Rochester, NY

A Dining Room Set for Mom and Dad: A Son Remembers

Herbie J Pilato

It was November of 1977.

We had just moved from our red-brick, home on Erie Street in the inner city of Rochester, New York. Eastman Kodak had long purchased the house, but the city's Landmark Society would not allow it to be torn down.

Other homes in the neighborhood were gone, replaced by Kodak parking lots.  We were the only house left on the block; even Aunt Elva and Uncle Carl, who lived directly next door in our double house, had moved to Irondequoit, New York - a suburb of Rochester. It was time for us to move on, too.

So we found a beautiful rental community in Greece, New York, another suburb of the city.  It was close to the historic Charlotte Beach, which claimed Abbott's Frozen Custard and Schaller's Hamburgers as its own - places to which we had once traveled from Erie Street on only special day trips. Now, we were living up the street from them.

When we first moved to Greenleaf, my sister and I ran up and down the stairs singing, "Moving On Up!" - the theme song from the TV show, The Jeffersons. It was a silly moment, but passionate and sincere.

We were sad to leave Erie Street, but happy to be at our new townhome. Not only were we now close to the beach, Abbott's, and Schaller's, but we had a beautiful pool, tennis courts, a clubhouse, and a brand new three-level townhome.

To help give things an even fresher start, my parents, Frances Mary Turri, and Herbie "Pompeii," purchased new living room furniture. But we still had an old dining room set.

It was my senior year of high school(at Aquinas Institute), and I had started my first job (as a box boy for  Bell's Supermarket).  So, I saved some money.

My sister pulled me aside one day and told me about how Mom and Dad would soon be celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary (on November 29, 1977), and that we should do something special for them to commemorate the occasion. "I have $400.00," she said. "If you throw in $100.00, we can give them $500.00. They've never treated themselves, Herbie J. This is a big deal for them...moving here to Greenleaf. And we can really make it a nice anniversary for them this year."

I didn't think twice about my sister's request. I gave her the $100.00; she put it in a card - and after having a little cake, we gave it to our parents.

I'll never forget how it all played out because, even though we were happy to have moved to our new townhome, it was a tough time for celebrations that year. We would always spend the holidays on Erie Street with our big extended family. 

But in 1977 things were different. Not only had we left Erie Street, but so had our relatives from next door; various aunts, uncles, and cousins moved to Arizona and California; everyone in our family just kind of went their separate ways for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

That never happened before; and it was a lonely time - for everyone - in many ways. So, when my parents opened the card and saw the $500.00 - spread out in brand-new crisp $100.00 bills - my Mom cried.  Then my father cried, then my sister, and then I joined in on the floodgate. Not sobbing...but gentle, sweet quiet tears of appreciation.

Within a few days, we had a new dining room set...the modern kind with the really nice leather swivel chairs on rollers, and a big extension leaf that could be placed in the middle of the table - all of which my parents had purchased with the $500.00.

There wasn't a nicer set in town. And the following Christmas, everyone who used to celebrate Christmas with us on Erie Street, was now reunited with us at our new townhome.

From thereon, we shared countless delicious meals around our very special dining room set.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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