Many People ask me whether or not I was born In Italy. The answer to this question is NO. Normally what follows next is another question like, How come you can speak Italian so well and write it too? Well, I have two very special people to thank for the gift of language- my mum and nonna. I was born in Preston, Melbourne and for the first 10 years of my life I lived in Thornbury with my family and my beautiful nonna, Alessandra.
My Nonna lived with us for nine years. My Nonna only spoke Italian and knew very limited English like Hello and Bye.Whilst many of my friends shared a bedroom with their siblings or had their own personal bedroom, I shared a bedroom with my Nonna. Nonna always spoke Italian and I responded in Italian or English depending on the mood I was in. Before going to bed each night, Nonna would ask me to kneel down beside my bed and together we would say the Ave Maria in Italian. There were some nights that I could not fall asleep and my Nonna would tell me the the story of Cenerentola- Cinderella. I loved the story so much that most nights I would ask my Nonna to retell the story again and again.
I have so many wonderful and fond memories of my Nonna. In many ways I thank her everyday for the gift of patience and understanding but more importantly the gift of the Italian language. I happily grew up in a bilingual home where my Dad spoke English most of the time and my mum and nonna spoke Italian all the time. At an early age I was immersed in two languages and using both languages quite competently everyday. At school, I learned how to read and write in the Italian language. The Italian language is so much apart of my life and my life story. Now, I am so happy to be teaching primary school students the Italian language as it was taught to me so many decades ago.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my Nonna, Alessandra. I thank her most days for giving me such a wonderful and precious gift. She will always live forever in my heart and thoughts.
My Nonna, Alessandra and I at my first birthday party. Signora is the baby with the pink party hat. The baby next to me is my cousin.
My Nonna Returns to Italy
The day had arrived that my Nonna was to return to her birthplace, Italy. My first thought was how could she leave me behind. I begged her constantly to take me with her. My Nonna expressed that she missed her other children who were living in Italy.
I spent the entire car trip to the airport crying. I was very, very, very sad. I begged her not to leave. My Nonna promised to return to Melbourne soon.
I held her hand so tightly and I didn’t want to let go. My Nonna was my best friend. She taught me how to speak Italian, cook delicious gnocchi, dance the tarantella, sew and respect and care for others.
The moment arrived that she had to board the plane. I took one big breath and whispered gently in her ear, “I love you Nonna. You are the best Nonna in the whole wide world”. She gave me the biggest hug, kissed my forehead and whispered back in my ear, “Ti amo per sempre”. Tears fell gently down my face. She was then gone. I watched the aeroplane depart. As the plane took off, my heart was hurting so badly. I wondered when would be the next time I’d see her. I was missing her already.