Little Big Passions
Passion doesn’t have to be big and loud and public. It can be quiet and reserved and refined. But if your family is Italian, as mine is, you pretty much wear passion on your sleeve.
When you’re Italian, everyday brings something to be passionate about. Dirty dishes in the sink – passion! Laundry on the bedroom floor – passion!! Finding the right shoes to go with your dress – passion!!!
I’m 100% Italian. Passion was a daily part of our lives. My maternal grandmother and her four sisters were passionate about everything from cooking to canning to card games. There wasn’t a laid-back bone in any of their bodies.
Most summers, my sister, brother and I spent a week with Grandma. When my sister Shelly and I were about 11 and 13, respectively, Grandma surprised us one day by asking, passionately, “Has your mother gotten you girls brassieres yet?” Shelly and I stared at each other. This subject hadn’t been broached in our household.
Grandma lived in a small town. Her family had been relatively prominent in the local business community. She knew lots of people in lots of places. On the way to the department store, she lamented our mother’s lack of attention to this aspect of growing up. Once there, Grandma passionately announced to the sales ladies, all of whom she knew, the reason for our visit. One of the equally passionate sales ladies measured Shelly and me for our first bras. We were sent into the dressing room to try them on. The dressing room was just a curtained off area of the sales floor. Shelly and I fumbled and adjusted and wriggled and finally got the things on. We stood there staring at each other, again. We certainly weren’t going to parade through the store like this!
At that moment, Grandma threw open the curtain and announced in her big, passionate voice, “OK girls, let’s see how they fit!” Behind her stood four or five of her sales lady friends, all eager to give their passionate opinions.
My sister and I were mortified! We didn’t know these women and here they were poking and prodding us like sacks of potatoes! I recall that other customers turned to stare at the commotion over by the dressing room. My sister and I were young and easily embarrassed.
I’m in my late 40’s now, and when I think back to this scene, it makes me smile. I would certainly never do that to my own daughter, but I can understand the passion Grandma invested in buying us our first bras. She sensed this shared experience was a ritual we would otherwise be denied, that our passing over the apex from girlhood to womanhood required acknowledgement of some kind. She knew instinctively that we would need guidance and wisdom and a helping hand. We may have been embarrassed by the way she expressed it, but we knew that above all else, Grandma was passionate about loving and protecting us. This I believe, passionately.
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