Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Greatest Person I Have Ever Known

I'm guessing most of us have someone in their lives that stands out as the most wonderful person ever.

A blog that I came across recently, dearphotograph.com, has probably inspired thousand of folks to rummage through their old photos in search of material that might work for that exercise.  Mine was  a double whammy. I've been going through my Aunts house, trying to get it ready for a renter, and I have come across boxes and boxes of family photographs and this one really stuck with me.

This is my Nonna, or grandma for you non-Italian readers, and she was the sweetest, most wonderful person I have ever known. Towering at 4 foot 10 inches, tops, she immigrated to this country from Northern Italy with my Nonno, Grandpa, in the story book fashion that included traveling by ship and landing at Ellis Island to be processed into this country.  I came across her immigration papers and they listed her as a Contidina, or Peasant Woman. It must have been quite an adventure back then. Heck it would be quite an adventure now.

In this picture, she sits with me on her lap in the old porch swing.  I remember that so well.  Of course it creaked and that sound to this day, is so reassuring and comforting to me. I think if I could somehow bottle it, we could do away with Valium and Prozac and every other brain mugging drug we currently have.  We'd sit there for long periods of time watching the neighborhood kids playing Indian Ball or even Corkball, which I think may be peculiar to the St Louis area.  Eventually my dad would buy the lot across the street so we'd have a place to play ball that wasn't in the street.  It only helped a little because we always ended up running out of space so we'd stretch the field to include the street anyway.

This image looks, to me, like something out of the "Grapes of Wrath", though they traveled no farther than Alton, Illinois.  This house was located on the "Hill", as the Italian section was called.  I don't know if every town had a "Hill" section but I do know St Louis has a famous neighborhood of the same name.  Ours was certainly a bit different from that one because it was indeed perched on top of one of the many steep hills in Alton.  As a little known fact, Alton has the steepest paved street in the country, unless someone built one newer since I was a child and at some 8 feet 9 inches, Altonian "Robert Wadlow", is the worlds Tallest man on record.  He lived around our neighborhood and was about the same age as my dad. He died very young from a toe infection.

I wander again.

My Nonna's  maiden name was Lovato and if you say it with her first, Anna  (ah nah), it flows so softly and rhythmically off your tongue.  I keep a small sign with her name printed on it above my computer because I think some day it will make a lovely name for some worthwhile endeavor. Annalovato.

I never knew my Nonno, he died when my dad was just eleven.