STATEN ISLAND, NY – Every Family Has It – Summer Vacation Stories. As the only child and daughter of Frank Silvestri – a proud UFT card holder, retired New York City public school teacher and president of Albert Shanker’s fan club who was looking forward to his two week absence in August – there are a few to share.
With full disclosure, in order not to embarrass my father or smear Silvestri’s name, this article was written with the express permission of Frank, who is now laughing heartily at some of these memories. Although at the time, maybe they weren’t that funny. That said, we’ll start with a whirlwind 14-day tour of Italy by bus led by an opera singing guide named Giovanni. He nicknamed our clan of Frank, Pat and Pamela “The Holy Family”.
However, the hotel we stayed at in Rome was located quite close to the city zoo. At night the staff turned off the air conditioning around midnight which made the rooms so hot we had to open the windows. This allowed all kinds of noise to filter through, including sounds presumably coming from the zoo.
The next day, the first day at breakfast with other people on our tour, a guy from Chicago complained to Giovanni that the nocturnal animal activity was so strong that he couldn’t sleep.
“I was awake all night. There was that roar, ”he told Giovanni, guessing that the noisy creature was an angry elephant or bear.
The next night it was the same thing – warm room, open windows, rumblings of supernatural creatures. At breakfast the next morning, the Chicago dude offered a re-enactment of the offensive sounds. Suddenly we had a revelation: the man described a sound we were used to – the snoring of none other than the Patriarch of the Holy Family of Giovanni.
Memorable trips have also taken place in the United States.
Our annual August vacation once took us to sunny Florida to visit Disney. My dad thought it would be more economical to stay somewhere outside of the theme park. The accomodation was Frank’s favorite motel for its all-you-can-eat breakfast and memorable cigarette butts at the bottom of an otherwise pleasant pool. My mom found it hilarious that our Alamo rental car came with postcards of smiling models showing brownish sedans.
“Why would we send them home?” My mother said laughing. That sense of humor came in handy when we parked the Alamo in the sunny Disney parking lot, aptly named “Pluto”. It was certainly as if we had parked in space.
Another summer respite took us to the sandy shores of Beach Lake in Pennsylvania. The resort chosen had a few perks through the brochure – a games room, a very nice swimming pool and, as the name suggests, a lake. But this week in particular, Mother Nature had a period of unusually cold days in mind for the Silvestri, which made water equipment unnecessary. The pinball machines were broken. And the tiny black-and-white TVs in our rooms only displayed images when two hands simultaneously held an aluminum cable left by courteous and knowledgeable guests.
Beach Lake was a place my mom had been to as a child and she had fond memories of the city. In the resort we stayed at, there were die-hard regulars bragging about birthdays when they came back to the rustic resort by decade. A group of permanent visitors, an elderly brother and sister, had been coming to Beach Lake since their teens. And they knew all the traditions of the resort what to expect on certain days with activities and group meals. Since not much was happening with normal outdoor things, our focus and my dad’s attention turned to food.
The brother and sister were assigned to our table for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the brother was proud to know what to expect with the menu. It was predictable for the Beach Lake elders with things like meatloaf on Monday, turkey on Tuesday and so on. This man knew exactly what would show up on any day of the week – the type of muffin, the style of egg and toast – and announced it right before he came to the table. After the Meal Messenger declared the feast in detail several times before it arrived, my father had had enough.
“You know, sometimes I like the element of surprise,” my dad said jokingly but not jokingly.
Well this was the last trip to Keystone State for a family destination except when I went to Bryn Mawr College. But that’s a Frank Silvestri summer story for another day.
Pamela Silvestri is Editor-in-Chief of Advance Food. She can be reached at [email protected].