An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, September 9, 2007

My Nonna and Michelangelo

Today I just happened to hear on the radio that it was Grandparent's Day. Who knew? But it did get me started thinking about my Nonna, my Italian grandmother. The memories I have of her fill my heart, but one in particular stands out with me this day.

The first time I went to Rome it was with my Mom, my sister, and my Nonna. I was twelve, on the brink of puberty, and I was grumpy . . . a lot. In the Sistine Chapel I remember sitting next to my Nonna who had tears in her eyes as she tried to explain Michelangelo's majestic ceiling to me, but all I could think about was that it was too crowded, too hot, and too boring. Really, I just didn't get it.

Twenty-eight years later my husband, for my 40th birthday, sent me to Rome with my best friend for four nights and five days. While I had been back to Italy many, many times, this was the first time I would be returning to Rome since that first trip. And since my Nonna had passed away two years earlier, this time, in her honor, I was going to do it right.

I prepared a lot. I read history books, studied tour books, taped shows featuring Rome, and surfed the internet for tips. As I read Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King, I felt something in me stirring, some understanding that was hovering just beyond my reach.

When we entered the Vatican Museums my best friend and I bypassed room after room as we followed signs to The Sistine Chapel, and so we were one of the first to enter. It was incredibly quiet. I found a seat on the bench running alongside one wall and finally looked up. It was too much. The notes and binoculars lay forgotten in my lap as I let the colors, the power, and the immense beauty wash over me. I didn't think, I just felt.

And I felt tears in my eyes. And I knew that in heaven my Nonna was nodding and smiling . . . because I finally got it.


:o) mg said...

Wow. What an amazing thing to be able to do twice, not to mention the "lesson" you acquired along the way.
Twelve was a hard year for me too. And hot. (hormones?) One memory involved my dad (who is also deceased) and golf. I don't think I want to go to the driving range and try again though. Not yet.

Ua said...

This is Bia's sister here. I remember the original trip to Rome, fraught with teenage grumpiness. When we're young we cannot appreciate the beauty of history and art. Now that we're "older" we understand our Nonna's (and our Mother's) enthusiasm.