My “Once-in-a-Lifetime” Grandmother

“A house needs a grandma in it.”—Louisa May Alcott

Granny Playing With Kid 1Nonna Anna stepped into my seven-year-old life with laughter, love, and lore.

As the day of her arrival from Italy approached, my heart swelled with excitement and anticipation. It would be my first meeting with my dear Mama’s mother. Little did I know that it would also be my last.

My mother had left her beloved Italy eight years earlier to follow my Italian-American father to a new world. Shortly thereafter, I was born. From my earliest years, my mother told me delightful stories about my fun-loving Nonna Anna. Each story was a building block in the wonderful image of my Grandmother that had formed in my young mind. How I longed to meet her!

On the day of my Grandmother’s arrival, I could not contain my joy.  She was everything that my Mother had described–and more. As Nonna Anna clasped me tightly to her heart, I felt as though I had known her all of my young life.

It didn’t take me long to learn that my mother was absolutely right. My Italian Grandmother loved to have fun! Her round, rose-colored face continually flashed radiant smiles and readily broke into laughter. Her twinkling brown eyes danced with delight as she found humor in the mundane. Her mischievous antics made her a wonderful playmate.

During her six-week visit, we spent many precious hours together. Despite her ample girth, Nonna Anna loved playing Toss-the-Ball with me.

“Ready?” she would ask, seated on a straight-backed chair and holding the big red ball tantalizingly in her hands.

“Yes!” I eagerly replied, my eyes focused squarely on the ball.

Then, with a sudden thrust, she threw the ball toward me and cheered me on with vigor as I chased and eventually caught it.

“Brava! Brava!” my Grandmother would shout, clapping her hands in delight.

Often, we would walk to church together. As she placed her plump, aging hand on my shoulder for support, I felt so honored and proud. “This is my Grandmother!” I wanted to shout to all the world. On the way, Nonna would talk to me about our Lord and His goodness. She encouraged me always to obey Him and to follow in His footsteps.

Because we lived in close quarters, at night Nonna Anna slept in my bed. When everyone else had fallen asleep, we lay wide awake, giggling at the funny stories she would tell about her own childhood and that of my Mother. Because I spoke her native Italian, we were able to communicate freely. Although we were nearly fifty years apart in age, Nonna Anna was a child at heart.

All too soon the day came for my Grandmother to return to her family in Italy. As I gave her that final hug, I could not pull myself away from her embrace. Somehow I think she knew we would never see each other again.

“Be a good girl for your Mommy,” Nonna said with tears streaming down her cheeks. “And always remember how much I love you!”

In the years that followed, Nonna Anna faithfully kept in touch via letters. Each one strengthened the bond we had developed during her brief visit.   To my great regret, I never did get to see Nonna Anna again. But I so look forward to running into her arms once more in Heaven.

And I have a feeling she’ll be waiting there for me with a ball in her hand, ready for another game.
Copyright 2017 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA. All Rights Reserved.

THE DANDELION PATCH by MaryAnn Diorio fullsizeoutput_1acDr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of fiction for children and adults. Her latest children’s book, THE DANDELION PATCH, was awarded the designation of “Best Book of Juvenile Fiction” in the 2017 Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards Contest. You may learn more about MaryAnn at and

THE DANDELION PATCH is available on Amazon and other retail outlets. To order, click here.

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My “Once-in-a-Lifetime” Grandmother — 6 Comments

  1. MaryAnn, you are such a gifted writer. I love your story about your Nonna Anna. I too was blessed with having a loving, godly grandmother and she had a tremendous impact on my life from a young age.

    • Thank you so much for commenting, dear Joan, and for your kind words. Grandmothers can make such a huge difference in a child’s life, as you well know from having had a wonderful grandmother as well. Blessings to you!

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