"Pass the macaroni!" someone yelled across the dining room table.
"Can I have the grated cheese?" called out cousin Mary Jo.
"Where're the meatballs?" shouted Young Joseph.
Every Sunday, and especially on holidays, the Normale¢ family gathered at Grandma and Grandpa’s house to eat dinner together. They would laugh and talk above their silverware clanking against their dishes. They were a large Italian-American family.
Yet Young Joe Normale¢ felt ordinary among them.
Every family member was named Joe in some form. His Grandpa was named Joe, his twin cousin's names were Joseph and Joey, the dog was named MoJo, the cat was called JoJo, and his Grandma's real name was Josephina. Additionally, all of the girls had "Jo" in their names too. His cousins were Carrie Jo, Mary Jo, Sally Jo, and his sister was Josie. Uncle Joe had married a woman named Joann. His mother, Josette, had married his father Joel. Each time someone called the name "Joe," every family member would look up.
Anytime someone asked Grandpa Joe about their names, he would say in his very deep accent, "It is an Italian custom.” He would place his hand above his heart and proudly, say, "Everyone will be named Joe, after me, just as my father, grandfather and great grandfather."
And that was that.
Young Joe wasn't the youngest nor the oldest Joe in the family. He’d been given the nickname “Young Joe” early in his life and it had stuck with him.
Still, each time someone called the name "Joe," everyone would turn around.
Then, one Sunday during dinner Grandma Jo stood to announce, "We are expecting a new addition to our family." "Uncle Joe and Aunt Joann are expecting a baby boy in June, and he will be called Baby Joe."
The family held their wineglasses to cheer. "Salute!" they said in unison as they clinked and clanked their goblets together.
In his mind, Joe ran through the list of family members. How many more Joes can there be? He wondered. He immediately spoke up. "Can we call the baby something else?" The conversation at the table silenced. The relatives laid down their silverware, stopped eating, and all the clanking stopped. They all looked toward Grandpa for an answer.
"No, we cannot,” Grandpa Joe answered in his deep Italian accent." He planted his hand firmly on the table with a thud, then continued, "It is a family custom."
And that was that.
Just as if nothing had occurred, Grandpa Joe turned to Grandma and said in his deep accent, "Please, I like a nice, hot cup of Joe with my pie, Josephina."
"Yes, dear," Grandma Jo replied, then hurried into the kitchen to fetch it.
Young Joe sighed. "Even the coffee is called Joe." This disturbed him. Joe yearned to return home where he wouldn't feel so mediocre....