A Letter to my Nonna

Dear Nonna,

I know I’ve never written a letter to you like this before, and I know it may seem a little strange, but it was something I wanted to do. So here goes.

I hope you’re doing well. Life has been busy on my end lately – we’ve had our puppy, Phoebe, to take care of, and we’ve also been spending lots of time preparing for our black belt grading in karate. Work has been good for us.

I wanted you to know that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the memories I have of when we were younger, when you used to take care of me regularly. Remember when we used to make bread and pasta in your basement together? You used to cut me off a small slice of dough, and I would sprinkle flour all over it until it turned hard as concrete. And then you told me I did a great job, even though I always wondered why we never baked MY dough.

How about when we used to wander your yard together, going through the garden that wrapped all the way around your house to find whatever bounty nature had provided for us that day? Sometimes it was tomatoes; other times it was peppers, figs, apricots, pears, beans, garlic, potatoes, carrots, raspberries… man, the raspberries. We used to pick bowls and bowls of them each year, we couldn’t eat them fast enough!

It was only when we went to Italy together that I learned where you got that green thumb from. Remember the trip we took when I was 10? We arrived, and I couldn’t speak a word of Italian. And I was annoyed at the time that nobody else could speak a word of English. Yet now, when I look back, I’m so grateful that was the case, because that was how you taught me to speak Italian.

I remember the hospitality our family showed us while we were there – their generosity was nothing short of exceptional. I’m sorry I was such a brat at the time; 10 is an unfortunate age where the attitude develops faster than one’s ability to control it. I’ll try and make my way back to apologize for that to our family.

For what it’s worth though, I have a ton of fond memories from that trip. I remember playing cards in the street with Zia Lina’s neighbours at night. I remember negotiating with the corner store owner over what I was paying for bread, because he couldn’t make change and wanted me to pay him later – I told him just to keep the money, and that I’d come back for more bread instead, and he mussed up my hair. I remember feeding the chickens on our family’s farm, and getting attacked by the lone rooster because I put a rock in his feed. I remember going to the beach with Zio Pepe and family. I remember losing my inflatable tube in the sea on a windy day, and Davidson diving in to go get it, even though it was incredibly dangerous. I wasn’t nearly as grateful as I should have been for that.

I remember the lady singing opera in the street in Grotteria, and I remember us taking a trip to Sicily to go shopping and see the island. I remember us all making pasta and bread together, and I remember laying on Zia Rosetta’s granite floors to cool off, because we didn’t have air conditioning.

Some of the details I remember are silly, but I hang on to them with everything I’ve got, because they’re all I have now, since you passed away just over a week ago.

I know you went peacefully, with your four kids around you, and I’m so grateful for that. I’m also grateful that you and I got to speak and spend time together one more time, the day before you moved on from this life. I’ll never forget that. But it doesn’t make the pain any easier. It’s only been a week, but I miss you so much.

I also wanted to say thanks. For everything. Thank you for taking such good care of me while mom and dad were at work. Thanks for teaching me the value of caring for nature. Thanks for teaching me to speak Italian. But most importantly, thank you for teaching us all the value of family, of supporting one another unconditionally, of loving and laughing and crying and breaking homemade bread together. When you passed, we all got together in your house and sorted through old pictures together. I know you saw that, and I hope it made you proud. We’ll continue that into the future, because that’s what you taught us to do.

It’s going to be tough for a while, but I am going to continue to work towards living the best life I can possibly live, because that’s what you wanted for all of us. It’s the best way I can think of to honour your memory.

So I promise, Nonna. I promise to do everything I can to live with grace, compassion and love, and I promise to work harder to put all of that into everything I do.

Grazie per tutti, Nonna. Ti amo sempre. I’ll see you again one day – until then, can you and Nonno Saverio please save me some pasta?


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