Love Italian Style – 1958

I grew up on the second floor of a two-family house, while my Italian grandparents occupied the first.

I’ve written a lot about my grandfather who was the love of my life, but my grandmother stays tucked in the shadows of memory. She wasn’t a particularly loving, demonstrative person, the total opposite of her husband who embraced the world, often making you wonder how they ever ended up together. I remember her as a whiny, sour woman in a pale pink cardigan and gray wool slacks seated eternally in an armchair while others served her.

But I did, during a strain of childhood reverie, recall a kindness she’d bestow whenever I was sick.

When you’re small and the flu strikes or your belly hurts it feels like the end of the world. Your little girl grin quickly disappears into warm mugs of ginger-ale and bowls of hot soup. The whole house is on watch, making sure you get well as soon as possible, causing Italians to unite like a Tuscan MASH unit.

The minute the alarm would sound, my grandparents would park themselves upstairs like Pinkerton guards. I’d be in bed with a fever while Fluffy, the cat, sat beside me keeping a purred vigil. A four year-old has no qualms telling her pet exactly where it hurts. She’d sympathetically blink as if to say, I wish it were me and not you.

“Me too Fluff-a-nutter.”

After a day of boring bed rest receiving all visitors like a pint-sized queen, one’s allowed to transfer to the couch with a hand-crocheted afghan thrown over her little lap like a scratchy tarp.

Somewhere you’d hear your mother say, “The fever broke, but I’m still keeping her quiet and on liquids.” Broth to this day becomes my elixir for all that ails me.

My grandmother would then tell me to sit up to lie across her lap so she could rub my back…to chase the diavolo, Italian for devil, faraway. I’d bask in the warmth of her wizened fingers while my grandfather sat on the other side of me, gently holding my hand.

Everyone thought it was the soup and bed rest that made me well. It was really those gentle strokes from a woman who had to dig deep into her heart to find them for her youngest granddaughter who at four, needed to know she was safe and loved.

When I came out of my dream I realized, I’m still that little girl wanting her back rubbed by hands warm and familiar…

still that little girl who so needs to be looked after and properly loved…

sigh.

This is my 700th Post.

SB

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About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
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22 Responses to Love Italian Style – 1958

  1. micklively says:

    Congratulations on reaching seven hundred: my, but that seems like a mighty big number!
    We never lived close enough to extended family for them to have much input, so I’m a little jealous of your childhood experience. I guess the upside of this was when we did all get together, at weddings, christenings, funerals, bonfire night, it seemed like more of a special occasion and treat.
    I think my mother was the only one of her generation who could cook. The fare in other houses was decidedly substandard. I don’t suppose that was ever a problem in an Italian family?

    Like

    • No, food ruled the roost. When I think of how much I used to eat it astounds me. Four courses at every meal…my mother, who was very crazy, did excel at housekeeping. My friends used to bring her all their stained clothes because she could bleach and whiten anything…10 cleaners would say…no…can’t get it out..and she’d manage making monkeys out of all of them…her house was immaculate…we ate like royals while she threw flower pots and ashtrays out the window. Memories with a chill 🙂

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  2. skinnyuz2b says:

    Susannah, this brought back lots of memories. Shortly before I turned four, I was bedridden for six weeks. Details are in my first post ‘Ch 1 – Exposed’. Like you, my family spent time with my maternal grandmother, Bochi. I always put her a mere half-step below ‘saint’.
    Excellent post. I love the way you describe a child’s feelings so accurately.

    Like

    • Are you an Italiano Skinny? If so I don’t need to explain too much. Growing up around the great familia is something that needs to be experienced as opposed to imagined. I can only compare it to being tucked under wings that suffocate and sustain all at the same time. Despite they’re craziness, and believe me they excelled in lunacy, they’d all go to the chair for one another. Even cranky Gramma who’d lead the charge if necessary. Even Mussolini had a Gramma.

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    • Awe Jimmie…how they hangin as they say? They no longer hang at all since they were absconded with by some vet with a cleaver? So sorry, but I meant well. Miss your postings. Are you back in Hollywood on the sound stage? Sure wish you’d come back east and treat us to your handsome, gray face. Miss the kitty with the funny, silly cat-itude…as it were 🙂

      Like

  3. 700! Wow! Congratulations. Each post I have had the privilege of reading has made me smile or has touched my heart. What an accomplishment. My grandparents were all gone before I was three, so no memories there, but my mom (who was gone by time I was 11) used to make us soft boiled eggs in a cup with a bit of butter and toast, with ginger ale. I still require ginger ale when I am not feeling well. Great post, again, congratulations!

    Like

  4. katecrimmins says:

    I don’t have any memories of my grandmother who died when I was 3 (the other died before I was born) but being sick was always treated as more special than birthdays. Special foods, a wait staff to fetch and carry and the opportunity to pick all the TV programs. Sometimes a good old fashioned sickness sounds good to me.

    Like

  5. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I never knew my grandmothers, and only saw one grandfather when I was about 3 when he came for a visit. You’re lucky to have any memories of your grandparents. Congrats on 700! That’s quite a milestone.

    Like

    • Thanks Dame. I had three of my grandparents well into my teens. My father’s dad died when I was about seven of a sudden heart attack. That’s the alcoholic side.

      I was very close to the Italians since we lived in the same house. Thanks for the congrats. It’s either great or I need a life.

      Like

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