My grandmother was a master everything; chef, baker, limoncello maker, organizer, spot cleaner & storyteller. She moved quickly but intentionally. She had 4 kids- 3 boys and 1 girl. She raised 2 to adulthood and 2 she sent away to live with my aunt for many reasons, some unexplained and some understood, but it’s not my story to tell.
She made many choices based on the fact that my grandfather passed in his late 20’s, early 30’s and she was now a young, widowed mom, left with one son about a year old, and a young girl, my mom, who was maybe 13. She was scared, lost, confused and who knows how many other feeling’s she had running through her body.
Luckily, when my parents met and got married in that small town of Italy and then moved across the ocean to America, they made it a point to send us over every summer.
And those were some of the best summers of my life! Memories were born there and live on to this day. The greatest memories! A time when every single family member was united in that alleyway of my nonna’s via. Via Vincenzo. Where we rode bikes for the first time and took turns up and down the via. Where my Uncle Gino let my brothers ride behind him as he pedaled and they held on tight to his crisp white polo shirt. Where I arrived on my nonna’s stoop late one evening to so much yelling because I was caught in a car I shouldn’t have been in and my face full of 5 o’clock shadow kisses.
Where I was finally allowed, at 15, to put on makeup for the 1st time; a light, almost nude, pink lip gloss. Standing in my grandmother’s vanity mirror full of perfumes and lotions left from years past or brought over per her request. As my mom and grandmother stood watching me place one single coat on my lips and the excitement running through me as I felt like a lady.
Meeting cousins on her stoop, sitting in that alleyway for hours, talking, laughing, and crying at the end of a long summer, knowing so many months-a whole year-would need to pass before we were hopefully united again.
Long goodbyes and surprise hellos. Picture’s taken as we were all dressed in our prettiest and most handsome clothing, heading to celebrate an uncle’s wedding or with tears dripping down our faces as we headed to the airport for our long 8-hour trip back home.
Then there were the countless Sunday’s in those summer’s where extra tables and chairs were brought into the kitchen, spread as far as the bedroom door, so all of us, every family member that made up the Giancaspro’s, Miani’s and Rizzi’s, could sit and eat and laugh and talk all at once.
Arriving from morning’s spent at the beach, laying in the warm sun, snacking on focaccia, and lemon granita as a thirst quencher. After having spent hours jumping off rocks into the clear waters of the Adriatic. These are memories that will go on forever. And although my little girl only got a glimpse of those forever memories, I know they’ve touched her in ways that will remain still framed in her heart.
I miss my nonna so much and our last goodbye was a tight hug, tighter than ever before and a, “Ci vediamo presto”, I’ll see you soon because I really thought we would.
Life is sometimes so confusing when the ones you love end up dying so quickly. But I am grateful that the memories were made and made from infancy to adulthood. I am grateful she lived a good life and got to see her children grown and settled and got to spend countless years with her grandchildren and meet her great-grandchildren. She lived & loved hard. She made an impact on this Earth. One that anyone that has had the grace to encounter her will remember her smiling face, her sweet laugh, and her soft skin. For me, she will always be Italy. She will always represent all the things I learned, loved and lived there.