Florida Impressions, Round 2: Family Matters

The Basi family, twenty-six strong, gathered on New Year’s Eve to celebrate a birthday at my parents-in-law’s house.

Twenty-six plus two, actually; the thirteenth grandchild is on the way, and that night we also had Nonny with us. Nonny is Christian’s paternal grandmother. She is 95 and recognizes no one, remembers nothing. Well, she recognizes her son…sort of…but I’m not sure she knows that he is her son. She’s continually astonished that she has grandchildren, much less great-grandchildren. I think I introduced myself to her three times that night.

I’ve only met Nonny a few times anyway, because she doesn’t leave the state of Florida. In pictures, she is an angular, stereotypical Italian woman. The nose, the eyes, the thin face. She looks like a woman you don’t want to cross. The kind of woman that daughters-in-law are terrified of. In fact, Christian tells a story about how she took a broomstick to the ceiling to wake up his brother upstairs.

But every time I have met her, she seems soft and sweet. And even now, when almost every moment of her long years has been wiped from her memory, she is universally charming—a woman I want to hug, to sit down with and plumb the depths of her experience.

Alex did as he was bid and shook her hand; Nicholas eventually made friends and consented to a little low-grade flirting. But Julianna… “Oh, that’s a beautiful name,” Nonny said. And was rewarded with this:

When we left to take the kids back to the condo to go to bed, Nonny asked plaintively, “But when will I see you again?” And I thought, you know what? We probably won’t see her again. And it made me sad.

The other memory of the night was the second-oldest cousin, an 8-year-old who adores the little ones, taking Julianna in hand and sitting down with her at the little table in the corner of the kitchen to play “itsy bitsy spider” with her. I was doing dishes when I realized that the crowd had grown. I poked my head around the corner and saw her 8- and 5-year old (male) cousins sitting there too. Five more minutes, and there were 6 cousins in Julianna’s royal court, doing pat-a-cake and spider and trying to make her do her “yay for the ____”  yell.

(this picture was taken a couple of days later, but her cousins are doing the same thing here. I didn’t get a still shot on NY Eve b/c I was too busy getting video!)

As you might imagine, Julianna took exception to being dragged away to go to bed. But as Christian unlocked the door to the condo, I planted myself across the path of escape. “You may be Queen of your cousins,” I said, “but I am the empress, and I say it’s time to go to bed!”

EEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! she shrieked, which made me devoutly glad that it was 10p.m. on New Year’s Eve, so everybody was staying up anyway!

(This post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chattingatthesky.com