Mom always served vegetables – canned when I was very young, then later, frozen vegetables, as they became more widely available. In the summer, we had fresh vegetables from Mr. Capozucca’s farm. Mr. Capozucca was a short, stubby Italian truck farmer, who used to drive up our long driveway twice a week in an old milk delivery truck and open up the back for Mom to pick out what she wanted. Squash, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, corn and eggplant packed the shelves in the truck. Mr. Capozucca didn’t speak English very well, but he made my mother laugh. Sometimes his daughter would come with him – a wildly beautiful, leggy girl, totally unself-conscious. This same girl actually volunteered to baby sit my brother, at a time when my parents couldn’t find anyone willing to do it. My brother was a tow-headed, blue-eyed monster, and every teenager in the town avoided us like the plague. Mom had been praying regularly to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases, and when Mr. Capozucca’s daughter actually took him to the farm for a day, my mother elevated her to somewhere on a par with the Virgin Mary.
Other trucks came up our driveway on the regular basis, one of them driven by the milkman. He always left the bottles of milk by the back door, the kind in glass bottles with a narrow neck in which a layer of cream rose to the top. Mom always decanted the cream to use for coffee. Since both my brother and I turned out to be the only left-handers in the entire extended family, the standard joke was that we had been sired by the milkman.
And every year the knife sharpener came. He would ring his bell at the bottom of the driveway, and Mom would go out and wave to him to come up. He carried his sharpening wheel on his back, along with his pack, a blanket, and various instruments belted around his middle. His hair was long and tied back, and he was always neat and clean, wearing a dress shirt with worn denim pants. I was told that he walked up and down the length of the East coast, heading north in the spring and south in the fall, and made a good enough living to send his children to college. For weeks after his visit, I would dream of wandering around the country with just a pack, but without the sharpening wheel.