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How to Maximize Your Relationship with the NonniDiscover how to make the most of the moments you have with Italy's greatest treasure, its grandparents
Grandparents the world over are special. But Italian grandparents – better known as nonni – have that little something extra. It's hard to pinpoint. But they have a sparkle in their eye, a way with a wooden spoon, and conserva in the cupboard at all times. They often have small statures and huge personalities. And they inspired all the Sunday lunches, Christmas Eve feasts, and vino or grappa toasts you've ever experienced. They give you some crazy advice (never drink ice-cold water on a hot day or risk dying – wait – what?) and some great advice (get educated because we left our country to make sure you had more opportunities than we did).
They are the heartbeat of la famiglia. When they're gone, you lose a part of yourself and the family continues on but that heartbeat gets fainter and fainter. I was lucky enough to know all 4 of my grandparents and even one biological great grandparent and one step great grandparent. Their mere existence made us all the more Italian, and their love set my life in motion.
Here's what you need to do to maximize whatever time you have with the nonni:
1. Let them feed you.
Indeed, my maternal nonno, Rocco Di Costanzo, passed away in March and when my cousin cleaned out her freezer and showed me a picture of the chicken cutlets that my grandfather made and wrapped for her before he died, I couldn't stop crying. My grandmother, his wife, says Sundays are the day she misses him most because she no longer listens to Mass on TV with the scent of his bubbling pasta sauce in the background. So, savor every aroma, every bite, and every recipe that you can get out of them. Yes, get them to write down exactly how they make all that deliciousness. Someday you will want to at least try to replicate the dishes.
2. Ask about their childhood.
Set a day aside – or many – to hear their life story. Video tape every minute of it. You will find yourself pouring over the videotape at some point down the road, and everyone else in the family will be jealous of your genius when nostalgia strikes hardest. Plus, you will get the audio and the view of their hand gestures as they talk. Sorry, that stereotype about Italians is totally true.
3. Seek guidance.
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