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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Grandmother's Love

I have the best grandma in the world. Now don’t go tellin’ me that you’re grandma’s the best in the world because it just isn’t true. She might be pretty awesome, but the best she can hope for is a distant second as long as grandma Franciotti’s still kicking…and cleaning.

 

My grandmother is a small, soft-spoken Italian woman of 87. She barely scratches 5-feet but commands respect as though she were Andre the Giant. Grandma Franciotti is the quintessential matriarch. She runs the show without demanding top billing; she gets R-E-S-P-E-C-T without conjuring Aretha. 

 

My g-ma doesn’t have a degree from a prestigious university or any professional work experience. If you’re a resume fanatic, you’re liable to overlook her. But if you’re perceptive, you’ll sense in her a wisdom of the unconventional variety, the kind ill-suited for Microsoft Word inspired brag sheets.

 

Angelina Franciotti received her education from the original school of hard knocks: Real Life University. Her family emigrated from Calabria, Italy to the United States when she was a young girl of five or six. Like most immigrant families, the Franciotti’s were poor and marginalized. Their new homeland proved unsympathetic to their plight. Because her father’s job paid poorly, little Angelina was forced to quit her studies in the 4th grade and seek employment to help support her family. She never returned to school. While her peers were learning algebra and romance languages, Angelina was sewing garments for nickels and dimes.

 

My grandma is a woman who has lived her entire life in service of others. She is the most selfless person I know. She wears ragged nighties and moth-holed slippers not because she cannot afford new outfits, but because she would rather spend what few dollars she does have on her family. A talking rooster from the toy store, especially if it’s for her grandchildren, who she knows will become disinterested in a matter of minutes, is a better buy in her eyes than new slippers, especially when she “already has a perfectly good pair.”

 

But don’t think her generosity reaches only as far as her family. If you--yes YOU--came over, she would literally empty her pantry to ensure that you went home with enough food to last you the week. You know how at those Oscar parties celebrity guests receive gift baskets stuffed with cutting-edge electronics and expensive cosmetics? Well, when you depart from 334 Nicholas Road in West Collingswood Heights, you leave with an Acme grocery bag stuffed with all sorts of goodies: tomato paste, canned beans, Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, bottled water, Andes Mints, a pound of lasagna, disposable coffee filters. You might think my grandma stores these items in such absurd quantities in anticipation of the apocalypse, but you’d be overlooking her nature if you did so. 

 

My best memories with my grandma all center on food. Cooking is of particular significance to my grandmother. For her, the ability to feed others is the single greatest pleasure in life.

 

When I was five, my diet consisted of mainly two things: Yoo-Hoo and Pillsbury Toaster Strudels. My grandma kept each delicacy in comic abundance so as to be sure that her first grandchild would never be without. Her vast stores of toaster strudels were particularly essential not only because of how fast I ate them, but also because of the way in which I ate them. For those of you who have lived lives deprived of toaster strudels, allow me to give you a little background. Each box contains six strudels and precisely six packets of icing. Why they don’t include extra icing packets is a question that to this day tortures my very existence. Pillsbury should anticipate strudel junkies like myself indulging in a few packets per strudel, but for whatever reason, they don’t. So as I would eat my strudels with extra icing, my grandma watched me with great enjoyment, as she munched on plain, uniced strudels. In later years, I apologized to my grandma for my selfishness but she always maintained that she liked them better plain. I don’t know if I believe her, but I love her for saying that.

 

To say I was misbehaved as a teenager is a gross understatement. During my high school years, I returned home on weekdays at all hours of the night. My grandma, the light sleeper that she is, would creep downstairs once she heard the door close behind me. She never asked me where I was and never scolded me for my insubordination. Now some would say this is irresponsible grandparenting, but if you knew me at that age, you would know that I responded to any authoritarian moralizing with greater defiance. And so she would simply give me a hug and kiss, and ask me if she could “fix [me] a sandwich.” I never passed on the offer. Just as when I was 5, my grandma would sit across from me and smile as I ate. I remember thinking it was odd that she did that, but now I think she was just happy to know I was safe, and fed.

 

Now that I’m three thousand miles away in Los Angeles, I don’t get to see my grandma as often as I used to. I find myself missing her a lot, especially during meals. Unlike normal people, I seldom look down at my food when I eat (don’t take advantage of this), even when I’m alone. I think part of me still expects to see that beautifully wrinkled face looking back, smiling.

 

There are few people in this world that love you without qualification. Cherish these individuals because their love for you is stronger than you can imagine. It is a love not contingent on how your hair looks or whether or not you can tell a great joke. It is a love without precondition. It is a love that stands on its own.

 

I miss my grandma. I think I’ll give her a call. And when I do…


“Iaaaaannnnnnnnnnn!!!”

“Hi grandma.”

 

 

Ian M. Johnson

1 Comments:

Anonymous Courtney Myers said...

I need to meet this wonderful woman and cook some lasagna with her!

Grandmas are the best. I think because we are the children of their children it instantly makes us extra loved. :)

I think I'm going to call my g-ma now!

Thanks for reminding us to cherish that unconditional love we don't have to ask for.

March 21, 2010 at 7:39 PM  

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