It's not a secret I've had a bit of a doozy of a year, but I try and remember how lucky I am to have the people in my life that I do, and the opportunities and blessings that I've had. Even the bad times helped me become the person I am today.
One of the most influential people in my life was my grandmother, my mom's mom, Angelina Corrado Frijia - also known as Angie, Ang, Gram, Grammy, and so many other names. She passed away last night surrounded by all of us peacefully in her sleep, a few weeks after her 81st birthday.
When people say that someone was wonderful, we smile, and imagine - but my gram was, literally and without exaggeration, the brightest light shining. She was the most social, funny, charming woman- always laughing, dancing, singing, making friends, starting a party, and always remaining at the center of it. She was a woman you just wanted to be around, because fun was never far away.
Not to say that she was flighty or flaky at all. She raised her 4 children and my sister and I strictly, but with more love then I can express. Gram made me meatballs, told me stories, showed me her centuries old picture collection, telling the story of my family. Gram helped me realize that where my family is from is as important as where we are today. I am the woman I am today because of her, and taught me that I can do anything.
Most of all, she always encouraged me to keep writing.
|My Great-Grandmother, my Gram's mom, Maria, in Curinga, Calabria, 1918|
|Gram in the center with her brother and sister|
|My Gram's Uncle's postcard to her family from the Vatican, late 1930's|
|Gram and Grandpa|
|In the footsteps of our family, outside the Vatican, 2006|
It's fitting her name means "little angel", because I have the best one. I was never scared to follow my heart and I knew she would be there for me wherever I was in the world - she's the one who told me, when I wanted to move to Italy, with a smile, a laugh, and all the encouragement in the world to follow my heart and go. She will always be part of who I am, and I know she's with me still. My tiny dynamo of a Gram, from Calabria via the Bronx, then Staten Island and New Jersey will be missed more then I can express.