|Grandma & Grandpa Gliatti|
Attending a wedding for an Italian relative a few weeks back it could not help but bring memories of my grandma, Grandma Gliatti. It sometimes feels like yesterday that I was sitting in her kitchen at her rickety table telling her stories of what was going on at school. She would lean in so interested in my life. I was always amazed at how she would keenly actively listen to all of her grandchildren share their stories when there were so darn many of us. I use to think she must really have a huge heart. Now I know, looking back, she did.
Funny how you take those family get togethers back in the day for granted, thinking that things will always be that way. Years go by and the next thing you know, it is just like the movie, Four Weddings and a Funeral, those being the only times you see each other. I wonder what my grandma must be thinking in heaven to see her trend did not stick. Infact, it went away as soon as she passed.
In her time on earth, it did not seem to matter than no one had, on the surface all that much in common. All that mattered is that we were related to her. That was enough, the love of family too, it brought us all together countless times to just enjoy each other’s company. Oh, even more importantly than that, to enjoy Grandma’s unmistakable awesome cooking!
Walking in Grandma’s house in Toledo, Ohio one was almost immediately hit with the aroma of homemade bread baking. It was almost like Pavlov’s classical conditioning training, instantaneously mouth watering. No need for butter, jam or honey with her bread, no sir, just tear off a hunk as quick as you can or loss a chance completely as it disappears faster than you can say “Can I have a piece please?” And once you bit into that a piece of that bread, you are met with the best tasting bread in the world, it simply melts in the mouth. Years of perfecting the art of Italian bread making, something Grandma doesn’t take lightly but mastered. Boy did we luck out when they passed out Grandmas! Living during the depression and remaining poor till the day she died, bread was not a choice to make, it was a necessity. Apparently flour was the main commodity they had at home. Funny how perspectives are so different, to her it was a hardship of sorts and to those of us that visited, we saw it as a treat. Yep, it was a downright blessing!
Funny, now that she is gone, and the bread is too, we see it as something so special lost with Grandma Gliatti that is irreplaceable. Nobody makes it like her. Gone is her ravioli and her lasagna and the other dishes she threw together with no recipe anyone could follow in her footsteps or match her flair for coming up with the world’s greatest Italian food. Just a memory that the palate will never forget. I can’t help but wonder if God has her preparing His banqueting table. I would lay odds on it….
After the wedding ceremony, my cousin Joey and I were outside the reception hall discussing days gone by. Reminiscing, we reflected on the countless family party gatherings with no particular theme, nothing to celebrate at all but just about being together. That was just enough back in the day. Just the sheer joy of being with family.
In sharp contrast, half of our family’s offspring doesn’t even know each other. I am not so sure it is all that different in other people’s families either, sad to say. We live in different times. Sometimes these changes are not good; extended families become a low priority. With so much unhappiness, turmoil and distrust in the world, it seems odd that families would not want to reunite and would become so disjointed. But again, it is not just happening in our Italian family. I hope our kids can change this trend. We need extended roots to stay grounded and connected.
As the wedding progressed that evening, I sat back and admired the beauty of the celebration, watching the mother of the groom, my cousin Julie. From across the banquet hall, I saw glimpses of her mom, my dear Aunt Carmen in my Cousin Julie’s smile. The beauty of my aunt was evident on my cousin’s face. That sincere smile of contentment was indeed passed on, as well to her so Nick, the groom as he lovingly embraced his new wife Beth. How wonderful it is to see the circle of life, love and family play out right before your eyes. And yes, I do think my grandma was there. I think anytime a group of the Gliatti clan are gathered to celebrate or commemorate a key moment in someone’s life her and Grandpa want to partake in the celebration. I actually feel the essence of the whole family there even if they aren’t in attendance. Perhaps that is what makes me sad somewhat too because it never seems, anymore, that everyone is present these days like they use to be. It makes me miss my Grandma even more. I didn’t realize when she left; she took the connection we all had as a family with her.
As I left the reception that night, it dawned on me again how grateful I was for those memories of my childhood in Toledo, Ohio at that little house in Point Place with my Grandma Gliatti. All the trips there, to that little brick house that was so full of laughter, times watching Grandma sit on the couch and say the rosary while she watched Mass on TV and wait for her to cook up something yummy and then dote on us. Those weekends spent with cousins, aunts and uncles helped formulate my idea of what openness and fun could be about and what kind of future I wanted in my own life with a family of my own some day. It also opened my eyes to the importance Grandma saw in family and that value I developed with my own children and have tried to pass along to them as well. I think she planted a seed in me and it took root. Those of us that looked up to her, the grandkids that have memories of her, Joey and I both felt, have been forever touched and changed by her. The memories and moments she gave us have left an indelible imprint on our lives. Love and miss you always Grandma! Until we see you again…..