In this, her second memoir, New Prairie Woman is Susie Rosso Wolf’s depiction of her journey from Los Angeles to the historical town of Three Forks, Montana. On these pages you will discover the grandeur of “The Last Best Place” through her writing, poetry and photography, the challenges of living in a twenty foot trailer in sub-zero temperatures and how love, perseverance, and the miracle of faith can lift a soul up from the depths of the deepest, darkest waters.
Born in Santa Monica, California, I was raised in the small bedroom community of Sunkist Park that borders Culver City, Playa del Rey, Mar Vista and Venice. I attended Venice High School, West LA Community College and California Institute of the Arts. My studies included English, English Literature, Poetry, Creative Writing, Choir, Classical Voice, Shakespeare, Musical Theater, Television and Film Acting and Art History. In 1980, I relocated to the Pacific Northwest and in 1982 I married Kurt Wolf in Corvallis, Oregon. During the course of our long journey together, I have remained devoted to not only my husband, but to my friends and family, and the arts. What defines me most is my passion for expression through art. I’m an avid reader, writer and poet.I also enjoy painting and photography. Additionally, some folks consider me a pretty good cook.
New Prairie Woman Susie Rosso Wolf Chapter Four, con't
Two days passed and I knew our phone would be ringing soon with Brenda on the line asking if we were going to Ontario to say hello to Robert and goodbye to the girls as they make their way to Montana with their daddy. I was adamantly against this spontaneous meeting and yet I found myself in Culver City at Sorrento’s Italian Market shopping for the best imported mozzarella, ricotta, provolone, Italian sausage, canned roma tomatoes, manicotti shells and Chianti that money could buy. I bought huge stems loaded with gigantic leaves of the most beautiful fresh Sweet Italian Basil you could find in Southern California. The aroma takes you right to the door of the old country and the olive oil tasted like silky green olives soaked in gold. It was good to be back in the old neighborhood and to see the Vera family, who had been family friends for as long as I could remember. Mama, (Lydia) the matriarch of the Vera family, was still working behind the counter and knew my mother when she had been pregnant with me. “I remember your mama sitting you on this very counter while she shopped and I would feed you fresh Italian bread dipped in my red sauce and olive oil and you would chew on the bread with a smile on your face and drool all over the counter! You loved the sweet ricotta filling in the cannoli and would cry if we tried to take it away from you! I remember you all through your life. And now you come back to say hello, you brat!”
“Oh Mama, you know I’ll always come back to see you no matter how far away I live. I can’t stay away from this place for too long, I can’t live without your Italian sandwiches and pepperoni!”
“You see! That’s all you love me for is my cooking! Just like the rest of the brats around here!”
“Oh Mama, you know that’s not true, I love you for so many reasons.”
“Shut up brat and put this in your mouth so you can stop talking!” She practically stuffed a big fat cannoli into my mouth and in an instant I was taken back to my childhood as she had previously described when she would feed the sweet creamy filling to me when I was a baby and then growing up she would never let me leave the store without a cannoli or Napoleon. I looked up at her beautiful long white hair that was braided all around the top of her head and held up with the same gorgeous tortoise shell hair pin that she had been wearing since I was a little girl. I admired her stamina and devotion to her family. Here she was, in her eighties I would imagine, she had to be at least eighty, and she was still working and giving the orders around there! I loved her so much and realized that I needed to drive out to see The Vera’s more often.
“I know you’re mad at me,” I said with my mouth full of cannoli.
“Shut up and eat, brat, I don’t want to talk to you anymore, you always leave and never come back unless you want to cook something.”
“Hey Mama, that’s no way to talk to our friend here, leave her alone!” Albert’s voice bellowed from the back of the store and then I heard his footsteps over the old wooden slat floor. He came around from the counter and put his arms around me and gave me a gentle squeeze. “How are you, Bella? Long time, no see! You look beautiful!”
“Hi Albert, it’s great to see you!”
“Where in the world have you been?”
“Oh, we moved to Northridge and I don’t get out here to the old neighborhood much anymore.”
“We know, we know,” I heard from the front of the store as the screen door slammed. It was Ursula, Albert’s wife.
“Ursula! How are you?”
“I’m fine, Junior, take this please,” she said as she passed a heavy box of fresh vegetables over to Albert Junior. “You look good; it’s nice to see you. Is Mama taking care of you? Are you hungry?”
“Yes, she’s taking care of me all right, while she tells me off for not visiting more often.”
“Mama, leave her alone and be nice, she’s a busy married woman.”
“Yes I know and she should have married Junior that’s all I’m going to say about it,” Mama said in her thick Italian accent.
Ursula, Albert and Junior all chimed, “Mama!” in unison. We all laughed and I noticed Junior’s face turning red and I wondered if mine was blushing as well. Ursula hugged me and led me by the hand over to the dry goods section of the store which was actually just a small corner of the store with a table set up with imported folded ladies peasant blouses, shoes, hair brushes and hand mirrors and boxes of Italian music on CD and cassette. She picked up a CD and said “You have to hear this. Take this with you, it’s my gift.”
“Thank you, Ursula, I can’t wait to hear it.” I looked at the CD and was thrilled to have it, anything from Italy was always a treat for me.
“He’s truly sensational, really gifted and the songs are so romantic you’ll melt all over!”
I looked down at the CD again and read the title, Romanza by Andrea Bocelli. “I’ve never heard of him before.”
“You’ll love this, he’s very well known in Italy, and around the world.”
“Thank you,” I said again. As I finished up my shopping and had five or six green olives marinated in vinegar and olive oil and Italian spices, Ursula and Albert both packed up my groceries into tall brown paper sacks then added twelve fresh Italian rolls, six Napoleon’s and six cannoli’s in a large pink pastry box. “No! I didn’t order the pastries,” I admonished.
“Shut up,” They both said and I laughed as they stuffed as many odds and ends into the bags that they could including a large box of my favorite Italian treat of vanilla nougat candies all individually wrapped in wafer paper then gold paper and then put into their beautiful tiny little boxes with pictures of famous Italian artwork on the outside. Albert and Ursula began walking out the back door with my groceries refusing to take my money, not wanting to even discuss or argue the fact that they had just packed at least $100.00 worth of meats, cheeses, wine, pastry, bread, olives, vegetables, canned tomatoes, fresh pasta, dried pasta, pastries, and even a CD, into the bags.
“Which one is yours?” Albert asked.
“The big black truck, I’ve got Kurt’s ride today,” I said as they both walked to the passenger side of the truck and opened the cab door to place the bags in the back seat.
“How can I thank you both for this? You’ve done too much, as always.”
“Just go with God and come back soon,” said Albert.
“Yes, don’t be such a stranger, come home more often we know you can’t get anything good to eat out there in that valley,” Ursula added.
“It’s true, Ursula, nothing compares to Sorrento’s.
“That’s what you always say but we never see you,” shouted Mama from the back screen door of the store. We laughed and Albert and Ursula told her to stop nagging me, scolding her to go home to take a nap. I walked around to the driver’s door and jumped up into the truck as Albert, Ursula, Junior and Mama all came round to say good-bye, ciao, go with God. While I slowly drove down the alley behind the store, I could see Mama in my rear view mirror crossing the alley, walking through the little gate of the back yard to their home. I crossed over the intersection of the alley and the little turn out street that put me onto Sepulveda Boulevard. I drove up to the 405 North on-ramp and gassed it as I merged into the far left lane for the long drive back to our Sherwood Forest home. I thought about Robert through every mile. He used to love these people and the store. We shopped at Sorrento’s together all through his childhood, this store and these people were a part of our mutual history. Father would drive us over for a sandwich and he would buy himself an entire one pound stick of pepperoni and stuff it up the inside of a large Italian roll, leaving both ends of the pepperoni sticking out of the roll. He could never wait until we arrived home for his little Italian snack, so he drove us home with one hand on the wheel as he fed himself the sandwich with the other. Robert and I would crack up in hysterical laughter while Father drove, then eat our Italian sandwiches with the white butcher paper wrapper spread across our laps, in-between jokes about the man who loved us both so much, as he did all of his four children and his two grandsons.