Monday, February 20, 2012

A Home Fifty Years in the Making

It’s no secret that I, Alice, am a rant-er. I have a temper and I like to bitch. Now, although all of this is obvious to those who have been following this blog and my many angry rants over the last year, it might come as a surprise to those I come across in real life because in addition to having anger management issues, I am also, oddly, very passive aggressive. What also might come as a shock is that I am super emotional. I cry during all of the appropriate times, like weddings, girly movies, when I see anyone else crying, and when Mufasa dies in The Lion King. But I also cry during other, less appropriate times. Like during awards shows (it’s like watching dreams come true for two hours straight), every time I listen to “Lean on Me” (including the reggae version), and through 95% of every Glee episode (mash-ups and competitions medleys are especially emotional*). And yes, I cry this much even when I’m not pregnant.

*Yes. I literally shed tears during “Moves Like Jagger.” 

See? There are layers to Alice. I may often come off like a raging B but I also possess a softer side. Which brings me to my real point. Last week, I had wanted to put up a post in honour of Valentine’s Day. A love letter actually, but not the icky-roll-your-eyes-make-you-wanna-puke kind. I think Valentine’s Day is about more than just romantic love, so the letter was actually going to be to my grandmother who passed away the weekend before. But my house was so chaotic that things got away from me and I wasn’t able to post. Well, actually, instead of writing a post, I was busy writing a eulogy. But now that some time has passed, I thought I should amend my original idea. So instead of a letter, I’ll tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was an Italian woman who moved to Canada with her husband and four daughters. When they arrived, they spoke literally no English. The girls learned the language in school, while the woman and her husband were left to teach themselves how to speak, read, and write in English. They had very little money, but after four years, the woman convinced her husband to purchase their very own home. It was modest and small, even for the times, and they required a border to live with them for many years in order to help afford it, but the house was theirs. It was the first and only house that ever belonged to them. For a couple who had come from next to nothing, who had lived through the war years, and who had been separated for two years before reuniting their family in Canada, this house was a source of great pride. 

For nearly fifty years, the woman remained in this house. Even after her daughters had grown up and moved out, and even after her husband passed away, the house was still hers. It was still the place where her family, kids and grandkids alike, came together. It was still the place with beautiful flowers lining the front walk, a plentiful vegetable garden in the backyard, and something tasty cooking in the kitchen. But the time came when the woman could no longer live there. As she got older, her vision worsened and it was no longer possible for her to live on her own. The woman was faced with potentially having to sell her beloved home.

The woman came up with an idea. One of her granddaughters was pregnant at the time, and was looking for a house with her boyfriend. The woman made plans to move in with one of her daughters, and instead of selling her own home, she offered it to her granddaughter. The house where the woman had raised her four children would become the house where her granddaughter would raise her own.

It’s been three years since my grandmother, my Nonna, let Dawson and I move into her home. And throughout her last days in the hospital, I tried to find the right words to make sure she knew how grateful I am. But how can you find the words to properly express the incredible appreciation that you feel? How can you tell someone how much this home means to you? Because it’s not just about the house itself, it’s about the fifty years worth of memories inside these walls. It’s about the fact that my Nonna passed her proudest achievement onto me. It’s about the wildly generous gesture that I surely didn’t deserve.

My Nonna worked hard to be able to afford this house and she spent fifty years turning it into her home. So I’ll spend the next fifty years, if I could be so lucky, trying to earn the right to live in it.


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