Beautiful Bella! Redundant, I know, but that describes her inside and out. As a young woman she was what was known in her day as a “knock-out”. With long, dark brown, almost black waves of hair that cascaded down her shoulders. Her eyes of the same color could melt anyone she chose to gaze upon. Her skin a flawless light olive served as the palette for her always scarlet lip color. She was not tall, in fact, she was tiny and she was a bundle of energy and mischief. She was a cross between Jane Russell and Lucy Ricardo. Imagine!
Aunt Bella liked Frank Sinatra, shopping, shoes, dancing and Photoplay magazine. Pretty much like a lot of the young women of her day. Her dream for her entire growing up years was to be a wife and mother. She had many interests but, that dream overtook them all. She wanted to find a tall dark and handsome Sicilian guy and see her dreams come true. Well, she found him. My Uncle Guido was that guy.(watch for his story in the “Say Uncle’ category) They had five children and flourished as their family grew.
When I used to cook with her she would always explain the ins and outs of the specific recipe and in the process she would always say with a smile and a wink, “My food is speciale’ because I make it with a secret ingredient.” Then I would inquire as to what that special ingredient could be, even though I knew what it was after the first few cooking sessions. I just liked to hear her tell me about it. Then she would answer in exactly these words, “It is love, bedda. Love. Ma don’t tell.” Perish the thought.
I remember once, when she had a cast on one leg from an accident, she proceeded to try to show us the newest dance craze. It was the “alligator”. She proceeded to describe it in great detail while she lowered herself, cast and all, onto the floor to demonstrate. We all ended up on the floor laughing as she continued her dance. What passion she had!
And, I remember, when I was expecting each of my children how she would call most every day. I would answer the phone and the first thing out of her mouth would be, “Bedda mia, ma how you doing today?” Funny how that Sicilian accent showed up at certain times.
Aunt Bella is still around and her love and passion have not diminished. She is well into her 80’s so she isn’t doing the “alligator” much anymore but she is still very much her own person.
There are so many ways that I see her in me. I, too, like shoes and dancing. I, too, dreamed of that Sicilian guy and a family. And saw that dream fulfilled. I, too, cook with that special ingredient. She was a role model for me before the term was popular.
Thank You, Aunt Bella