Category Archives: Letters to Nonna

To My Nonna

Dear Nonna,

I never ever got a chance to tell you what you meant to me.  I wanted to visit you when I found out your children had placed you in a home but I didn’t know of the response I would get from you or anyone and then you passed on.  It is always easier for me to start at the beginning.  I remember when my parents would leave me with you and papa for a few hours when they needed a sitter every once in a while.  Remember how Papa would take me in the basement of the apartment building and he had his trains set up and it was like his little world that he shared with me.  My favorite was having the Prosciutto being homemade and the dry sausage too!

On a deeper level, you weren’t very affectionate but you gave hugs sometimes, but I really made the initiative to hug you and I never minded.  Even as a little girl, I could see the sadness in your eyes, you worked  so hard and you didn’t ever feel loved.  That’s why I always said I love you to you when no one else did and it was nice that you said it back.  I meant it too.  Your life from what I observed was very difficult, I know that Papa was not a good man, husband or father.  It is a shame, he was a good Papa to me for a little while though, I will be honest about that.

You used to make the BEST linguine with baby clams in a white sauce.  It is still my favorite and you used to add cut up tomatoes in it, I never liked tomatoes and still don’t; only in my clam sauce.  I make it just like you do and even made my grandma (dad’s mom) make it that way for me only.  [She does it but she doesn’t really want to.]

I remember you used to make the homemade cavedelle’s too.  I tried it and I did a really good job, I would like to think, you would have been proud of me.

I miss those chucks of prosciutto or capicola that you used to get from the pork stores and we all would cut thick pieces of it and drink Pepsi.  And I would chew on the skin for days. Ha ha.  Papa always made fun of me because I would say “Cabigool” instead of capicola.  I can’t eat like that anymore though, I would blow up like a balloon from all the salt and oil.

You didn’t really know too much English and you would get so mad when I didn’t understand what you were saying, all I knew was, “aspetta minuta” translates to wait a minute, because I was usually asking you a question and when you did try to translate and couldn’t find the word you would say, “Cuomo se diche”, “What’s the word?”

We used to come over your house every Saturday or Sunday to hang out and eat dinner.  We used to have Christmas Eve with you and papa every year.  You made the best lobster tails and calamari in the sauce ever.  You always made linguine, that is probably why I always choose that when I am making pasta plus my dad liked it a lot too.

I think if I had more time with you, things would have been different with us and I would have shown you the attention that everyone else neglected to show you.  I know you remember the holidays when my father, brother and I visited you in the hospital and your own children didn’t come.  I know you must have felt so alone.  Now that I am older and an adult, I wish I could have a conversation with you and understand how you felt as a person, not as a mother, wife or nonna. I always saw the sadness in your eyes and you struggled your whole life and had nothing to show for it, even your children disappointed you in one way or another.

I am sure you had your faults and weren’t perfect but you deserved a chance and I really don’t believe that you were ever given a chance to shine.  I mean you left school in the 3rd grade to go to work in Italy, you didn’t even know when your birthday was so you celebrated it on your mother’s birthday.  I think I remember meeting your mother once, she had really long hair and was little.  Which reminds me your hair never went gray and it always so thick! I wish I would have inherited that!

Anyway, I guess I didn’t really know you well enough at all because up until about 13, I was young and after Antoinette left, that was that.  You did try to talk her out of her sporadic behaviour and you did take the bus to Staten Island to do so.  I was there for that and you passed out in my house because you just couldn’t understand what was happening to your daughter.  I hope that you missed me.  I hoped that whatever type of relationship that did exist between us was real.

I dream about you sometimes and all the words I never said.

Ti Amo Nonna,

Lee

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