03. Nonna's Eulogy
In memory of "Nonna" Pasquelina Laurenza.
Thank you all for being here.
For those of you who may not know me, I’m Stephanie Laurenza – I am actually not one of Nonna’s 14 grandchildren; instead, I am a proud granddaughter-in-law, having married her second-oldest grandson Jonathon – and we have a shared childhood, being that I grew up across the street from him, being that we grew up together playing kickball in Nonna’s backyard -- something I often reflect on, but means extra on a day like today.
I’m up here because I am the talker and the writer of the group – something that I take seriously, when it comes to a woman with six children, 14 – again, 14! – grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren (with more to come on the way). I am honored to represent such a large family and when I tried to think of how I could do her justice, it was clear: ask the people who knew, loved, looked up to her, saw her as a pillar of stability and kindness and grace.
So I did. I asked many of the grandchildren for memories and thoughts. I dug deep in my own memory for things that her kids – our aunts and uncles and, in my case, a father-in-law said – and here are the common threads:
Nonna was giving, compassionate and thoughtful. This giant family blossomed in front of her and she never forgot a birthday, a milestone, a congratulations on something you achieved or an I’m sorry for something that didn’t go your way. In fact, she went out of her way to mention these things.
Nonna always had an open door – and I don’t mean literally, because that screen door was always locked. But it was open to us. We’d be greeted with her signature exclamation – something I won’t try to imitate, because I won’t do it justice. She loved when people came to see her – especially her family. You’d walk in the door and it wouldn’t be long before you were encouraged to “mangia” – which brings me to my next point.
Food came up so much – I feel like even if you didn’t personally know Nonna, you knew her legendary food. Maybe someone brought you a loaf of her bread, or a bowl of her raspberries. Maybe you had her smelts when you went to eat at one of the New Castle restaurants. Maybe she all-but-forced a biscuit, or macaroni, or beans-and-greens on you while you sat at her kitchen table. In addition to her family, food was her livelihood.
Nonna was strong. She put everyone first: she raised her six kids – all of whom are successful and happy, I might add; which is a feat – and then continued to raise her grandchildren. Some of her great-grandchildren are lucky enough to have spent afternoons and weekends with her, too. When you were in Nonna’s care, she’d let you get up to some stuff – she might let you walk around the neighborhood, for instance, or stay out way past dark. But she’d always be waiting for you to come home, so she could lock the door. And don’t get me wrong: she wasn’t above yelling at you in Italian, the only word you could really discern being, “Stop.”
Personally, when I was discussing Nonna, someone said to me, “I now understand where you get your sense of community from.” And it’s true, I can attribute this to Nonna: my earliest memories involve a gaggle of kids playing in a yard, while a gaggle of adults sit at a picnic table on a porch drinking coffee (or was it wine?) and picking from a spread. Who was at the helm, the reason for all of this? It was Nonna, always, holding court – engaging in conversation, sure, but also watching over everyone. Making sure we were all okay.
I think she will continue this tradition: I think she’s holding court now, in peace. I think she’s watching over everyone now, and will do this for the rest of our time here on Earth. I think we’ll think of Nonna when we all eat a pear or a fig, when we have a biscuit or a chocolate chip cookie, when we smell fresh sauce on the stove. And I think, even though we can’t be physically with her at her kitchen table, we’ll always feel her with us – and she’ll feel us, too. And what greater love is there than that?