In April and May, Lily and I will be traveling to the ancestral homeland. This will be Lily’s first visit ever to Bologna. We’ll be staying with Nonna and Grandpa in their lovely home on via S. Isaia. The relatives have been alerted and no doubt will descend with great enthusiasm upon our arrival.
I’m really sad that we won’t be seeing Tom/Daddy for a while. He will be hard at work chasing tornadoes across the Plains (he works for the Microwave Remote Sensing Lab at UMass, and part of what they do is use radar to monitor extreme weather events). We’re a very close-knit family; even a day of separation makes us all rather cranky. A month? An awful prospect. But we are profoundly grateful that Tom is employed, and not only employed, but working in a university setting and doing important work that he enjoys.
Still, I’m excited to return to Bologna, and to show my daughter part of her family history. I dearly hope that the extended immersion in Italian will imprint itself on her brain. It’s so hard for me to try to speak Italian to her when nobody else around me is speaking it; I try to remember to force myself to do it, but I lapse constantly. Lily does know how to say “ciao,” “come stai,” “bene,” and “bellissima.” Oh, and “birichina.” And “trotta trotta cavallotta.” I also want Lily to witness the cultural differences between Italy and the United States and to start to understand, at a fundamental level, how and why our family is different.
I’m a little concerned about my dietary restrictions being harder to follow in Bologna. For one thing, it will be pure torture to forego tortellini in brodo and lasagne. AAAHH, just thinking about it makes me rend my clothing and gnash my teeth.
But even harder will be the prospect of returning to Bologna with my little daughter, my Lily, and not being able to introduce her to my Nonna Rinda and Gigi (my mother’s parents, who died in 1999 and 2001, respectively). They would have gone completely nuts with joy over her. She would have been the new “stellina d’oro” (little golden star), which was always Gigi’s nickname for me. Lily will never be able to taste my Nonna’s exquisite cooking or learn how to knit and crochet from her. Lily will never have Gigi take her by the hand and walk with him through the portici to piazza Santo Stefano (pictured above), and receive a lengthy and impassioned speech on the glorious history and architecture of that church (really seven churches in one, one of which was originally a temple dedicated to the goddess Isis), punctuated with such drama and scholarship that a small huddle of curious onlookers might linger appreciatively nearby. But I can do my best to breathe life into their memory and tell Lily lots of stories about her much-loved, much-missed great-grandparents. I want her to know the legacy of love and brilliance that is her family inheritance.
Lately Lily has been asking where my Nonna is. At first I thought she was asking about her Nonna (my mother), but no, she wanted to know where my Nonna is. It took me a moment to think of what to say, and then I borrowed an idea from my friend Carol (Charlotte’s mama): I said, “She’s in the stars, Lily.” Although I’m sure Charlotte has lots of ancient ancestors to hold hands with in the stars, I still like the idea that in that vast Oneness, my beloved Nonna might give comfort to her as well.