June 6, 2013

A Giant of a Man

Giacomo & Slick

Giacomo & Slick

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.”

Lessons Learned

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.

Bottom Line

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.”







14 Responses to “A Giant of a Man”

  1. Good story Jim! My Mom and I did the same with the “N” word, never to be spoken in our house at our table. Take care!

  2. Oh yeah, we had many restrictions like that. It was a good time to grow up.

  3. Great story and wonderful memory of Mommom!

    In the NE, especially in that area, nicknames were very common and they weren’t always sensitive about them either, so it’s pretty impressive that Mommom would stand so firm like that back in those days.

    That’s a good lesson, not just about being more aware of what you say, but about paying attention to the ‘bigger picture’. And about thinking for yourself instead of just repeating what you hear. There are a few lessons there rolled into one, so it was even more clever than it first appears of her to teach you that.

    What a wise woman to say “write a list of what you know about Pete”. Her response: “Pete is a giant of a man” made me tear up.

    Wonderfully written!

  4. Thanks, Aliza. Lots of people had good ways to make things sink in. Like the nuns making you write things on the blackboard a zillion times… It was a good era.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to your Mother. She sounds like she was a giant woman with a heart to match. I wish there were more Moms, like your’s, in today’s world. It would be a much more civil and respectful place. Thank you for sharing another one of your memories.

  6. Thanks, Cheryl. She seemed to have an endless supply of sayings that she whipped out like the nuns did yardsticks.

  7. I remember Pete very well. He and his brother lived in the big stone house on Rodney Street. I used to go buy the Sunday paper from him after mass at St. Elizabeth’s. I worked with his brother at Sansone’s on King Street, That was after Pete died. Very nice people! That was a wonderful reflection!

  8. Hi, John. Thanks for stopping by. And yes, Pete was a great guy. Always had a good word for people, and had a fantastic sense of humor.

  9. Your Mom was wise beyond her years and schooling. Yes, she too had a big heart filled with love and kindness. What a valuable lesson she taught you and that you are sharing with us. I hope I have the opportunity to teach someone a lesson that remains with them the rest of their lives. Well done, Mrs. G.

  10. This is my favorite of all your blogs so far. (The ‘find your phone’ story is a close second though…that was epic! It had me laughing all day long.)

  11. Brenda, thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words about my mom. And you’re right, there’s not much better than being able to see that something you did or taught is being carried on.

  12. Thanks, Aliza. I have to say, some of the posts bring back sad memories, or heartfelt ones, and some make me laugh like hell. The Find my phone, was one that I kept laughing over as I wrote it.

  13. I remember Pete selling the papers after mass at St E’s. choice between Philly Inquire and Philly Bulletin! PS great story.

  14. Thanks, Bill. And yes, there were lots of great memories from the old days in Cleland Heights. A good place to grow up.

Leave a Reply

  • Follow Me:
    Follow Me on Pinterest
  • This blog will be a little different from many you see. Contrary to the characters in my books, I don’t really kill people, or catch those who do, so the blogs might be about reading, or writing, or animals. These are the things I have great passion for. It might also contain posts about food, or ancestry, or substance abuse. My oldest son is a great cook. My daughter is a genealogist (rootsintheboot.com) and my youngest son is a recovering drug addict. He has been clean for three years, and runs a rehab center (intoactionrecovery.com).

    I hope you enjoy the posts, and please let me know what you think.



  • Vellum, the best way to format an ebook

    Vellum is the easiest and best way to create stunning ebooks. And you can do it for less money and spend far less time.
  • Text Expander™

    Text Expander™ is simply the best way to type. If you write and you don't use it...well, I won't say what you are, but you should be using it.
  • Subscribe to our newsletter!

    Get awesome updates about new stories, notifications of special sales and giveaways, and free books. You'll be the first to know about everything.

    * indicates required
    Pick a newsletter from the options below:
    We will NEVER give your contact information to anyone.
  • Get Finding Family as a gift when you sign up.

  • Lightbox

  • Archives

  •   World Literary Cafe
    The Independent Author Network
  • “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” Mahatma Gandhi
  • Tags