An Open Letter to Our Nonna

Subject: An Open Letter to Our Nonna
From: Joseph, Melissa, Vanessa, Emily, and Lauren
Date: 4 Feb 2023

An open love letter to our Nonna from her 5 grandchildren:

Our Nonna Lina was born on January 21st, 1943 in a town in Italy called Settefrati. She was the youngest sibling and had two sisters, Maria & Antonia and one brother, Remo. At the young age of 7 years old, our Nonna lost her mother and despite such a tragic and early loss, she ended up becoming the most amazing mom and Nonna in the world, and we want to start off by saying thank you to her for loving us, loving her whole family and loving every person that has been brought into her life. She was the most welcoming, warm and kind person and the love she shares goes beyond words.

For those who know our Nonno, you have probably heard him tell their love story at least once - or a million times. It's a story that never gets old. He always starts by saying how she was about 8 years old and he was close to 12 years old. He would always tell us how he would just look at her, but never touch. But we know Lina, and we know with one look, my dad would back off, but he was determined and said that if it wasn’t Lina, it was nobody. When they finally got a little older, she gave in and that was that. They got married in 1964 and were inseparable ever since. Not once did they give up on each other, and are the definition of unconditional love and respect.

A few months after her son Mario was born, they moved to their first house in Toronto and a few years later her daughter Caterina was born and the family was complete. They lived right across from our Zio Remo and as the years went on, the house was constantly filled with cousins, siblings, friends, and on the not so rare occasion, strangers. They ended up moving a few more times until they settled into their current home. That's where Mario found his mom one afternoon having a coffee with someone she met only a second ago, acting as if they were old friends. He had arranged a pick up for an item he was selling online that day, but he had an appointment to attend right before. He says that the buyer decided to come a little earlier and as he pulled into the driveway, there was a car already parked out front. He walked into the door as our Nonna and the stranger were mid conversation. They had already shared a small meal and were well acquainted. Our Nonna made friends wherever she went, always making sure that the people around her, regardless of who they were, were cared for.

Her daughter Caterina absolutely loved having her morning coffee and milk with our Nonna, or as she would call her, her ‘mamolo’, where they could spend hours talking. Since she was born, her and my mom were best friends and understood each other like no other. The bond Caterina and our Nonna had was unbreakable. Our Nonna was her rock and will forever be her biggest supporter. One of their favourite things to do together was to bake, and every family occasion, they would work day and night preparing the most delicious meals. At the end of each meal that included up to at least 5 courses, they would finally bring out the dessert. Tiramisu, cookies and donuts were always on the menu, but on birthdays we would always look forward to Nonna’s famous cake, decorated specifically for the person we were celebrating and with whatever she could find: chocolate chips, berries, custard and sometimes whole candle sticks. We would all be so full, but we would eat it all anyway. One thing about our Nonna is that she wouldn’t take no for an answer, especially when it came to food. She always made sure that her family was very well fed. When we were younger, we would have our weekly Sunday lunches at her house. Her greatest joy was being in the presence of her family, but especially her grandchildren, treating them with the same love as she did her own children, maybe even a little more. During these meals, as an Italian family does, we would eat but we would also engage in conversation, sometimes very loud conversation. As things would begin to escalate, she would continue to sit there quietly, making sure each one of us was finishing every piece of food left on our plates. Instead of setting all the food on the table, she would come around and serve us a big portion of pasta, meat or whatever she prepared for us that day, even if we said we didn’t want any. There were a few things she would set on the table that were a staple at every meal; vegetables, salad and fruit. Us grandchildren, thinking we could outsmart her, would try to skip out on eating the broccoli, but she knew every time, and right before the plates were taken away, she made sure each of us had at least one piece.

It goes without saying that she cared about her grandchildren so much, and quickly picked up on their eating habits, making sure Emily’s pasta fagioli had no fagioli, Vanessa and Lauren finished their salmon and Melissa ate her fruit. With Joseph, she would let him eat whatever he wanted, and we always joke about how he was her favourite. There was rarely a meal that ended without Nonna and her Jojo dancing to the tarantella. They shared a love of dancing, singing and music, with happiness always radiating from the two of them. And some of the best times us girls would have with her was when we would all play scopa together. We would all fight to be on Nonna’s team because somehow she would manage to win every game, but being on her team was also a double-edged sword, because she would give you one of her famous looks if you made the wrong move. Her grandchildren were at the center of her world, always greeting them with the biggest hugs and kisses and calling us girls her bambolottas. She was very protective of all 5 of us, always defending us and being at our sides the second we needed her. Her love for us was endless and unconditional, but we could never cross her. There were many times where Vanessa refused to go to school, but each time they approached the playground, Nonna would pick her up like Simba and place her over the fence, ignoring her cries, and letting Vanessa grow and develop the same strength she had.

Nonna spent her whole life deeply devoted to her Catholic faith, having a profound dedication to Madonna Di Canneto. Every August, she would count down the days until the celebration of the Madonna Di Canneto at Mary Lake. She would start to prepare trays of food days before, making sure there was enough for everyone there and a little extra. Knowing how much she cared about the Madonna, her grandchildren had the idea to have Lauren paint the original Basilica of the Madonna Di Canneto that she visited decades ago with her siblings, placing an image of the Madonna above the church. It was a surprise they knew she would love and were so eager to give to her, and her reaction was priceless. She spent weeks showing it off and telling everyone about it, saying how proud she was of her youngest granddaughter.

The pride she had for her family can only be reciprocated, as we reflect on the countless special moments we shared with her. We hope this love letter to her does justice for the countless proclamations of love she made to her family. Knowing our Nonna was to know pure love, to have felt her warmth was a privilege. She loved and accepted anybody with open arms. She was the head of our house and our caregiver. Nonna, your job here is done. Riposa in Paradiso la nostra regina, oggi e sempre.

We love you forever,

Joseph, Melissa, Vanessa, Emily, and Lauren