It was on March 9th, 2012 that I learned my aunt who lives in Italy had passed away. As we are coming up onto the anniversary of that date, it seems fitting that I finally finish this post which I started these three years past. One might think that as a first generation Canadian, with very little family here with us, the bond of family would not be as strong. One might think that learning of the death of a loved one you could love only from a distance, and a great distance at that, would not affect you, would somehow not hurt the same. Maybe that's true, as I have no bar of comparison I don't know, but I can tell you that the bond I have with my family overseas is there. And I can tell you that when I learned this news my heart broke to know that I would not get a chance to say good bye and let her know how much she meant to me.
While it may be tempting to make this a post about loss - lost opportunities to know my aunt better, lost family history, I really think that my Zia, who in my heaven can read English, would not think that an appropriate tribute. Instead, this post will show you what I learned from my aunt.
I was all of about 6 years old at the time, and couldn't speak Italian, that's for certain. My whole family went to visit my aunt and her family in Turin as one stop on a grand adventure. My cousin in England had just married his lovely wife and we (how this happened, I will never understand) were going on their honeymoon with them. I'm sure that's not how it was billed at the time, but that's what happened. My dad drove us all around in a van. I'm fairly certain there were 8 of us in a 7 seater, but those were the times. I recall it this way because as the littlest, I distinctly remember being seated on luggage. How we fit 8 people and their luggage into the van in the first place is quite a mystery to me come to think about it.
In any case, we went to my aunts apartment (how we all fit in there as well must have been a feat). And when she went to make us all dinner, she made pasta.
Now up until this point in my life, making pasta meant put dry noodles in salted water and cook. Top with homemade tomato sauce and you're off to the races. Well what my aunt meant was actually making the pasta.
I loved to help in the kitchen and so she let me help knead the dough out on her wooden table top and press a tiny portion of it through the chitarra which cut it into spaghetti.
This whole experience maybe took an hour, and yet here I am 24 years later (Good Lord, when did I get that old!) with the image of this day so clear in my mind. The family was all talking while we made pasta. It was noisy. The house smelled warm and moist with the heat of the cooking sauce. The dough was squidgy and fun to play with between your fingers. And the pasta tasted like love.
And so, when three years ago I learned that my aunt had passed, it seemed only fitting that I should make pasta to remember her with. I did not have any of the right tools. I rolled it by hand and it didn't come thin enough. I sliced it by hand as well. But it tasted good and it made me smile to think of that day so long ago that I spent with her. I hope that wherever she is, she knows that I love her and will carry her love with me my whole life.