On November 8, 1995, my Nonna Erminia walked the same 7km route across St.Thomas, from her house on Alma Street to the Holy Angels Cemetary on Sunset Drive, and back again. The same route she had walked every day of her life since my Nonno Roberto had died of leukemia in 1980. On her way back home, she stopped at the grocery store where they were having a clearance sale on tulip bulbs. She bought 150 bulbs and carried them back to her house. She spent the rest of the morning planting them in the back yard. She made her lunch, ate her lunch, washed the dishes and took out the garbage. The last thing she did was go down to the basement and begin to mop the floor. She had a massive heart attack, and from what the coroner told my Dad, 'she was probably dead before she hit the ground'.
Her sister-in-law, my great aunt Zia Lucia stopped by her house, probably within minutes of that tragic moment. She had come to share an espresso with my Nonna, just as she always did before she went to start the ovens at the family pizzeria on Talbot Street. She knocked at the door, heard Giorgio the poodle barking, but there was no answer at the door. She figured my Nonna must be out with my Dad or maybe my Zio Lino. She tied a bag of bones for the dog on the doorknob and left.
The next day, at the same time, she stopped by again for their daily espresso and when she saw that the bag of bones was still tied to the doorknob she knew something was terribly wrong. When she got to the restaurant she called my Zio and my Dad. They raced together to the house and found her there.
It was such a shock. My Nonna was the most 'alive' person you could ever meet. She never stopped. Ever. She made her own tomato sauce, she made her own wine, she tended to her garden all by herself. She shoveled her own snow. She cooked supper for 16 of us every single Saturday night, right up until the week she died. We continued having those dinners in her house on Saturday nights for months after she died, slowly cleaning out her house--smiling and shaking our heads at the 30 brand new bottles of shampoo under her bathroom vanity and the stacks and stacks of brand new towels, clearly bought 'on special'. She couldn't pass up a good deal, and when things were 'on special' she stocked up. She had a floor-to-ceiling closet that was completely full of pasta. No lie.
We buried my Nonna on November 11, in the pouring rain, right beside my Nonno. They were together again, at last.
Early every November, I plant more tulips and I think of my Nonna. Her influence in my life runs deep and wide, and I have a lot of her in me. I would say I look the most like her of all her grandkids, and I feel her around me often. She loved to cook for a crowd. She never wanted to miss a party. She hated it when people were late, especially for dinner! She loved the Price is Right and the Young and the Restless. She had mountains of energy, a generous spirit, and she loved her family more than anything. And just like her, I always, always make too much pasta.
|Me and Nonna in 1994, right after my 3rd Year Recital|
|My cousins Roberta & Sylvia, Nonna, and baby me, in her garden- 1974|
Nonna, it's been 16 years, but if I close my eyes I can see your face and hear your voice as if you were standing right in front of me. We all miss you very much. Here are the tulips I planted for you this year. And you would be proud, they were all 50% off!