My Son Brian and Nonna
My Son Brian
How do you learn to be a father?
How do you understand why little children run, jump,
cry, shout, leave toys in the sink, throw clothes
down the stairs, spill milk on the floor?
Brian—warm, loving, disciplined, trying to be
a father to two small children who are not his own.
Patience, his wife says.
Two-year olds need to be wild, I tell him.
My maternal grandmother (“Nonna” in Italian) lived with us for most of my childhood. She had been in this country for about 35 years, but while she understood English, she always spoke to us in Italian. The only phrase that she spoke in English was “Shut the gate.”
Let me explain: our backyard was fenced in from the wild “woods” behind our house. For some reason, my father liked the gate closed. As kids, we ran in and out of these woods often, always forgetting to close the gate behind us. And Nonna would always be there yelling “Shut the gate!”
Nonna was the only babysitter we ever had. She would tell us stories of life in Italy—all in Italian. Thanks to her, I learned a second language at a very early age.