What My Italian Family Taught Me About Community, Tradition

How one Italian writer strived to keep traditions alive following her grandmother's passing.

The following article, written by Gabriella Patti, appears on VerilyMag.com


When my grandmother died, I was forced to rethink how I could keep our traditions alive.

In December my grandmother died after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I’m a fourth-generation Italian, and my grandmother was the epicenter of our world. At her funeral, I pondered how our family would fare without its matriarch; I began to fear that without her, we might lose the togetherness that is so central to an Italian family’s lifeblood. I was overcome by an urgency to hold onto the lessons she and my grandfather, who is now slowly fading from dementia and Parkinson’s, had passed on. I didn’t want us to forget the stories of where we started, the stories that held us all together.

Being Italian makes you nostalgic for things you never knew. I grew up hearing stories about how my great-grandmother lived in the kitchen day and night cooking for her people; about her five sisters—one of whom raised them all, and one of whom tried to nose dive into an open grave to express her grief for when a family member died (we aren’t known for our subtlety). I heard stories about my great-grandfather’s opera records, and my grandfather’s constant need to be rescued from shenanigans by his cousins. My family’s stories have always filled me with a warmth and familiarity that is tangible.

There’s something about the sense of famiglia I inherited that I think our world could use more of today. We take care of each other; we encourage each other; we nourish each other, and not just literally. But doing this takes effort, as I realized when my grandmother passed. Our family traditions won’t just happen if we don’t pass them on; the stories won’t last if we don’t tell them. Continue reading at VerilyMag.com.

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