Every so often I find myself with this image in my head. It comes to me in the form of a Summer day and I’m about six years old. In it, I am standing in my grandmother’s tulip garden on a bright sunny day, wearing a dress, white tights and patent leather shoes. I remember the dress as though I wore it yesterday, yet I can’t quite describe it. I am smiling. I picture my awful haircut – I don’t know what my dear mum was thinking when she cut my hair that short, but it was truly awful (she will tell you differently)! I can see my grandparents’ house in the background – a BIG house with three floors and a basement. This house was huge and had plenty of little nooks and crannies to hide in, but we weren’t allowed in the basement. This image is like a photograph etched in my mind, and in fact, I know I have a photo of this very moment in an album somewhere.
My grandparents’ house was by the river, and we were not allowed to play down by the water because my grandmother always worried that one of us would accidentally drown. The house was partially surrounded by trees and had a long driveway that was almost always filled with cars on any given Sunday, because everyone visited after church. I don’t know how many cars fit in that driveway, but I had ten aunts and uncles, most of whom had cars and kids, and there was always room to park.
The dining room table was something else – it would make anyproud. At least 20 people regularly surrounded that table, and the kitchen was always filled with eating, loud talking and of course, the smell of home cooking. Even the two German Shepherds got a taste of our Nonna’s cooking – they had pasta and sauce on a regular basis, out of these big metal bowls. They were pretty healthy (but scary) dogs. Back then, everyone was a smoker and it was OK to smoke in the house. I remember that the house was not only filled with people, it was also filled with laughter and music. God, I love music – and I credit my mom’s family for that. Thanks to them, I was born listening to R&R, and to this day, I can’t go anywhere or do anything without my music. I should probably add a side note, and tell you that my dad and three of my uncles formed a band in the sixties that became quite popular in Quebec and in the States. As a result of my family’s big love of music, there were very often sudden outbursts of song. The instigator was almost always my uncle R, the rock & roller of the family. He would start singing and everyone would join in, no questions asked. All smiling, happy people. To this day, we still join together in song.
Not surprisingly, there was a piano room on the second floor; that room was one of my favorites because it was mostly all window. It wasn’t very big, but it was cozy. My mom once told me that my grandmother used to go up there and play when she and her siblings were kids. In addition to my piano-playing grandmother, my guitar-playing uncles, and my drummer dad, my grandfather held a special talent all his own: he played the accordion… and the banjo! I think about this now, and it makes me chuckle. I love that my grandfather was a banjo player. How cool is that? I had my very own Italian version of the Von Trapp family – the hills were definitely alive with the sound of music – R&R music with a banjo accompaniment.
It’s true what they say – La casa è dove il cuore è.
What are some of your favorite memories?