EXCERPT: 'This Family of Mine' By Victoria Gotti

"When your father came home later that night, he was speechless—utterly speechless. Still, he was willing to make the best of it; there was nothing else we could do. We had no money left."

Dad continued to work and hustle, with inconsistent results. Once, for example, someone provided him with inside information about a shipment of television sets bound for Kennedy Airport. They were color television sets, no less, and for Dad this was a potentially huge score. Color TVs were a rare commodity. So, of course, my father was more than interested in the possibility of intercepting this shipment.

He gathered his crew together and went over the heist. They planned everything perfectly, right down to the last detail. It went off without a hitch—or so they thought. One of the television sets even came home with Dad. My mother, exhausted from trying to transform the dungeon into a castle, couldn't have been happier with the gift. Watching television was one of my mother's small pleasures, so when Dad walked in with a brand-new color TV to replace their old black-and-white one, she was ecstatic.

"It was as if we'd won the lottery," Mom recalled. "I became addicted to it after only one week."

As with any addiction, though, there was always the potential for withdrawal. Alas, the cops apparently had gotten wind of the heist and were well on their way to cracking the case by the time Mom got through the first episode of I Love Lucy. Dad, whose intuition and connections led him to believe that law enforcement officials might soon be knocking on their door, insisted Mom get rid of the new toy.

"I cried for days, as if the world was going to end," Mom said. "It wasn't so much that I was home alone and pregnant; but, having gotten the new color TV, I gave the old one to the landlady downstairs!"

Mom had traded the old black-and-white television for a nearly new radio. When Dad took back the color television, Mom came to rely on the small radio as a means of entertainment while home alone. Three days after Dad took away the TV, the radio broke. Apparently it was used, a rebuilt radio. The landlady pulled a scam on Mom. When Mom showed up on her doorstep, the landlady wouldn't open the door. In fact, she turned up the volume on the television to drown out Mom's voice. Mom left the radio in front of the landlady's apartment door with a note taped to it that said, "Here is the piece of junk you used to con me out of my television. Either give me back my TV or I'll send my husband down to speak to your husband."

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