Names and details may have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved but if I piss anyone off I’ll buy you dinner and let you yell at me…
This is the first post I’ve written in 681 days. The fact that the last post I wrote was about doing something new and overcoming fears is not lost on me as I set about filling in the gaps and exploring the wounds that are littered across the missing year and a half of my life. To say I’ve done some reflection and come out the other side with wisdom and knowledge to give would be a gross overstatement. To say I’ve stumbled blindly through the darkness and ended up somewhere that resembles partial clarity is more accurate. Moving forward I will ramble, and I will jump from story to conclusion and if we’re lucky we’ll all come through it with some nuggets of truth to carry with us as we go. As it is I’m not sure what my point is other than to do some self reflection and healing and maybe find out at what point I took the sharp left turn that led me to where I am today. It’s real, it’s raw, I’m not toning myself down because that’s part of the problem not the solution. So if at any point you’re uncomfortable, if you’re offended, I have no apologies to give, I have only the truth as I see it from the lifeboat I’m sharing with a very scary tiger that I’ve named Terence who looks a lot like a mid-mid-life crisis. I have only one more piece of advice before we start on this journey: watch every movie i reference, try to avoid my mistakes, and contact me if you want to talk about anything because I can barely comprehend my own internal ramblings, god bless you if you can get through the written ones.
My Nona Sofia was a strong Italian woman. She single handedly raised two sons, ran her own business, and created an impossible legend that I have been chasing my entire life.
Like most immigrants my great grandmother fought for her place in this world, especially as a woman. In her twenties she was employed as a teller at Little Bank of Italy, which was to be known by future generations as First Bank of America. Sofia was not only the first female employee at the bank, she was also the first, and only female bank manager. It is here that she would meet my great grandfather, a German man who was working as a teller.
They met and were married shortly after their courtship began and Sofia, expected to be at home to play wife and mother, resigned her position at the bank and the job transferred to her husband (what a way to climb the corporate ladder). The couple had two sons, one of whom would grow up to be my grandfather Wallace.
No one in my family seems to know much about Sofia’s husband other than the fact that he was German. There’s so little information about this time in her life in fact, that when he killed himself shortly after my grandfather’s twelfth birthday, everyone seems to have gotten together and collectively decided to erase him from the narrative. All I know is a week after she buried her husband in the ground, Sofia walked back into the bank, went directly to her husband’s office and started returning phone calls. She was the only female branch manager the bank ever had under their original name and she got the job…twice.
As she got older Sofia wanted to branch out on her own and so, on top of being the landlord of an apartment building she started a corner shop where every day workers would stop by and get their lunch, sandwiches, and ravioli. Especially ravioli.
If there is one thing Sofia is famous for in our family it’s her ravioli. We have spent decades trying to get it just right and everyone is stumped. My mother always tells the story of her first thanksgiving with my father where, much to her horror, they carved the turkey to reveal it was green inside. Family tradition dictated that after cleaning out the turkey you made filling out of the gizzards, put half of it into a batch of ravioli and stuck the other half right back in the turkey and my mother who had grown up as white bread as they come was not prepared for this Italian surprise.
My father and Sofia had a special relationship. She she loved her family fiercely, but she wasn’t affection or kind like most grandmothers, she was all business. One day my father went over to her apartment to drop something off and there she was, tiny old Italian woman, on her hands and knees rolling pasta dough out on the floor because it was the only surface big enough in the whole space. My father takes this in and says “Nona, don’t you think that’s a little, I don’t know, unsanitary?” She stops, mid roll, turns to my father, looks him dead in the eye and says, “Are you saying my floors are not clean?”
That is the kind of woman Sofia was. Hard working, ambitious, and straight to the point. When she died and my father found thousands of dollars taped to the underside of her mattress that she had acquired by secretly investing in the stock market over the years, he just sat down and laughed until he cried because even in death she had a way of shocking the hell out of everybody.
This is the beginning of my story. She is a part of who I have become and am becoming. I have spent my life trying to reach a level of confidence where I could just walk right into a job and take it, or the perfect blend of sass and seriousness to make someone willingly eat pasta off my floor, and I sure as hell know no one would be shocked anymore by anything they found after I was dead. But Somewhere between raising her sons, working in a male dominated field, running her businesses, and still managing a level of domesticity that rivals any fifties housewife, she set a standard and created a legend that I have lived by even when I didn’t know it. But the truth is, it’s all just stories. I’ve heard them over and over and in my mind at some point I decided that if i wasn’t working two jobs, maintaining a home, and raising children, I had nothing to complain about. But that doesn’t leave much room for failure, and it certainly doesn’t leave any room to process that failure. Because yes, it could always be worse, but it could also be better. And sometimes we owe it to ourselves to not be comfortable with bad because someone else had it worse. We owe it to ourselves to seek out the better.
Sofia will always be a part of me, but she will only be the part of me that says keep going, you can do anything as a woman, and without a man, and not the part of me that starts stories with phrases like “back in my day…” because I will never build a legacy trying to match someone else struggle.