Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Other Side's Stories...

My Mom's family is as rich in stories as my father's is. She comes from a large Italian family. And for those of you who are Italian or married into an Italian family you know how Italian family gatherings are. Lots and lots of food. Italian food. Handmade from scratch by my Great Grandmother.

I remember Sunday's at Great Grandmom's house. There'd be as many as twenty or more people sitting around the table. Her house had two dining rooms and a kitchen. There was the everyday dining room and the formal dining room. They were side by side and on Sundays the tables were brought together. They stretched from the end of one dining room to the opposite end of the other dining room.

There was food aplenty. And stories. And laughter. Even as a small child I loved to sit around the table with them after dinner and dessert were through. With coffee flowing the "greats", my Grandmother's brothers and sisters, (my Great-Grandmom's children) would regal us with tales of their youth in the very house we were sitting in.

There were eight of them all together. Six girls and two boys. My Great-Grandmother had ten children but two died early in life. My Great-Grandfather was a man with a good heart but a firm hand. He didn't take any sort of nonsense from his children.

As you can imagine with THAT many children in the house there were apt to be accidents. (I can assure you that though I have two less children than they did I KNOW all about these accidents.) One morning, when they were all mostly grown and working full time, my Aunt Caroline got up as she did every morning to get ready for work. She went into the kitchen and lit the stove. Somehow... she blew it up. She was unharmed thank God but TERRIFIED of what my Great-Grandfather would do.

In a lousy attempt to cover her faux pa she began leaping around the kitchen on one foot screaming, "Daddy!!! Daddy!!! He shot me!! He shot me!!!!" My Great-Grandfather wasn't to be fooled and in a fluent swirl of Italian and English hollered "you didn't get shot!! You blew up the (insert American and Italian cuss words here.. lots of them) stove!!!"

Later that morning they all walked, a rather hefty distance from what I understand, to work as their father refused to drive them over the blown up stove. When you're one of six children everyone suffers for the misbehavior of one. It's not necessarily fair but it is what it is. Large families have a different dynamic than smaller families. It's about survival and staying one step ahead of the chaos.

When I retell this story it loses something. The throaty voices of my Grandmom, Aunts and Uncles, from years of smoking and some drinking, made the stories all the more endearing. As did they're dramatic Italian hand gestures and loud voices. Everyone around the table would be in various states of hysteria and someone was always jumping up to run to the bathroom. Unable to hold their bladder any longer.

I miss those days. I miss the little girl I was. I miss Great-Grandmom. And Grandmom. And all my Aunts and Uncles. I miss Christmas cookies at Aunt Frannie and Uncle Tut's house. I miss Sunday dinners at Great-Grandmom's house. I miss the hustle and bustle of four generations all gathered together as a family.

Of those eight children there is only one left. And sadly, some of their children (my mom and her cousins) have passed away in recent years. My own mortality slaps me in the face when I think of all the family I've lost in my lifetime. When I think about just how many years have already passed me by I can't help but feel a little sad.

So many of those years were wasted wanting the next best or bigger thing. I didn't often take time to live in the moment. And I've missed out on some things I can never get back.

"It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on Earth and we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live each day to the fullest , as if it were the only one we had." ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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