I woke up thinking about my nonna

I don’t know why…

So I’d like to share with you a little about my nonna Concetta

She wore black for like 50 years after my grandfather passed away

She used to have really long hair

I remember being a kid and watching her in wonderment comb it and then put in a bun

She never wore it down so I felt like I had gotten a peak behind the wall

She took care of me during the school week

My cousins and I would go home for lunch and she’d be always be ready for us

It’s funny to me now

But back then she never missed a lunch

She always sat with us

She didn’t eat

I don’t know when she ate her lunch

But during our lunch time as we spoke to each other in English

She sat with us

Just being with us

I remember once my cousin was telling a story and said the word ‘stupid’ to describe someone

And she backhanded him lightening fast

Because she thought he had called her stupid

I remember hiding a grin and a laugh

One time my cousins and I took our time returning after school

We approached with a big group of friends

She was waiting on the veranda

Yelling and screaming in Italian

Putting her hand in between her teeth

I can’t explain it

It’s an Italian thing

Anyway

My cousin was so embarrassed in front of his non Italian friends

That he told everyone our nonna was a witch and had just put a spell on everyone

When no one was around she would sit on the couch and play cards on her lap

But as soon as someone showed up at the door

She’d sweep the evidence under the couch cushion

I don’t know why she didn’t want to be caught playing cards

But it always bothered me

Maybe she felt she’d be judged

I don’t know

As I got older I didn’t see her as much

I didn’t speak to her as much when I did see her

Embarrassed by my broken Italian that I had once spoken well

I’d say the usual greeting and whatnot

But didn’t really talk to her like I once had

We’d go visit her and my cousins would be there

We would sit at the table and laugh and tell stories in English

Reminiscing

And she would sit there

Like old times

Just smiling

Being with us

She got sick and older and frail

I went to the hospital to visit her

It was late at night

My cousin left to get us something from Tim’s

My nonna looked scared

I got up and went by her bed

She looked up at me and I whispered

‘Ti amo tanto Nonna’

She smiled weakly

Eventually she got better

She went home

I visited again

I got a text from my cousin

Saying la nonna had died

It actually autocorrected to the nonna had died

That stood out then

Like she was the only one

She passed away at home

I went to see her one last time

I went to her room

Where she laid in her bed

She looked so small

So frail

So unlike the strong woman I’d looked up to my whole life

There was so much I wanted to say

So much I wanted to thank her for

Time had run out

But it didn’t matter

She knew

I just didn’t realize no words were needed for her to understand

She always did

Ti amo tante e per sempre

‘You Can’t Go Back And Change The Beginning But You Can Start Where You Are And Change The Ending.’ C.S Lewis

I went to an alternative high school

I know

How fitting…right?

We called our teachers by their first names and had art all day on Thursdays

It occupied one upper floor of an elementary school

I skipped class more than I should have

There was a student there we had nicknamed ‘Neil the Nazi’

He carried around a copy of ‘Mein Kampf’

Maybe it was just one time

I don’t really remember

It’s ironic that this was so relevant then

Because I remember feeling like one of the most ethnically diverse people at the school

And that is saying a whole lot about the lack of diversity

It was so whitewashed that I didn’t want my parents to attend my graduation

Afraid my father would show up in a suit with his big gold Jesus-on-a-cross necklace

And it would be like bright flashing lights above my parents

Announcing our difference

Ironic too because I looked like this at that point:

Different wasn’t supposed to be negative

Unless you were my parents in a sea of WASPs

Anyway

I went from a catholic all girls school

To the alternative school

It was like a culture shock

I felt like a displaced person

Or like someone who’d accidentally happened upon a secret society

Who didn’t belong

We did pottery

Drew live nudes

And smoked too many cigarettes sitting underneath hundred year old trees

Griping about life

Not knowing nearly how hard it had yet to become

I smoked so much pot

That I grew tired of it’s magic

I was dissatisfied with everything

I didn’t know then

What I know now

I thought high school was as difficult as it was gonna get

I didn’t realize that life was only getting started

It all seemed so endless and suffocating at the same time

I wanted to be free of my parental supervision

Separated from my cultural ties

I didn’t know my hardest battles were laying in wait for me

Lulling me into believe the worst was over

I’d soon become such an easy target

Thinking the war was over

Feeling victorious with no need left to fight

Little did I know

That it was all just beginning