This is the third in a series of posts exploring the roots of the characters in my books These Foolish Things” and “At Last.” Today, we examine the adoptive mother of Liz Gardner, Angela DiNardo.
I conceived of Angie as the heart of the family next door to Liz. Angie has no daughters of her own and she was warm and welcoming to Liz whose own mother was a disappointed and difficult woman.
My writing method , if it is such a thing, is to watch a movie in my head and then write it out. You need actors in a movie and my starting point for Angie was Anne Bancroft.
Anne was stunning as a young woman and all age did to her was add a few lines and changed her hair color. Onscreen, she displayed charm, intelligence, could show compassion or ruthlessness, and humor. It was indeed a great loss when she passed.
Angie’s son, Joey DiNardo, is a lifelong friend of Liz’s. I never really decided on an origin story for Angie beyond a vague idea of her coming from East Boston. I worked for Fidelity Investments for years and encountered a number of Italian ladies from East Boston. Some were co-workers, some were bosses. My supervisors could act motherly when needed and while actually hitting us wasn’t permitted, we’d hear things (said affectionately) ” I swear to God, if you do this again, I’m gonna knock you out.” I got called a. dumb shit” a few times (not professional, but I didn’t care). I learned how to make calzones (not the enclosed pizza, but a version of various deli meats and cheeses rolled in a pizza dough and baked. I was assured it was a genuine calzone. I don’t think Palmi Ciulla would have lied to me), how to summon St. Anthony, and that they had our backs in Customer Service. I am forever grateful to these women.
As Liz grew up, she’d frequently be at the DiNardo house. No one in the house criticized her for being overweight, awkward around boys, or any of the other constant nitpicking that Liz’s mother would subject her to. Angie just accepted and loved Liz.
Angie will kiss, scold, or smack her “kids” (which also includes Liz’s best friend, Millie Wentworth and her boyfriend, John Reynolds) upside the head. She does not like profane or vulgar language and seems to have superhuman hearing. She can hear a “Bullshit” or “damn” in the next room, even if quietly spoken.
Angie and her husband, Vinnie, run a small ristorante in Hyannis. Vinnie and their younger son, Tony, work out front and Angie mans the kitchen. Liz spent a lot of summers in that kitchen learning cooking from Angie. As an adult, Liz will go down to the Cape for a weekend and help out again. Vincenzo’s is a well-regarded local establishment. Just don’t ask for ketchup for your risotto,
Since the DiNardos regard Liz as their own daughter, they are wary of Ty Hadley and his intentions towards “their girl.” Knowing the heartaches Liz has experienced, Angie is especially protective. She makes it clear to Ty that if he hurts Liz, she will come after him without a second thought. She has access to big knives.
Angie herself has experienced turmoil and heartache in her own life. She is a recovering alcoholic, as is her son Joe. I would reveal more, but that’s material for more stories.
Every author plays the “Cast the movie” game. With the passing of Ms. Bancroft, and the passage of time since I originally wrote the book (in 2013, I split the original manuscript into 2 separate stories), I’ve played this game myself and come up with possibilities to play Angie:
Or Rita Moreno
Or the Divine One
In the end, what I tried to create in Angie DiNardo was a woman who I would want to have in my family, a source of compassion, love, and strength.