Mountains & Donkeys

A story of my happiest moment.Living out a dream. Making it happen.

“Rraachel, you no eat this?” Nonno would ask me as my plate sat in front of me, with little crumbs of bread, a couple smears of tomato sauce and little bits of sausage and meatball. “No Nonno, you can have it” After every meal  Nonno would hop from plate to plate asking my sisters and I if we were done – we would childishly nod our heads, and he would go ahead and scrape our plates completely clean, bread wiped and all – onto his own.  Then almost immediately after- “Raachel, you a finish? you want a more ah?” “Oh, No, Nonna I’m really full” It was like an empty plate alarm would go off and my Nonna would be around to re-fill the plate that probably took a lot of work to put down – bites between hide and seek under neath the table, mother coming by and throwing out different numbers of forkfuls she wanted me to complete before her next ‘check’ – “Ah, have a leetle bit more , ah?” Nonna dumps a load on my plate and I want to cry. I know this will be another long sitting.. and just how will I even fit it in me?!  Don’t get me wrong, the food in my grandparents home was always incredible.. but we all know how hard it can be to get kids to eat..especially when they’re full or don’t want to all together! This truth did not exist, and every plate was meant for any mouth – at any age.

After we’d all finally picked enough off the plate to make it look acceptable, we’d retire from that table and Nonno would usually come by eventually to tell us stories. I remember the adults would continue eating so much longer than us kids… we’d sit and watch them while shots were poured, plates continually were filled (*poor dad I would think…!! haha), laughs were shared, and memories were made. Nonno comes around with the the chocolate I call ‘paper chocolate’ – it’s a nouggette type bar lined with well, paper! I understand it’s some kind of edible sheet of .. almond paste dried and slices. ?! I shook my head in a no as I usually did, asking if he had any fruit snacks instead. He shook his head .. hm. maybe paper chocolate will do then……..

After some hair pulling, running through the garden, tv watching and bike riding in the basement we all come upstairs for fruit! After every meal there was always a big plate of fruit – usually canteloupe, strawberries and grapes. I walk into the kitchen and see our kiddy table with a huge plate of colourful fruits, and what’s what fruit snacks?! Oh that Nonno, what a little sneaky guy… I look for him in the room and he catches my look and gives me a little smirk.

He comes over to our table and asks us “hey, you guys eat a so fast the fruit! Like a donkey! The donkey back home, ah, they would cut my grass” and then the stories would start..I always enjoyed listening to his stories about ‘back home’ in Northern Italy. He would speak of the donkeys mostly, and about how fresh the air was amongst the beautiful mountains. He would tell me about his long treks up the mountains with friends – picnic basket, blankets and bottle of wine in hands. How can anyone  picture that and not think perfection!? When he would speak he spoke from a place of love..I could tell he missed being there..Of course he loved being in Toronto with his children, and grand-kids, but I could tell he missed his friends.. the donkeys..the mountains and air..the easy way of life. The way he always spoke of his life back home, intrigued me, always leaving me wanting to know more. Sometimes he would pull out photos which I thought were so cool.

Over the 20 some years of hearing so much about his home town I finally, after much dreaming, decided to visit his home back in Italy. When I told him he was floored and so so excited for me. My hope was that he would be traveling at the same time back home (he usually did once a year in the summer months) but  it turned out he had alternate plans which was too bad. There had been an earthquake a year or so before I planned to visit, so the town had been evacuated with only a few people still living in their homes – it was a bit disappointing as I couldn’t see the town in ‘full effect’ – it was more of a ghost town, but at the very least. The beauty,aged, and character overpowered !

I met some of my relatives and so many of his friends in that little village he called home… I saw his house, touched the walls, climbed the fountain he always spoke of, heard the church bell ring he would describe – the smell of the air among the mountains were exactly as he described…fresh. I saw my Nonna’s home just a few down from my Nonno’s.. they had met here in this small village..Moved to Canada and married, living out a happy marriage.. My Nonna (grandmother) passed away from cancer when I was 9, so I didn’t get the pleasure of hearing too many stories from her, but I do remember blessed memories spent with her: big slumber parties, going to church, shopping, subway rides.. she was a wonderful, strong lady that my family all misses..Just a side note, because back home is where they met, so when I speak of ‘his’ home town, I really mean their.

What an experience! I had! Totally living a dream.. Goes to show that anything is possible! If you can do it, then why not…………….!! :)

In the photo  below, I can confidently say that this was the happiest moment of my life.(awaiting many more)! :)

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