My nonna and her stories.

A grandmother's hand holding a baby's finger

My family, just like any other family out there, has some interesting history and things worth talking about and stories worth telling. I was talking with my spouse the other day about them, and I realized how much I enjoyed telling their stories, in particular, my grandmother’s (nonna hereafter) stories.

Like most European grandparents, mine went through the second world war. Something that left them forever scarred and perhaps taught them the value of life and what real hardship looks and feels like.

My grandmother used to tell a young me, alongside my equally amazed friends, stories about the war; about how she hid under bridges with her family in order to protect themselves from the bombings. How her family lost almost everything they once had and became dirt poor, eating scraps or no eating at all.

I remember telling myself that these stories were worth remembering, that they were part of our family’s legacy and that I would perhaps one day tell the same stories to my children as my nonna told them to me. She was a great storyteller. I remember wanting to record my nonna while I asked her questions, journalist-style, in order to keep her memories alive. My mother mentioned the idea a few times.

I never recorded her, or write down her memoirs, or saw down with her to ask her such questions. Neither did my actually-a-journalist sister, nor my mom or anyone in the family as far as I know. These were stories worth telling, but it seems like none of us had an urge to save them in something less time-sensitive than our own collective memory.

Yet here I am, writing about those long ago exchanges, having. She seemed amused, even happy, many times as she told me such stories. Now that I’m an adult I can guess her enjoyment came not from the memories she was bringing back to life, but from watching my amazed face as she told them so.

I can only imagine the kind of pleasure it must bring oneself to have the full attention of your grandson, and often of his buddies too. I can’t say I hope to have such stories to tell, for no one wants to live such terrible times as she did. But I do have stories of my own, of seeing my city up in flames, with riots everywhere and the military attacking their own citizens, rather than protecting them. Hopefully one day I’ll pass down my own tales to my daughter and grandchildren.

I’m not a melancholic person. Especially nowadays when I feel like my time is barely enough to enjoy what I have and the options of things to do just seem to keep getting bigger. But I love remembering my childhood, when creativity was endless and the world was so big and fascinating.

I had a great childhood. My nonna is one of my memory-landmarks. he brings joy to me whenever I think of her. My mother says she wasn’t a very affectionate mother, and that I got to see the more cuddly part of her, as most of us must become as we get older.

When I think of “family” a lot of beautiful mind-images come to me. Memory-photographs if you will. Some of them I took consciously, telling myself they were moments worth remembering. My mother is most likely in most of them. My nonna is in some of the sweetest ones as well.

When I think of family, I remember all of us, eating at Christmas, smiling.

my grandfather and grandmother smiling

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