Armed with Runza sandwiches and Dr. Pepper, Vinny sat down with his 97 year old great grandpa Nesci for an interview assigned in history class. What was life like during the Great Depression? What did you do during World War II? How has technology changed? The wise old man had much insight to share.
At one point, Vinny asked, “What was your greatest accomplishment?”
“How do I answer that?” Grandpa pondered. “Well, staying alive, I guess. I have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel,”he reminded us.
He continued to answer questions, talking about his jobs and education, about parents that wanted to appear as American as possible (which meant not speaking Italian). He talked about pole phones and model Ts, growing up luckier than most during the Great Depression, and his job as a sailor in WWII.
After the questions had all been asked, after we gave our hugs and said goodbye, Vinny spent the drive home considering the yesteryears of first generation Americans.
“You know what’s interesting, Mom?” He finally asked.”Grandpa and I are a lot alike. We both love cars, we both want(ed) to be firefighters, and we both love Italian food. Not to mention, we’re both kind of a ladies’ man.”
Yes, Vinny. Much alike, you are. In case I forgot to tell you, that was the day you discovered your connection.
As we left Saturday’s all-call recital practice, the clouds and rain saddened me a bit. As excited as I was to have a little girl- my little girl- prepping to perform her jazz routine on stage, I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my grandmother. It’s been almost a year since she passed away and this- the shows, the music, the singing and dancing and glamorous makeup and femininity at its best- it all reminded me of her. She wasn’t a dancer, but I loved those elementary years she’d come and watch me dance at the Orpheum Theater. I think I was in high school when we went to our last musical together, Oklahoma!, at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
Franki’s class is dancing to “We Go Together” from Grease. With each hand jive, I’m longing for one of Grandma’s stories about those days of yore. I sighed heavy as we splashed through the puddles to our car, thinking about Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds and sleepovers at grandma’s house. I wished Grandma could see her great grand daughter dance. I wished she could share in this joy with me.
Then… everything calmed. The rain paused. The birds silenced. Still deep in thought, I looked down at my daughter as she looked up at me, stage makeup grin, umbrella propped against her shoulder, spinning, spinning…begging to dance and sing in the rain…
… and I knew Grandma was there, right then, in that moment. In case I forgot to tell you, Franki, she was with us that day.