Rita Esposito

The girls’ basketball coach before Tony, Rita chose to cut back her after-school hours as she returned from maternity leave. Told that, Tony said of course she did. She had a baby now. The Athletic Director started to explain that some mothers chose to work as they always had. He gave up in the face of Tony’s implacable assumption that any woman would put family over work. The issue had come up before as Tony struggled to understand how his wife Lucia could be both a police officer and a mother. She believed she could do both, so he followed her lead.

Esposito, by the way, is the most common surname in southern Italy. The name says much about the economy and culture of the region whose residents fled in such numbers to the United States. It means, “exposed,” as in left outside. Esposito was the name given to babies whose family names were unknown because they had been left at the doors of churches and orphanages. Local culture assumed these babies resulted from “immoral” pregnancies, but extreme poverty probably played an important role. The area’s economy concentrated all its wealth in the hands of the biggest landowners.