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It's me, again.
It’s been five years, right? I last left you on the page, me wondering how to let you go before your imminent death so I could travel to Oregon for Davis’ collegiate graduation. You did what you did best. You let go so I could go on. A mother always knows when it’s time.
After your death, I was pitched to publish that collection of ramblings about our time together. The one I called a “blog.” Or what not to do when caring for your parents. One month after the book’s release, I was hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk.
My knees fractured. So much of me split open, that I still see my essence as a crushed watermelon spilling out into the middle of the road. For months, I gathered up my scattered seeds and planted them back inside of me. To ground me after my family roots were upended by your death and Dad’s. The rinds, those hard hard rinds we all grow in life? I left them on the side road for someone else to scavenge.
My book tour was put to bed for a bit. When resurrected, the pandemic hit. I sure was grateful you were no longer here for me to visit, to wave at through windows, to write signs that two minutes later you wouldn’t remember what they said, to pray all night that “the call” wouldn’t come. Though I sympathized with those who endured the same. How lucky we both were really to not have to answer that phone.
In those months, only a few things mattered. But they were BIG. Food. Breath. Kindness. The closest I could sidle up along side of you was no longer in a book of my doing. It was of yours instead. In your overflowing recipe binders. Inside, your handwriting brought you to life. You gave yourself back to me.
To fully realize that, I traveled to your hometown. Well, the place in which you were mere months away from being born. Spoltore, Pescara, Abruzzo. I had to separate from who you were in Ohio to find out who you might have been in another place. The one before me, one before time.
I’m in Oregon again on this day of days. The anniversary of saying goodbye to you—on that utterly beautiful, god-filled moment in the courtyard beneath skies as blue as the Adriatic. A day as rich as the life you lived. As savored as the meals you fed us.
In Oregon, I know how to grieve and give over to higher power—I’ve done it countless times. Here, for me, that awesome power is the mountains, and more so, the sea. When Davis graduated from the University of Oregon, when he married, he stayed in the northwest. His own angels are there too. I’m learning to let go of my son, the same as you released me to Oregon decades ago when I was pregnant with him, the same as your grandmother in Spoltore released Raffaela who carried you in her womb.
You’re with me, here, now. I feel you. In the wind. There’s been no rain this week. But how many times did we duck in and out of the drenching waters of the northwest. I lost count. The sun? It’s beat down on me. In Italian, they say il sole bacia i belli. The sun kisses the beautiful. It certainly kissed you.
On the beach, your feet are pushed into the sand beside mine. Isn’t it funny how sand can be used in the singular? As if we’re all standing on the same jagged tightrope of a coastline. And that little speck of sand we carry away is a way of simply tucking the memory of one another in between our toes.
I’m back at some revisions on the culinary memoir, thanks to some generous readers, critics, potential publishers, and some insight on my part. Here’s what else I’ve been up to:
Sweet as Can Be and The Triumph of Fennel will appear in Italian Americana, volume 41:1, this upcoming June.
Everyone Has a Cousin in Ohio will appear in the Cleveland-based, Italian newspaper, La Gazzetta.
Pauletta Hansel and I again are offering our quarterly FREE, virtual caregiver writing experiences, through Giving Voice Foundation. Next up, August 1st from 1-3 p.m. Learn more or register here.
If you’re looking for the best Italian festival in Ohio, look no further than the Feast of the Assumption Festival in Cleveland’s Little Italy. I’ll be there eating cavatelli and cannoli. And looking for some bocce ball tips. More info.
Speaking of…The Italian American Museum in Little Italy, Cleveland, will host "Waking the Ancestors (through story)," a two-hour writing workshop to explore our Italian American ancestry that has informed and inspired who we are. Check back for details or visit https://iamcle.org/ for more information.