My grandmother, Jean Castrovinci, was the first teacher in our family. She graduated from Jersey City Normal School (now New Jersey City State University) in 1927, and taught in PS 14, in the Greenville section of Jersey City, for 31 years, retiring in 1970.
She passed from my touch on May 4, 1980, and I have never stopped missing her.
Jean inspired her two daughters, three of her six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren to enter the teaching profession. Pretty remarkable, if you ask me. I have nothing but admiration for the teachers in my family, and in my extended family (Barbara Aline). Kids scare the hell out of me.
Being a musician who loved poetry, my grandmother was especially encouraging. I recall us floating in a hotel swimming pool discussing the properties of a specific poem, and she suddenly started laughing. She looked at me, eyes twinkling, and said, “You and I are a couple of ‘longhairs.'” I had no idea what she meant, and she explained it was a term used in the 1920s to denote someone who was an intellectual. As in Longfellow, the poet.
My grandmother was very close to her two brothers, my uncles Frank and Noel. She loved her niece, Elaine, and nephew, George, and made sure my sisters and I were connected to that part of our family. I’m so grateful for that because we do share a bond today. My cousin, Corrine, is someone I know I can call at any time for any reason. And for that, my grandmother, (and Corrine’s grandfather, Noel,) would be proud.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I want to state simply that without the love of my grandmother, I would not be here, writing this blog post. She believed in me, she loved me, she encouraged me, and she expected me to achieve my highest purpose. She is the sole reason I’ve had the courage to carry on.
I wrote this untitled poem for her.
How often I heard the cardinals
Chirp, like they were chipping marble
As they flitted through
The rhododendrons in January.
I thought you would never go, that
We would have eternity to
Watch the flight of the cardinals
And comment on their calls.
But you went. Just as the cherry
Blossoms were bursting,
And the sky, like that particular
Tuesday, was incredibly blue.
All I can say now, three decades gone,
Is I would give all the beauty back
To Nature if I could see
Your red coat in the distance
Bending over the first crocuses of spring.