwards for coffee and cake. Zio Remo arrived and actually came inside--the first time he had entered the house in the five months we had lived there. He murmured the polite “Permesso” as he entered, head slightly bowed and looking quite uncomfortable. He was not the usual jovial person who was happy to chat through my in-law’s open kitchen window or outside in the courtyard. Zio Silvio declined our invitation and was not to actually enter our house until we entertained a group of relatives on New Year’s Day. It seemed visitors in that area would not readily enter each other's homes unless it was really cold outside. Zio Remo loosened up a bit after a slug of brandy in his coffee, but he never did seem comfortable as a guest inside our house.
At first the twins seemed a little bewildered about how to open the wrapped gifts from us and those that had been sent by my sister, but they soon got the hang of pulling off the paper and opening the cards sent by various relatives in England and America. Matthew enjoyed it so much that for weeks afterwards whenever the mailman arrived, he eagerly hovered around asking, "F'me? F'me?" while one of us collected the mail. He was delighted when a week after the party a package arrived for them from Margaret Ann’s godmother, my good friend Rita. They couldn’t wait to rip open the paper and try on their new American outfits.
|Matthew and Margaret Ann on the kitchen balcony in their American outfits.|
They were two years old, and they seemed to have suddenly left babyhood behind. With my encouragement they were beginning to chatter away in English, gradually dropping their “twin-speak”. They were quite comfortable being spoken to in Italian and could follow simple Italian commands but had not yet tried to speak it. Paul and James had adjusted to the asilo, and each day their Italian skills had advanced so much that by late October they spoke English with an Italian accent! Always quicker than adults to adapt, our children, like many immigrant children the world over, were settling well into our new home.
But George still hadn't found a way to make a living.