Little Italian lady

     It’s been a long time since I thought of her.  The little, chubby Italian woman I proudly called Nonna.  Her head of white hair, curly from the permanent wave she always had done at the beauty parlor.  When I was younger, she flipped her hair tightly into a bun.  As she got older, she wanted  a more modern look.  She gave up the old house dresses and we saw her wear pants for the first time.
     She loved being photographed.  She would wear her full set of dentures for the camera, slipping the lower one out soon afterward.  She usually stood near one of her amazing rose bushes or some type of flowering plant.  All the memories I have of her in print have some sort of  colorful flower next to her.
     When I see pictures of her from Italy, when she was only eighteen years old, I see a dark beauty with haunting eyes.  A knowing smirk on her face, as if she had a secret which she wouldn’t share.  Several small children surrounding her, my father, aunt and uncle.  Her whole life before her.
     She was a rock when I was younger.  When things were unstable in my own life.  She was always there, getting me ready for school when I had to stay with her for a while.  She didn’t understand everything, and one day in school I opened my lunch to the strangest concoction.   On huge, fat, Italian bread, she had spread peanut butter, and folded chipped ham into it as well.  Arrrgh.  What on earth?  My little stomach was growling with hunger, so I dug into a sandwich that I would begin to eat daily.
     She baked orange box cakes and glazed them with a thin powder sugar glaze.  We would wonder where she hid them, when I spied her opening up a drawer in the kitchen one day and saw the cake in there.  Never again would she be able to hide them from me.
     You would not want to eat her steak.  The term shoe leather has new meaning.  But the meals of homemade pasta….now that was something we all looked forward to.
     I can still smell her Sunday dinners as if it was yesterday.  I can see her digging in her garden out back never tiring.  Canning countless jars of tomatoes in the cellar.
     Nonna, you were the best.  I still miss you and think of you.