Special occasions, such as Christmas time, can bring a family together. It’s a time for reconnecting, and hopefully, laughter and joy.
Of course, not every family is like this … and the premise of getting together is not for them. Each to their own, as my mum has often said.
Recently, we celebrated our first granddaughter’s thanksgiving and blessing; it brought our family together, from our side, and that of our son-in-law. As seen in this photo, little Florence is becoming very adept at posing, on cue, even under our Christmas tree!
How lucky we are to live in these times where, for the most part, we have access to items that all combine to bring enjoyment and festivity to a family. Sadly, for those in Ukraine, even the necessities are being withheld from many; Christmas and the cold weather will be a time of angst and endurance.
The thought of this makes me wonder, once again, about my mum’s experiences, growing up during WW2, in Northern Italy. Neither of my parents spoke to either me or my siblings, about those difficult times. Writing my Italian family’s story was a revelation of both challenging and rewarding times—after all, life is a mixture of the two and helps us to appreciate what we have.
The extract below (from Goodbye to Italia) is from my mum’s childhood. She certainly had it tough, but she has never complained about it afterward. Instead, she has always celebrated living life; she is a true role model.
Over the next week, Mamma comes home after work, sharing the news that everyone expects further aeroplane raids and bombings. ‘Will the bombings stop for Natale, Mamma?’ At school, there has been talk about our Christmas, and how everyone will be given a part for the school play, even though it is still some months away.
‘I don’t know, tesoro.’
‘Why do they want to drop bombs that will hurt us, Mamma?’
‘I Soldati Inglese are just following their orders. They don’t have little girls like you asking questions all the time.’ Mamma gives me a gentle nudge and smiles as she helps me put on a coat over my pyjamas. I push my feet into my scuffed brown walking shoes and follow her into the kitchen.
I don’t want to go out. It has started to rain, and we didn’t have much to eat again. But Nonna says, ‘This is what happens when you live in a war-torn country.’ Whenever we cannot find something to eat or when I don’t want to do something, Nonna is quick to remind me of her favourite saying.
Mamma holds my hand tightly as we go down the stairs onto the road to make our way to something that is called a bunker. ‘It is a place for us to be safe … from the bombs,’ Nonna explains to me when I ask why we have to go out. I imagine that we are playing hide and seek when we go to the bunker. We are hiding from the bombs that make everything shake and make Nonna pucker up her lips. Many people are hurrying about in the street, but they are shadowy, dark figures as none of the street lights are switched on. Like us, they walk quickly and quietly. If someone were to stop us, they would see a waif-like child flanked on either side by her protectors—Mamma and Nonna.