It was the summer of 1990 and my family had just moved to Bayside, New York. My parents were one of the many young families flocking to the neighborhood at the time. The Pistilli family consisted of my father, Joe, my mother, Jamie, my brother Michael who was 4 at the time, and myself, a newborn.
As we settled into our new home, my parents befriended our next door neighbors. They were a family much like our own – passionate about real estate and the American dream. They had a two-year-old son named Joseph (Joey) Camerata.
Because of our families similar values and closeness in age, we began spending a lot of time together. Before long, our families were going on vacations together, celebrating holidays, and sharing milestones. The Pistilli/ Camerata clan became inseparable.
Joey’s mom, Susan, would occasionally say to my mom, “These two will get married one day” in reference to me and Joey. My mom, being the realistic one, would retort, “Not unless they live separate lives first and reunite later on.” It was as if they knew what the future had in store.
Then, when I was ten years old and Joey was twelve, The Pistilli and Camerata clans went their separate ways. My family moved to Westchester and Joey’s family moved to Long Island. It felt like my whole world had shattered – I was losing my next door neighbor, my best friend, and favorite adventure buddy. As a 10-year-old, that’s pretty much the most devastating thing that can happen.
Eventually, I adjusted to the changes and life went on. As the years went by, our parents remained in contact, but Joey and I hardly saw each other again after that. We went on to attend different High Schools and Colleges. Within the blink of an eye, we had grown into young adults.
In 2013, ten years after our families moved away from our old neighborhood, my dad insisted on a Pistilli/Camerata reunion. We decided to have it at the Camerata’s summer house in Westhampton. Being the prima donna of the group, one of our families’ longest running jokes, I arrived fashionably late. For the first time, in a room with fifteen of my closest friends and family, I was nervous. When Joey stood up to greet me, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The boy next door who I remembered being covered in dirt from making mud pies, was now a handsome young man. I knew in that instant we would end up together.
Despite feeling anxious and somewhat jittery that whole weekend, I felt like I was home again. It was comforting and nostalgic, but most importantly, it felt right. Our moms reverted back to their old ways of gossiping, giggling, and of course, eavesdropping on me and Joey’s conversations. My mom even teased me at one point saying, “It’s not just mother’s intuition – one would have to be blind not to notice the bond and attraction between you two.” I blushed, denied her claim, and told her to stop being weird.
On Sunday, after the weekend was over, everyone was packing up their cars to prepare for the long trip back to the city. That’s when Joey casually asked me for my phone number. Then he hugged me goodbye and in that moment, I felt that all-too-familiar pain like I was being ripped away from my best friend. It was the same feeling I had experienced when we said goodbye all those years ago.
Luckily, this time we wouldn’t be separated for long. Joey called me soon after our trip and on September 2nd, 2013 we had our first official date on the rooftop of The Kimberly Hotel. It was thirty stories above street level with breathtaking views of Midtown – a scene I’ll never forget because it was also the night Joey asked me to be his girlfriend. The perfectly strung lights draped above our heads only added to the ambiance of this fairytale-like moment.
For the next two years, we continued our relationship and things became serious. Being raised by a family with traditional values, it was important to me that Joey and I got married before moving in together. Joey respected my wishes and we began house hunting. After all, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, it was just a matter of timing.
On November 27th, 2015, Joey and I had an appointment at 2:30PM with a broker to view a Tudor style house, ten minutes away from our childhood homes. The broker emailed Joey to say that she was running a little late. Per Joey’s suggestion, we walked to a waterfront park just a stone’s throw away from the house we were going to see. We sat on a bench overlooking the Little Neck Bay, talking about our future and how surreal it was being back in this beautiful neighborhood together.
We were mid-conversation, when Joey reached into his pocket for an envelope addressed to me. Confused, I opened the envelope to reveal a smaller envelope inside that I had written back in High School. It was following a break up and being a typical teenage girl at the time, I declared I would never date again. However, right at that moment, I heard my mom and Joey’s mom talking on the phone and I had an epiphany. I erased the angry declaration and instead wrote a marriage contract stating that in 15 years, I, Lindsay Pistilli, would marry Joseph Camerata.
Of course, both of our moms loved the idea, but Joey’s mom quickly interjected that she couldn’t wait that long- the contract needed to be in effect sooner. So, we agreed on seven years. My father also played along and signed the contract as a witness. My mom took the contract written on the back of an envelope and stored it away, figuring she would save it. When me and Joey started dating, my mom dug up the contract and showed it to Joey. Thankfully, he didn’t run for the hills and actually found it to be quite humorous. In fact, when he asked my parents for their blessing to marry me, he also asked my mom for that contract…
As I sat on the bench next to Joey with the written contract in my hands, I was in complete disbelief. But before I could even process it, Joey got down on one knee and said, “Lindsay, you would make me the happiest man alive if I could call you my wife. Will you marry me? I was so hysterical and crying so hard, that I completely forgot to put on the ring!
We were married less than a year later, and after 28 years of friendship, the Pistilli/Camerata clan officially became family.
This past June, we added another member to our crew when we welcomed our son, Mario George Camerata into the world. Now, I’m constantly keeping my eyes out as new families move into our neighborhood. You never know… I might just find Mario’s future wife!