Memories of an Italian Grandmother, by Laura De Vivo
“Mi fai acqua e limone, Nonna?”
A ten-year-old me stood in her kitchen doorway, arms full of lemons. I’d discovered that I could just reach the branches of the lemon tree from the bathroom window of my parents’ apartment. I’d stretch my small arms out while resting my tummy against the cold marble window sill and curl my fingertips around the gnarled end of the branch. With a steady grip, I’d pull it into the room, using a wooden spoon to bash the ripe fruit off. Yellow orbs landed with a thud and rolled along the tiled floor.
As I released my hold, the branch leapt back from the window, causing the tree to dance with the sudden assault. I scrambled to collect the tree’s treasure in my arms, using my chin to steady the haul.
Nonna let out a hearty laugh.
“Ma, com’e'?” she asked, her hands clasped together as she shook them up and down, gesticulating in that way that continentals do. “How?”
“I pulled the branch into the bathroom,” I explained, more than a bit pleased with myself. She shook her head in disapproval, but with a wry smile on her face that told me she was impressed.
“Dopo. After,” she said, gesturing to the table full of fresh pasta she had been slaving over since six a.m. She was an early riser; no one could say Nonna let the grass grow - always up with the lark, to the market and back before any of us were even out of bed.
“Ooh, can I help?” I placed the lemons on the counter, having to tiptoe to put them down without losing any. My earlier eagerness for lemonade was replaced by curiosity for pasta making.
“Cosi, like this.” She showed me a fork.
With the skill and precision that only comes from years of practise, she expertly rolled four pieces of pasta. I watched her ageing hands intently and felt sure I could copy; in practise, it was harder than it looked. My pea-sized ball of dough got stuck to the back of the fork; I would end up flailing it around like a witch wielding a wand in an attempt to relinquish its claim on my pasta ball.
I was never going to be able to do this! Tears welled up in my eyes. I tried my best to fight them back, but Nonna didn’t miss them.
“Ah, Lauretta, Bella di Nonna.”
She planted kisses all over my face and the disappointment went away.
I blamed my inability to produce the pasta with such poetic motion on my young age, though this was short lived: my sister - five years my junior - could roll the small pasta balls with enviable manual dexterity. Drying globules would be strewn anywhere Nonna could find a flat surface, table top, sofa,
bed. Nonno - my downtrodden grandfather - was unceremoniously packed off to the garden where he couldn’t get under her feet, cause any problems, or eat anything that was intended for later. Poor Nonno. Secretly, I think he preferred being out of her way, left alone for the afternoon with his thoughts, his playing cards, and a good strong espresso.
Later, the voices in the garden carried through the open window, waking Nonna from her siesta. Laughter and chatter informed her we were all enjoying the cooler temperatures that the evenings brought.
“Gelato!” she’d announce from the top of the stairs, tray in hand, laden with glasses filled with the delicious, frozen dessert. This was the part of the day Nonno had been waiting for; licking his lips, he pulled himself closer to the table.
“There’s no use in you getting comfortable,” she’d say as she placed down her load. “There’s none for you!”
Poor Nonno was diabetic and couldn’t enjoy sweet treats like ice-cream; he never failed to look any the less dejected though. Nonna would chuckle at his wounded expression to her reprimand. A sound so familiar to me that I hear it even now.
My beautiful Nonna.
Laura is married with children and works as a Teaching Assistant. She found a love for writing as soon as she was able to hold a pen and writing for children is what she enjoys most. Growing up in a large Italian family, she has always been surrounded by children, so writing for them is in her blood. With a love for travel and adventure she is never short of ideas for story-telling. She believes that her best writing comes when she takes inspiration from personal experience and enjoys showing the world through her eyes in her writing.