I DREAM OF MY GRANDMOTHER AND GREAT-GRANDMOTHER
by Maria Mazziotti Gillan
I imagine them walking down rocky paths
toward me, strong, Italian women returning
at dusk from fields where they worked all day
on farms built like steps up the sides
of steep mountains, graceful women carrying water
in terra cotta jugs on their heads.
What I know of these women, whom I never met,
I know from my mother, a few pictures
of my grandmother, standing at the doorway
of the fieldstone house in Santo Mauro,
the stories my mother told of them,
but I know them most of all from watching
my mother, her strong arms lifting sheets
out of the cold water in the wringer washer,
or from the way she stepped back,
wiping her hands on her homemade floursack apron,
and admired her jars of canned peaches
that glowed like amber in the dim cellar light.
I see those women in my mother
as she worked, grinning and happy,
in her garden that spilled its bounty into her arms.
She gave away baskets of peppers,
lettuce, eggplant, gave away bowls of pasts,
meatballs, zeppoli, loaves of homemade bread.
"It was a miracle," she said.
"The more I gave away, the more I had to give."
Now I see her in my daughter,
the same unending energy,
that quick mind,
that hand, open and extended to the world.
When I watch my daughter clean the kitchen counter,
watch her turn, laughing,
I remember my mother as she lay dying,
how she said of my daughter, "that Jennifer,
she's all the treasure you'll ever need."
I turn now, as my daughter turns,
and see my mother walking toward us
down crooked mountain paths,
behind her, all those women
dressed in black
The little girl on the far right is my grandmother with her family. The lady in the chair is the great-grandmother I never got to meet.
The second picture is of my grandmother for her Confirmation.
The dancer is my mother. Way before she met my father and had me.
This last picture is at my godmother's wedding. She is also my mother's cousin as her mother and my grandmother were sister. The gentleman on the very far right is my grandfather.
Oh, and my relatives are very much German instead of being Italian, but I do still think of the women who came before me.
Happy Mother's Day to all....