Family stories – 1

NONNA ANTONIETTA

I need to admit that cooking comes very easy to me. It’s a gift: I open the fridge, I check what I have and I cook.

Sometimes it happens I burn some food but I can’t remember to have cooked something I had to throw away because untasty.

As a kid I used to be always curious about what my nanny and my grandmas were making in their kitchens.

My grandma Antonietta never tought me a lot, but she was different, a special grandma.

I rember her cooking very early in the morning or very late at night as during the day she worked in the family Watch Shop or she was busy in other things as my grandpa couldn’t leave their store.

She never had her recipes written down so I guess my gift comes from her cooking skills. She could make the most tasty Gnocchi, Lamb Sauce and Fried Seafood.

Having lunch or dinner at Nonna Antonietta and Nonno Bruno’s house was always like being invited to a party! Not only because everything was tasty, but also because I remember those moments as unusual. She was loud, when she laughed and when she fighted with my grandpa. And they used to fight a lot, for everything!

As a child she was very very poor and she couldn’t go to school and she started working she was 7 years old. In her family there was nothing: no food, no clothes. They used to live in a room, in a small country house, far from other houses and from the town.

In the 20ies and 30ies of last century women were  worthless and the only thing a woman could hope for was to be married to a good, possibly wealthy man.

My greatgrandpa had emigrated in the States when she was very little, leaving my greatgrandma, his sons and his only daughter in Italy. Nonno Camillo, this was his name, came back in Italy few months before WWII started.

He came ‘home’ to give his onlydaughter Antonietta to a young man she had never met before. My grandma and grandpa actually never met in the day they got married, because that was a ‘contract’: my grandpa Bruno went to sign marriage certificate a couple of hours before her father signed for grandma Antonietta, just before leaving for the USA again. This time he left taking with him all his sons, so they could work and have some money.

Nonna Antonietta was only 14 years old and Nonno Bruno was 18.  They met for the first time 6 months AFTER their marriage and they were married for over 55 years.

Grandma found herself pregnant of a husband she barely knew, alone as he was a soldier in WWII, with no food, no animals, no heating…….only a room to share with many other alone women. And this house was exactly along the Gustav Line!

I remember she told me that my mom, her first child, survived only because Canadian and Indian soldiers gave her some milk to drink when they liberated that area from the German Nazis.  But Nonna never confirmed or denied what she had to give them in exchange, even if I have always known it. There are many awful terrifying stories I studied on books about what happened in Lanciano when the Nazis left and the Liberators arrived.

Wars are always  very bad, whatever you are fighting for.

I don’t know a lot about how was their life when WWII ended and Nonno Bruno came back home.

Nonno Bruno worked a long time as Barista (coffee maker) in some coffee bars and he used to make Gelato (icecream), in the 50ies and 60ies. Then in the 70ies he opened a little shop where to repair watches and clocks.

His life dream!

I remember that day! Maybe I was 4 years old but I still see in my mind the new blue  carpet and many shinings objects.

As a matter of fact he wasn’t the sweet Nonno I’ve known. He was very very strict with his children and Nonna Antonietta.

My mom remembers him as very mean man who decided who had to do what, where and when to go to school, what to eat, what not to talk about, when to talk. I suspect he was also a person who used to beat his family members but no one ever talked me about this.

No one ever talks about these family secrets.

I know Nonna was a selfish and a rebel, but I don’t know when she openly started to rebel against his strict living rules. My mom told me Grandma used to secretely take some of Nonno Bruno’s tips from his pockets to buy little things for herself when he worked in the coffeebar. Then, when they opened their own store and their life changed, Nonna started to gift herself colored t-shirts, expensive shoes, red lipsticks. When she died I found out she had had a lover for over 20 years. She had had a secret life, who every one in the family knew about. Everyone except me, of course!

I remeber Nonno Bruno always working, always silent, always with the radio on because he was a music lover. He was always available and patient with me and my brother, but I remember Nonno and Nonna always fighting: night and day!

If Nonna rebelled fighting and spending money for herself and having a secret life, my aunt ran away from home, when she was only 15, to marry a 20 years older man. My uncle, instead, got involved in all of sort of troubles and he died at 40 years old for a brain cancer.

What about my mom? She rebelled in a completely different way: she forced her dad to allow her to study and she graduated from school with the best grades; she went to work in an office, she convinced him to let her marry the man she was in love with. She rebelled becoming the perfect woman, always well dressed, with a perfect clean and tidy up house, with a good job, a well-known husband, with everything always scheduled and planned, pretending all goes well and always complaining about what isn’t like she thinks needs to be.       But this is another story!!!!

I think I realized who my Nonna Antonietta was and how she had to fight to live, when she died.

Some skeletons came out at the daylight: good things and bad things, of course, but she was a fighter, selfish but a fighter!

Nonna Antonietta, I miss you more than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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