Friday, January 27, 2012


All week I've been feeling like a little black cloud has been following me around.  Just an overall sense of discontent, unease and general out of sorts.  I tried some volleyball therapy last night but that session was ended quickly when I rolled my ankle (again) and had to limp out of the game and head home early for ice, elevation and compression.  My dreams have been out of control this week - completely off the charts weird and totally terrifying.  

I've just been feeling anxious and contemplative.  But WHY?!  If I knew the source I could figure out the solution.

And today, thanks to my friend Shemika, I remembered why.

Shemika and I come from very different backgrounds which has lead to some very interesting and enlightening conversations in the girls' coaching office.  But despite our differences we have one thing in common - our wonderful grandmothers.  

Today would be Shemika's grandmother's birthday while ten years ago today during dinner with my brother and parents at the Cheddar's in College Station did I find out that my beloved maternal grandma had passed away.

When Shemika mentioned her grandmother's birthday this morning to me, time stood still and I felt like I had been hit in the gut.  

Of course.  That's why I've been more emotional.  That's why I've been preoccupied with crazy dreams.  That's why I'm crying right now.

Even with the greatest of wordsmiths and the largest selection of dictionaries at my disposal.....I would not be able to find the right words to accurately describe and depict my grandma.  She was one of the most inspirational women I have ever met but yet at the same time the most complex.  Maria Amalia was born in Naples, Italy in 1914 and was an Italian Red Cross nurse during World War II.  Towards the end of the war while spending time on the vacation island of Capri she met a tall and handsome American pilot.  They married in her mother's apartment and due to the shortage of proper dress material, she created her wedding dress out of the silk parachute that once saved my grandfather's life as he jumped from his airplane during a mission.  After the war the young couple traveled across the ocean to settle in my grandfather's home state of Louisiana where my mother and uncle were born 14 months apart from each other.  My grandpa eventually became a highly respected member of the agricultural department at Texas A&M and through his career my mother and her family were able to travel the world and live in a variety of places such as Vietnam and Tunisia.  Eventually they settled back in College Station where they lived the remainder of their lives and where they are now buried in the city cemetery.  

But what is the most amazing aspect of my grandmother's life was not her memories of living in a war torn nation nor was it her stories of raising children overseas during the 1950s.  It was her words, her outlook on life, her strength, her dignity, her compassion and her endless curiosity.  

She had this way of making the most seemingly complex simple.  With just a few words she could calm my nerves, my anxiety, my frustration, my anger.......her words and advice were like the bright rays of sun that would break through the cloudy sky and illuminate a small patch of grass.  Over the past year I've thought about what Grandma would tell me about being Natalie's mother.  What advice would she give me.  The reassurance.  The comfort her words would bring me.  What I wouldn't give to be able to spend just one more hour with her.  To show her my daughter.  To hold her hand.  

My most cherished and favorite memory of her from my childhood........when my family would first arrive at my grandparent's house in College Station, after the initial "hellos" and "how are yous," my mother and grandma would go lay down on the bed in my mother's room and talk and catch up.  Most of the time they spoke in Italian or French........and sometimes a mixture of both.  I would crawl up between the two of them and lay down, close my eyes and just listen to the flow of their foreign languages roll over me.  My grandma would stroke my long hair and I would drift off into that purgatory between awake and sleep, I could hear what they are saying but it was almost as if I were floating above them.  When my mother would stroke my head and play with my hair it was hurried, harsh and rough but with Grandma.......maybe it was due to arthritis or maybe gentleness and patience is just something women learn with time.  When Grandma stroked my head and hair it was soft, tender and simply wonderful.

That's the moment I miss.  In that moment I knew I was wholly loved and not just by the two women lying next to me but by the generations of strong women that came before them.  There's still some sort of magic for me when I hear Italian being spoken.  I can close my eyes, open my ears and I'm back on that bed, being lulled to sleep by the lilt of my mother and grandmother's voices alternating back and forth.

I miss her voice.  The way she would say "Ciao bella" every time we hung up on the telephone or how there were certain English sounds that just didn't translate into her native Italian so my father's name Doug came out more like "Dog."  Or how it never failed after Sunday lunch at her home in College Station she would disappear into the kitchen and return with a blue glass bowl full of fruit asking us if we wanted a pear, an orange or an apple.  We all took a piece just to make her happy.  I miss how she would stock her fridge with Dr. Pepper and Hawaiian Punch every time the grandkids would visit because she knew those were our favorite drinks.  I still have the specially knit Cabbage Patch outfits she would carefully create for my beloved doll Ellie.

I could fill a novel about my grandma and hopefully someday I'll be able to make these memories come alive for Natalie so that she can have a clear vision of the type of women that she comes from.  

1 comment:

Heather said...

I love your writing (I felt like I was there) and I love hearing about your family history- very neat! :)