Tag: Gramma

Need Motivation? Look No Further

snowWe’ve been having the strangest weather. My kids have missed eight days for snow already, and we’re in the south. I’m told that’s not unheard of for this area, but come on. What’s the point of living in the south—far from family and good Italian food—if not avoiding snow?

But I digress…

Gramma never complains about crappy situations. She just digs in and deals with what life hands her. And life has handed her some tough situations.

Her family, looking to escape harsh realities in a weak and oppressive Italy, immigrated to Colorado in the early 1900s. She was a young girl running errands for her mother when she encountered one of those tough situations.

When the Going Gets Tough, Gramma Gets Going

She was walking to the general store by herself to obtain a few provisions for her family. It wasn’t far, but the road was deserted for a stretch. She heard a horse and buggy behind her. Horses were her favorite of all animals, so she turned around to admire the animal.

It wasn’t a local farmer, or even a neighbor child.

It was a “gypsy” family.

Her parents had warned her about such wanderers. They weren’t to be trusted.

She stopped staring at the horse and turned her focus back to the road, picking up her pace just a bit.

One of the men sitting in the cart called to her, “Hey, little girl!”

She ignored him. She could see the buildings on the main street of the town, but she wasn’t close enough to yell for help.

“Girly! Wait a minute!” She didn’t know if it was the same man or his partner, and she didn’t turn to find out. They were getting closer.

She broke into a run.

To her utter dismay, she heard the crack of a whip.

They were giving chase.

They were still pretty far behind her, but she knew she couldn’t outrun a horse. She’d never make it all the way to the general store.

Her only chance was to run to the first building she came to.

She ran for her life.

The first building in the street was the post office. She darted inside and, completely breathless, ran behind the counter, ducking down, out of sight.

“Hey! You can’t be back here!” the postmaster said.

She could only shake her head, completely unable to speak. She pointed at the door just as two men and a woman flung it open and dashed inside.

“Can I help you?” the postmaster asked them.

“We’re looking for… our niece,” one of the men said.

The woman spoke up. “She ran away from us.”

“I thought I saw her come in here,” a man said.

The postmaster was silent for a moment.

My grandmother didn’t breathe for a whole other reason. She was terrified he was going to give her up.

Instead, he said, “You’re mistaken. She must have run behind the building. Did you check out back?”

“Maybe if we could just check behind your counter?” one of the men said.

The postmaster held up his hand. “No, you may not. No one is allowed behind this counter unless he is authorized by the United States Government.”

Gramma released a soundless sigh.

“I suggest you be off,” the postmaster said. “You need to find your niece, and it gets dark early in these parts.”

The gypsies left without another word, and soon my grandmother heard the horse and buggy headed away from the post office.

“It’s safe now,” the postmaster said, and helped her out from behind his counter.

“I don’t know how to thank you,” my grandmother said. “How did you know I wasn’t with them?”

“You can always tell good from bad,” he said.

Certain Universal Truths

I always love it when my grandmother tells that story. You can tell good from bad, if you look hard enough. And you can do anything if you set your mind to it. Even get away from potential kidnappers. Or get out of a winter’s funk.

I’ve been feeling the winter’s blues. A lot of my writing friends have, too. But thinking about the hardships my grandmother has overcome is quite motivating to me. I’ve never had to escape anything so daunting as potential abductors. I don’t know if they were really “gypsies,” but I do know the threat was real. And I know she’s been through other tragedies in her life, too.

writer's blockI just had a minor bout of writer’s block. Not quite on the same scale, hardship-wise. Still, it’s nothing I want to keep banging my head against.

But overcoming any obstacle requires digging down deep to find that inner kernel of strength and determination that will see us through to the other side. I’d like to think I get that from my grandmother.

When you’re feeling a little out of sorts, who do you look to for inspiration? Why don’t you share that story here?

Why I’m Thankful for the White Tornado

It’s a few days early for Thanksgiving, but I always post on Mondays, so I’m posting today about what I’m thankful for. God has been good to me. I’m truly blessed. I have a loving husband and a wonderful son and daughter. I have two adorable dogs that bring us joy every day. We have a beautiful home and, given all the areas of the world that have been hit with disasters in recent years, it would be wrong of me to complain that it’s too far from my extended family… but that’s really the only thing that bothers me about my house. It just isn’t in my hometown.

Mary NaccaratoAnd that brings me to the topic of this post. I could write about so many different things this year, but what (or I guess I should say who) this blog post is focusing on is in my hometown. I’m going to tell you about one of my favorite people in the world: my grandmother, Mary Naccarato. I know almost everyone thinks they have the best grandma, but I have to tell you, this lady is one in seven billion.

Gramma, or Nana (as the great-grandkids call her), is a ninety-four year old dynamo. Because of her bright white hair and her unlimited supply of energy, she’s earned the nickname “The White Tornado.” This is a woman who still climbs ladders to polish the crystal on her chandelier, sweeps and scrubs her porches, and adheres to the same weekly housework schedule she created when she first got married… probably the same one she learned from her mother, because it’s the one my mother uses and it’s the one I (kind of) follow.

Her parents came from Italy when she had just one sibling. She was born in Colorado and spent her early childhood there, where she developed a love for horses and the wilderness. At a young age her family (which eventually became seven children) moved to New Kensington, Pennsylvania, where she eventually met my grandfather. She had other suitors, but it was my grandfather who won her heart. He used to walk the fifteen to twenty miles from Vandergrift to her house just to see her. When they married, she knew he had to take care of his mother and younger siblings (his father had died at a young age and he was the man of the family since he was fourteen), so she acquiesced her position as woman of the house, letting my grandfather continue to support his family.

His siblings were eventually able to care for themselves, and my grandmother got her own home. She lost her only son in a difficult stillbirth, but she went on to have two wonderful daughters: my mother and my aunt. The way I hear it, their house was the town hangout. She would make cookies or pizza roll or any number or wonderful treats and the kids would congregate there. There were times my dad and his friends dropped by when my mom and aunt weren’t there, just to visit and grab a snack. Why wouldn’t they? She’s the world’s best cook and she tells the best stories. She’s a great listener, too.

Things didn’t change when Gramma’s children were out of the house and her grandchildren were roaming the town. My friends and I used to drop in all the time for a snack and a visit. So did my brother, my sister, and my cousins. Sometimes our friends would drop by without us. It turns out, no one can go past my grandmother’s house without saying hello. And hello leads to a visit. And a visit leads to food, so…

When I got my license, I had a built-in shopping buddy. She was my good luck charm. If I needed something, really needed something, I’d take her with me. I always found what I was looking for if she was with me. Even if it took a while. Once I told her I needed to take a quick run to Staples for some things for my writing portfolio. We were there for two hours. To this day when she sees a Staples commercial she thinks of me. But I did manage to get everything I needed. She’s my good luck charm.

The week before my wedding, when my husband had his bachelor party, all of my bridesmaids had something else going on. One was underage, two were out of town, one was at the hospital with her fiancé, and two were moms with young kids at home… I wasn’t having a bachelorette party. I could have gone out with other friends or hung out with my parents for the last time. But I chose to spend the time with my grandmother. We went to my new apartment, papered my kitchen shelves, reminisced about my grandfather and other family moments, and then we went out. We had a blast. We talk about it to this day. It was one of the best nights of my life. I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything in the world.

Once all the grandkids were married, the great-grandkids came. We have traditions to carry on. Sure, we are learning them from our mothers, but Gramma is still there helping us, reminding us what is truly important. She came to my house and helped make homemade ravioli for the last Easter I hosted before I moved out of state. She still shares recipes and tells stories. She shows us pictures and gives us heirlooms. She is a living tradition.

I don’t get home very often. I miss seeing her, hugging her, baking with her, sharing these things with her. But then I remember, when her family left Italy, that was it. They never went back. They never even called home—the cost was too much. Because of technological advances, I can talk to her whenever I want. I have the luxury of hearing her voice. No, it’s not the same. I can’t sit at her kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a few pizzelles, but I haven’t lost touch with her.

And as long as I have her, I will give thanks for that.

I hope this Thanksgiving you all have someone in your lives for whom you can be as grateful as I am for my grandmother.

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