Losing Grand: Lessons From My Baba, Part Two
Every person has a story and everyone makes their way through their life gaining titles of various sorts. Here is the continued story of a devoted Grandmother whom stretched beyond that title into “Baba”. (Please read Part One here if you haven’t already.)
Baba taught many-a-lesson to me. Some important lessons on love (and my personal fave): “You can fall in love with a rich man just as easily as a poor man.” She meant that literally. I like to think of it not in a material richness but rich in love, laughter, life *wink wink*. Baba didn’t mix words. She said it like it is. Another valuable pointer she told me on my wedding day: “Don’t ever ask your husband what he wants for dinner.” I didn’t understand at the time, but I sure do now. I have a little work to do on that one.
Among these lessons, I learned I had a voice to sing with thanks to Baba. “Sing-a-Song Of Sixpence” was a favorite we used to sing together while swinging on the set in the field or on the glider at our summer cottage. She had a lovely voice. Sweet & tender, not exactly like her personality in her later years. She would always praise my music, as long as it was without mistakes, and ask how it was going. She would then proceed to tell a story about her boys’ (she had 3 sons) piano lessons and recitals or something about Mrs. Swift, their teacher. I always thought that was the perfect name for a piano teacher, and so did she I think. Music is a gift. Everyone has a voice. La voce.
Every conversation with Baba resulted in one of her stories. She’d ask, “Have I told you this one before?” Whether you’d answer “yes” or not, rest assured you would be hearing the story again. Another something I’ll always cherish. Not many people get to hear stories from the 1920’s and beyond as they were. Lesson: Value your elders. Valore vostri anziani.
Back to the music. I was a music lover from the time I can remember and she was one major influence on my musical life. Remember the pride I told you about in Losing Grand: Lessons From My Baba, Part One? That sense of pride carried on through me, especially through my music. I mostly played to bring joy to others in my early years. I played to bring joy to her. I wanted her to be proud. I loved seeing her proud.
So when she would ask, every single time I touched the piano keys, “Can you play something you know?”, I would practice a little harder. She was right. I was a bullshit artist of the best kind. I could swindle my way through a lesson, recital, jury…you name it…like the best of ’em. I never had her fooled. She never took a lesson in her life, yet she knew when I played a wrong note. Sometimes I’d see that little finger go up & shake. Other times she would keep rocking in her chair & glare over at me with that malochia (is that the right spelling, Mom?!) look she gave, along with the hand gesture of a malochia, the same look she’d give tennis players at Wimbledon whom she wanted to lose. She watched Wimbledon with my uncle every summer, as if she knew every play, because he enjoyed tennis. She loved to share in moments with loved ones. And it made us all feel so special. A most valuable lesson: Let them know they’re special. Fate loro sapere che sono speciali.
That sort-of negative reinforcement technique she used turned into quite a great thing for me. I am a piano teacher. Piano was my first love, many thanks to her never giving up on me. I learned how valuable music is to people. In her last days, even amidst the dementia and stroke side-effects, she loved to hear it. Some of my favorite memories of her include music. There was the Italian radio station she would tune into at the lake. Imagine a gorgeous summer day, waves splashing, birds chirping, the smell of pasta sauce cooking, all to the soundtrack of Volare, Nessun Dorma and O Mio Babbino Caro. Arias and canzoni echoing through the cottage via am radio. Life didn’t get more beautiful than that. La vita e bella.
But perhaps the most poignant lesson of all: Family is everything. La famiglia e tutto.
None of us would be here without our Baba. There isn’t much more to it.
I love you, Baba. You will, without any doubt, live through all of the amazing family you created and allowed to flourish with that rare, unconditional love. We will continue to raise a glass to you – A la famiglia!
You can look forward to seeing a third, fourth…maybe one-hundredth post about Lessons From My Baba. I have a lot of them. Thank you for sharing in them with me.