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…
This is my 700th Post.