I grew up in a small town along the Niagara River. We moved in when I was 9 years old. Our family was happy and secure. I knew not what lay ahead and my days were full of the outdoors. Lisa lived 2 streets over and we spent many years together creating a hard worn path between our houses. I think we sometimes dreamt of switching lives – she an only child and me part of the big family! She came from a traditional Italian family and her mom made the best sauce in the world! Even my own mom’s pasta was never that good! Every holiday and weekend that I can remember revolved around spending some of my time at home and the rest at Lisa’s. Her home was my home away from home and it smelled like tomatoes, onions, herbs and garlic and family!
Their old dog would regally greet me from his post in front of the house and the other would come running to meet me in the garage as I entered the laundry room. As I took off my shoes I was always greeted with a “MEGGIE!” from Lisa’s dad who would brighten my day no matter how I felt before I arrived. He was a tough guy with a big heart and a winning smile. His sons matched. I loved them all deeply like the brothers they were to me growing up.
In an Italian family everything is “big”! Emotions run high and activity is busy. Laughter is a part of the equation and always in the air. When music is playing, often women are singing their hearts out. Occasionally it may be out of tune, but beautiful nonetheless. This is where I belonged and I felt welcome. My cares would shed off me at the door and be forgotten in the flurry of activity. I was an insider with shared secrets and stories! Men told the family tales whilst playing cards and I remember hovering to listen. Truth and olden day wisdom and some tough times were spoken of and mark my memories of yesterday. The women usually remained near the kitchen where endless lessons and wisdom was imparted to the young. 3 to 4 generations lived close enough to share time and no one felt alone. If anything, it was tough to find space but I had plenty of this at home and Lisa could escape with me too.
While Lisa felt that her brothers never had to do anything (which was pretty much true) I didn’t really mind and would help out so that we could have more time together. They got such a kick out of how much I could eat. Lisa’s mom could never feed me enough spaghetti! She insisted I have a plate before going home and I would oblige waddling home uncomfortable yet satisfied.
“Mange’, mange’”, they would shout and everyone would laugh. I even was nick named “Hoover” or “Foot” as the brothers teased endlessly. It was all part of the fun!
The cousins arrived on any given weekend and we would spend hours playing outdoors regardless of the weather. Only after you were worn out and well fed did things slow down and that meant more cards and music or a special show or football game to get involved in. Room to room would represent all ages and community. It was good old fashioned and fun! When a bit too much wine was had, the laughter and noise increased and occasional battles of will emerged. The language had rougher edges. Laughter or tears would trade places too but were gone in a fleeting instance. There was always love. When shuffled off to bed. Lisa and I would spend endless hours chatting and drawing and dreaming together! We had each other and we knew we could conquer the world with spaghetti and meatballs and a big pot of sauce!
Josh is not Italian but he is lucky too!