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The Bag Lady

What is in the bag today I asked my Nona, as she appeared early one Saturday morning, at our home in Somerville, Massachusetts.  Did my Nona understand my question, I wondered.  Did it matter that she did not understand exactly what I said?  It was evident, by my body language, that I was a happy and excited little girl, because something good was going to happen today because my Nona with there.

Knowing that Nona lived in the West End of Boston was all this little girl of maybe 4 or 5 knew.  She showed up occasionally, and always alone.  My Grandpa, Joseph (Giuseppe) had passed away some time ago, and I have no memories of him, just a story or two.  What I do have of his is the wooden rolling pin he made for Nona to bake with, and it is a treasure for me.   Grandpa was a carpenter.  Yes, my grandfather Joseph was a Carpenter, just like THE JOSEPH THE CARPENTER.

I heard that he had a very hard time getting jobs because he was Italian, and in those days, it mattered where you came from.  It appeared there were dueling events between the Irish and Italians in the West End for jobs, so they probably had some very rough times.  I heard Grandpa was not one to back down from a confrontation.

Nona and Grandpa came to this country from Syracuse, Sicily, Italy with 3 or 4 children, and my mother Agnes, the baby, was born here in Boston Massachusetts.  So, I can only assume that they spoke Italian all the time.  That is why I did not know what Nona said around me, and she probably did not understand me.   I do know that I dearly loved my Nona, without even speaking the words.  I clearly recall the special times with Nona, sitting at her feet, while she sat on the window seat, darning socks for our family.  It was priceless, seeing the needle go in and out of the sock, which she had turned inside out, to darn the holes.

My excitement reached its peak, when she spoke, VILLA WOOKYA, which meant, thread the needle.  Of course, I did not need words, because I saw the needle without much thread, and as she made a knot at the end of the stitch, she bit the end of the thread.  My time came, and she handed the needle to me, for me to thread.   Her eyesight was probably not the best at her age, and I excitedly grabbed the needle, and as quickly as my little fingers could go, I held the needle in my left hand, licked the thread, twisted it a few times to make it thinner, and pushed it through the hole of the needle.  Proudly, I handed the threaded needle back to Nona, so she could continue sewing, both of us in silence.  I was so proud of myself for accomplishing this task, and oh how much I loved her.

Nona always appeared at our home with surprises for us 4 children, and it was always like Christmas when she appeared.  Was it in her pockets or in a brown bag?  We never knew, but there was always something.  I loved Tootsie Pops the best, so when that stick appeared out of the bag or pocket in her coat, I would jump for joy.  Sucking on the Tootsie Pop, with a surprise inside was such a treat for us as Mom limited our candy consumption.

Even today, if anyone were to offer me a Tootsie Pop, my memories of Nona, sitting on the window seat would clearly come back to me.

 

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Different, but …

Different, but not less – from Temple Grandin