The Wit and Wisdom of Grandma Rossi
Nobody could turn a phrase like Grandma Rossi!
To me she was one of a kind.
I was pretty lucky in that I always wanted to know about my roots, and she was the link to “e gent’ antiche!“…or those who came before us!
When you come from a place like Naples, Italy, it gives you a certain philosophical bent…like there’s nothing you don’t know about life.
She knew plenty, but especially about human nature.
For instance, she knew that no one would give you advice at their own expense.
“Nessun te dice lava’ a faccia che te pare più bell’ emme!”
(I’m writing them out phonetically, since I’m remembering them as they were pronounced.)
Or in other words, no one will tell you to wash your face so that you’ll look better than them!
Or there was this gem: “Guarda o tu eh nu fa mariollo a nesshun!”
“Watch what’s yours and don’t let anyone become a thief at your expense!”
There would always be a “tug” when she’d tell you this…so as to emphasize the point.
“Stieb’ e soldi per cuand’ te sierv”.
Save your money for when you’ll need it!
Along with that was the story of the squirrel that would hide away his nuts for the summer, only to be chided by the bird in the tree. The bird would say, “it’s such a beautiful day….why aren’t you out enjoying it”; as he’d continue to sing and chirp away. The squirrel would respond, “because one day, it’s gonna get cold out, and I’ll need them.
Sure enough winter came. The squirrel would go into it’s hole in the tree to enjoy its nuts, but before doing so, would look up at the bird, shivering in the cold; and said with a knowing laugh, “…hey, where’s all your chirping now….see!”
Morale of the story, save your nuts now….you’ll need them soon enough!
If she were aggravated by something, or if she heard something unfathomable, she might say...”faccia ah croce che manna storta!” Or, “I make the sign of the cross with the wrong hand”
(It just sounded funny!)
Then there was the inimitable dig at her youngest brother, my uncle, ‘o zi!” about whom she’d say “E piccolo ma cacca gross!” (He’s small but he shits big!)
I could go on and on, and there are times when they’ll come to me without my even thinking about them….that’s how much a part of my DNA they are.
But if there’s one that stands out on this Mother’s Day, it’s this one.
One day she was reading in “Il Progresso”, the Italian paper, and in what passed for the Italian “Dear Abbey” column, was a story of a woman who couldn’t rely on her children anymore.
The column ended with the expression: “na mamma puo crescere dieci criature, ma diece criature non puo stare attendere a na mamma.”
“A mother can raise 10 kids, but 10 kids could never take care of one mother!”
And then she’d cry! And read that to everyone that came into the bakery!
How right she was!
Here’s to all the mothers who could raise as many kids as you have.
Happy Mother’s Day!