This time one month ago I had just started my new job, returned from a trip to Florida and celebrated my 29th birthday. It was a whirlwind of a month, so busy in fact that I hadn’t cooked in my kitchen for a couple weeks straight. My kitchen is my calm and happy place, one where I retreat after my workdays and don a loose fitting t-shirt, athletic shorts and use my remaining energy to cook. It’s also where I was standing when I received the news that my Nana had passed away.
In that moment, a deluge of every single thing that Nana taught me overtook my consciousness and pinged around my brain leaving me in a haze. After all, she is the reason my mom entertains like a pro, the reason my sister Ashley’s home is decorated to a tee, the reason my sister Lindsay sewed a skirt from scratch for a high school dance, the reason my sister Brooke can create anything with her hands, and she is the reason why I started this blog.
She was a strong, stubborn and independent woman, which was uncommon for the times that she lived in. She grew up without a mother, emigrated to the U.S. from Italy at the age of seven not speaking a lick of English, and she built a life with my Pop Pop that was the envy of many in their small New Jersey town.
It’s no mistake that she was blessed with three daughters and each of them disseminated their own versions of strength, warmth and love to their children. On top of her three daughters, out of eight grandchildren seven of them are girls, and out of thirteen great grandchildren eight of them are girls. Coincidence? I think not. She was a dynamic role model for every woman in my family, cursing like a sailor one minute then warm and domestic the next, Nana was put on this earth to set the tone that women are capable of being anything they want to be.
Her passing was a long time coming as she battled dementia the past seven years, was non-verbal for the past three, and she was 96. While I find comfort in the full life she lived, some days I am left wishing I could play one more game of gin rummy with her, perform one more Whitney Houston song for her in my childhood home, and watch her make pizza on my kitchen island one more time.
Rest in peace Nana and in the famous words of Whitney, “I will always love you.”