My Nona’s Story

family, grandmas are both italian, happiness, inspiration, italy, Uncategorized

Last night out at dinner, my Nona opened up to me after me not knowing anything my whole life. She started talking, and I to know it all.

What I learned is something I live by everyday:

“when you know what you want to know, it’s just in you. You have to do it. ” Anita felt that with her art, and also her cooking. I was inspired by her past:

Anita grew up in Trieste for the first 18 years of her life. Through the bombings of her home, losing everything, and then following her father and family to America (because that’s what you did, she says).

Her beau and later husband joined her in America shortly after with his family, and the were married when she was 20. Anita was a secretary in an office in Italy, but couldn’t do that in America because of the language difference. Her father told her she could make a lot of money in America, which she didn’t want necessarily, but got a job working in a factory sewing. Her mother-in-law moved in with her family, and tought Anita how to sew. She was a very good sewer, and knew Anita since she was 8. She loved her a lot.

When she lost her mother in law, and her husband (who was 56) she still had one of five children still to put through college. She had to go back to work. Her daughter and husband had connections in restaurant services and catering, so that’s what Anita did. She said it was the one thing she really loved and enjoyed doing. She was 50 after all. She became a caterer and became very successful at it. And she was very fast. “I was always very quick and good in the kitchen” she says. I had no idea she ran a kitchen like that, and cooked day and night. She was able to get her last child through college, and then could retire at 60.

These days we are lucky if we can afford loans for college. I will never stop thanking my parents for college. I can understand how hard it must’ve been only now in hindsight. The world was my oyster, my parents said. I could pick any college I wanted to go to, and once accepted we’d figure it out from there.

My Nona reminded me of how important a skill such as listening can be so powerful. It is a gift, it keeps you connected, it fills you with hopes and dreams for someone else for a change.

You know, yesterday Pinwheel Books went to the Brookline Rotary Club to speak, and hearing the charitable work all those people do every since day really affected me. Its made me want to give so much more back than ever before in my life. I guess that’s part of growing up? Being more community oriented than self centered? Regardless, I know talking to my Nona made us other feel very special. She has always never quite clicked with my fathers sisters, and neither me or my sister ever got along with them so great. So in being outsiders, we formed an alliance. Hey, what family doesn’t have teams?!

Anita said she wanted to write all of this down, it’s never left her, she could write a book! Well, I hope this post is our start to doing so.

A Sketch of my Nona

character sketches, children's illustration, grandmas are both italian, happiness, inspiration, italy, kidslit, sketches

I recently came across a really old sketch I had done in preparation for working on some images for my story “My Grandmas are Both Italian”.

This is an image of my Nona – Anita – mixing a bowl of food in the kitchen. She is always cooking us something great, while wearing her famous blue apron. Even though she doesn’t move about the kitchen as fast as she used to, she still has a grin on her face when she’s putting together a meal. There is so much love in her food, and so much love and light in her. She is the epitome of happiness, and I hope one day I can find that sort of contentment in my life.

Her tiramisu and gnocchi are her signature dishes.

This sketch is really light, so I had to play with it in Photoshop a little:


My Grandmas are Both Italian

children's illustration, grandmas are both italian

I recently submitted my portfolio and several children’s book story proposals to a competition through the Boston Public Library, which is why I have been M.I.A for a month!

My story proposal images are for My Grandmas are Both Italian, a story of my Northern and Southern Italian Grandmothers.

It began with a sketch of Nonna Anita:

And then created these three sequential images:

Papa Joe, Nonna Anita, Nanny, me, and my pup Lady G!

All the images are collage with watercolor and handmade papers, approximately 12X18 in size.

Here’s to having my finger’s crossed! Let me know what you think.