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a good skate

We drive along the Rideau canal in my brother’s racy red sports car.

“Do you ever see our step mother anymore?”

“No.”

For a variety of reasons this is understandable. I haven’t seen her in years, though I have nothing but good feelings towards her. It’s complicated. I wonder if that’s what the children will say about me someday. Then I wonder why I wonder that.

“I guess the Rideau isn’t ready for skating?”

“Not yet.”images

I peer through the snowy trees towards the water, still rolling a dark snaky torrent under the bridge. Both sides of the Rideau extend frozen arms towards each other, hoping for closure. I want it to close. I want a smooth clean white surface. It takes sneaky time or a really deep cold for that. Sort of like how a death can bring a family together. Unless the waters run too deep. I remember my Zio Mario telling me at my Dad’s funeral, “Lucia, you will always be a part of the family.” And another Uncle only saying, “Don’t ever ask to borrow money.”
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I think of the times I’ve skated on the canal with my cousins and siblings and the time I took Nora as a little one, skittering on her blades – watching her SPLAT like Bambi. I think of my brother at the age of five, stuffed into a one piece snow suit, his cute chubby cheeks turning apple red as he determinedly slid for a slap shot on the ice pond my Uncle Ed flooded for hockey scrum. I think of the time I fell through Waskasoo creek while cross country skiing with a hopeful boy who looked like Ichabod Crane. I was strapped in, bum down, skis akimbo, sinking, feeling the cold water seep through my layers and pool next to my shocked pink skin. Ichabod was all hapless elbows and knees and frantic inquiry. I managed to somehow unclip one foot and step down to realize the creek was only about four feet deep. The water pushed and rushed against my legs until I could crawl up and out of it all. I dripped my way to the church, the closest building, sopping the sanctuary, while the youth pastor poured me a hot cocoa and wondered how he would drive me home without soaking his car interior. I was in love with the youth pastor, not with Ichabod Crane. And somehow this made the entire adventure utterly worth it to have that warm hand and the hot cocoa extended to me, however briefly.Unknown-1

Whenever I see the Italian family I fret far too much about being accepted. Not by my brother or Nonna. They love me for keeps and I love them for keeps. I also never worry about the English side of the family. And I felt optimistic about meeting my fellow’s family. Good people meeting good people. It was the easy delight I expected.

But the Italians…what is it? I’m not around enough to establish anything firm with them and for some reason it is incredibly important for me to feel like I belong. Who wouldn’t want to belong to this powerful proud close knit family? I always fear I am slipping. When the phone doesn’t ring, when I don’t get any invites, I sink like a stone. I am forgotten. I am a leaf on the dead branch that was my Dad. I fall from the family tree.

I have my fellow along for this trip and mutter such things. I am well aware he’s seeing a weak little simpering side of me. He stops me, grabs me by the shoulders and says with gentle patience and determination, “Lucia, everyone in your family wants to be loved and accepted, not just you.”

Trust my fellow to be able to lead me out of my own selfish preoccupation. He’s right of course. And it changes everything. I see. I see. My nieces showing me all of their toys in the basement. “Look, Zia Cia, look!” Look at me. Know me. I see my Zio Mario in the office on a Saturday afternoon, unable to delegate everything. I see my Zia Cecilia’s tired eyes as she tenderly puts one grand child down for a nap and hands some canning jar lids to the baby, wide awake, to clang together like cymbals. I see my Zio Gaetano and Zia Maddalena whip up a four course meal with very little notice, madly rearranging their schedule to make us feel outrageously spoiled and welcomed for lunch. I see my Nonna pull out a stuffed toy, remembering (39 grandchildren) that Nora likes ducks. I see my cousin has let me fly home for Christmas on his points, too modest to let me thank him. IMG_1988

I see the strain of a recent death. I see a parent deprived of sleep. I see a shift, or is it a rift? I can’t tell because it is handled graciously. I see someone pretending not to be sick. I see a marriage that might be on the upswing. I see preoccupation with financial worries. I see shame over an expanding waistline. I see great deep sorrow. I see complacency. I see fear of surgery. I see resentment. I see tenderness. I see loyalty. I see my brother and his wife swap a secret joke that makes Ana’s lovely brown eyes turn saucy sparkly and deep. I see I have taken root. I am my own loving tree and I welcome these beautiful complicated people to call me family.

I am so proud of my brother. He has turned into the man both our parents hoped he would be. How did he do that? He kisses his wife on the sly and lifts a sleepy child into his arms.

Before we head to the airport, we stop in to see my little Nonna for one last goodbye. She says “I love all my grandchildren but you and (she names a couple of cousins) you – take the time to be a friend to me.” Then she turns to my tall very Caucasian fellow. He kisses her on both cheeks. She chides with a smile, “You be a good boy to my Lucia” and he grins, “I have every intention to be.” IMG_2005

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3 comments

  1. AJ

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for letting us in for this epiphany and for sharing the wisdom and revelation of seeing with the eyes of love instead of insecurity. I have a feeling I will be returning to this post in my mind in the future to hear this lesson again. So valuable.

    1. Lucia Frangione

      xo lovely AJ!

  2. Renita

    Lucia. This is lovely. What a great story of connectedness. How true it is that to feel like we are accepted, we have to be accepting. And your Nonna. She’s right, you know. You DO take the time to be a friend. Thanks for that.

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