June 6, 2013
A Giant Of A Man
Many, many years ago, growing up in the Cleland Heights section of Wilmington, DE., I learned a lesson that I’ve never forgotten. The lesson was taught to me by my mother, a woman who had a way of making you recognize the truth.
People say the best lessons are the ones you learn the hard way. I don’t think this fits the “hard way” category, but it’s worth telling because it’s a lesson I never forgot.
I Was Six Years Old…
I remember coming home from school with one of my buddies. We were messing around and I said something about “Pete, the Midget.” My mother came in from the kitchen and asked what I said. It was her voice that alerted me. She spoke in a tone that I knew meant trouble. Despite that, I repeated what I said.
“Why did you call him a midget?” she asked.
I was puzzled, and said something profound, like “because.”
“Do you call tall people giants?” she asked.
“Now I knew I was in trouble.”
That night—after I did the dishes—she sat me down at the kitchen table. She told me to write down everything I knew about Pete. After much thinking, I put together a list:
- He’s a nice guy.
- He’s always friendly.
- He grows tomatoes and vegetables and sells them.
- He runs the newspapers in our area.
- He lives in the big stone house on the corner.
Last on the list, I wrote:
- He’s a little guy.
My mother said, “look at that list.” If you wanted to describe Pete to someone, you could say any number of things. You could say…
You know Pete, he’s…
- The nice guy who lives in the stone house on the corner.
- The friendly guy who sells tomatoes.
- The guy who runs the paper business.
She looked at me, probably to see if I was embarrassed, and then she said, “Pete Petrucci is a giant of a man.”
The next day I stopped by to see Pete. I asked if he needed help delivering tomatoes. Usually people stopped by his house to get their tomatoes, but sometimes he delivered them.
I delivered a few bags for him that day, and when he offered to pay me, I said, “Nah, it’s no big deal.”
He gave me a bag of tomatoes to take home. I delivered tomatoes a few more times, and then one day he asked me if I wanted a paper route. He had an opening. I worked hard on that paper route, and over time I got to know Pete well.
He Never Stopped Helping
- When I got tired of the paper route, he hooked me up with the newspaper guy at the race track so I could work the summers there.
- He taught me card tricks.
- He taught me how to play Scopa.
- He taught me the benefits of treating everyone nicely.
Pete was never too busy to stop and say hello. He would always introduce you to whoever he was talking to. And if you needed a favor, it was only an “ask” away.
It wasn’t long before I realized my mother had been right—Pete Petrucci was a giant of a man.
My mother had a way of making me see things in a manner that stuck with me. Her lessons sometimes took years to learn, but eventually they’d catch up with me.
A few years after this incident I was demonstrating a card trick to a friend. He asked where I’d learned it, and I told him from Pete.
He said, “Pete the Midget?”
I got pissed off. I said. “Pete—the guy who sells tomatoes.”
After my friend left, my mother walked by and patted me on the head. And then she said, “Always remember—you don’t measure a man by how big his body is, but by how big his heart is.”
That’s one of my mother’s sayings that I have never forgotten.
Ciao, and thanks for stopping by,
By author Giacomo Giammatteo:
Giacomo lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”