Wednesday, November 13, 2013

ON BECOMING THE SEMI-ITALIAN GRANDMA I'VE SAID I ALWAYS WANTED TO BE



While at the surgical supply store to rent Jim's crutches and wheelchair after he busted his fibula, I met this beautiful lady who was there to be fitted for some special shoes. 

She was adorable, impeccably groomed by her loving daughter, and eager to share some stories.

They did not hesitate for a moment when I asked permission to take their photo. It was a lovely interaction. Although to have to deal with the aftermath of a broken leg is no picnic, the opportunity to meet these very dear ladies was an unexpected pleasure. 


A friend who has known me for 46 years asked a simple question:"So how does it feel to be the grandmother of such an adorable little person ?" 

He realized what I should have:that I have taken hundreds of photos of the baby, but that I hadn't said what it feels like to be able to take them.

When we first moved to Italy, I used to only half-joke that I aspired to be one of those Italian grandmas in the black stockings who cut the homemade pasta on the kitchen table one strand at a time, and who continue ruling the roost well into their nineties.

I now see that this pipe dream is going to require a few adjustments. Even at 66, I have to admit that it's been a long time since I saw any little old ladies in black stockings. The grandmas and great-grandmas I know look pretty hip. They usually have their hair done regularly (not covered by a dark babushka), and have a spring in their step. They know how to make pasta, but tend to buy it fresh at the few remaining pasta fresca places that turn out a light, wonderful product with their modern machines that cut more than one strand at a time. Often continuing their career (our closest Italian friend is still a practicing architect), they know how to work and play with the grandkids.

Further, although my own mom turns 89 this summer, nobody in my family has ever made it into her nineties. But then again, she grew up in Minnesota, not Italy, where I see many of my neighbors still in charge at ninety-plus.

I recently found the 33-year-old first photos taken of our newborn son, and as new parents, my ecstatically happy son and daughter-in-law were pleased to see them. They show how much newborn father and daughter resemble each other, and highlight for me my own bumpy journey to grandma-hood.

As I write this, I am thinking of the blessing given on special occasions to mark a rite of passage --the one that offers thanks "for permitting us to reach this hour." 



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