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Serafina the Great

October 14, 2010

I can’t really blog today without thinking of my grandmother. So today, I just hope one person reads her obituary from last year, and remembers what a wonderful woman she was. She raised a big family, cooked amazing meals, worked her entire life, discovered she was a talented artist in retirement, spent her later years spoiling her grandchildren with love, and dedicated her life to her family and church. Everyone has a grandmother, but we had a Serafina.

  • She saw the best in everyone, and not as a cliche. She really saw every person for their potential. This was because she truly listened to you. As you told her about your experiences, she put her hands in the pockets of her pants, looked you in the eye, and nodded saying in her thick Brooklyn accent “Ya.”
  • If she called you, upon picking up the receiver, in that same voice you would hear, “How are YOUUU?” sung into your ear.  No hello, hi, or who is this. No matter who picked up the phone, she wanted to know they were doing well. I am thankful that I could never forget that voice.
  • She had a deep moral compass, which she gave to my mother. Both women can laugh at a good sarcastic joke, but the minute a joke is cast on an easy target, they reject it with such seriousness that a line has been clearly crossed. I thank them for giving that to me, and love my grandmother for seeing the need to be kind to all people.
  • It took several years of being an art history major to realize how special her artistic talent really was. I proudly display her sculptures in our house, and I will impress upon our children her talents — and the importance of discovering your own creativity, even late in life.
  • She believed in my own late discovery of art. After asking inquiring about AAM,  she would ask about my latest creative endeavors. I knew I could explain my drawing/painting/sewing/photography/knitting/embroidery/etc,  and she would have ideas and interest. I could only hope that I give one student faith in themselves in the way she did with me, only then would I would be a successful teacher.
  • She always considered her children first, even in her art. While being interviewed for an art show she said, “My sculptures are a reflection of my spiritual voice and a mother’s emotions raising her family. Conception occurs when I start a new sculpture. I begin by sketching the image revealed to me in the stone. My carving tools represent the sculpture’s growth period from which form and features evolve. Rasping, filing and sanding are the nurturing instruments. During this period, my fingers are constantly caressing the stone with love and looking for any imperfections that need help. The final stages of the sculpture are comparable to a child arriving at his/her own individuality. When the sculpture is finished, I have mixed emotions. I am happy and proud of the results, but I am reluctant to let go…I am the mother of four grown children – happy and proud of them as people, but I was reluctant to let them go.” –April 1998
  • She taught me that there is more to being Catholic than the modern stereotypes placed on the church or conservative doctrine. She taught us the core Catholic value, which is to love all people, no conditions. Because of her, I can live comfortably in the church, but also defy the church’s modern conservatism that conflicts with the core beliefs.
  • She read my blog, loved it, and encouraged me to continue– which is the reason I keep doing this so diligently.
  • She believed in the art of storytelling, and its ability to keep alive family memory. I wrote her biography in 7th grade, and I remember interviewing her as clear as if it was yesterday. I just wish I still had the paper.
  • When I was 13, I decided I wanted her to be my sponsor for Confirmation, a sacrament. I chose Saint Serafina as my name, and I held on to that name as my second middle name longer than it was healthy.
  • She had a fantastic collection of chunky gold jewelry, but managed to pull it off at about 5 foot, perhaps Mr. T could learn a lesson from her.
  • When my father’s mother, my Irish Nana, died, my grandmother told me that she was going to work hard at working as both of my grandmothers, and she remained true to her word.
  • The day I regret most is when I matter-of-factly told her that I was more Irish then Italian, due to the fact that three of my grandparents had immediate Irish ancestory. I now see that, I thought I was just explaining my Irish citizenship, but to her I erased her history. I don’t think I ever hurt her more, and I still regret it. I think I received the best parts of being Italian from her.
  • When she met my now husband, she just knew he was the right one for me, and embraced him like her own grandson. In five minutes, she saw in him what I learned over the last 9 years.
  • When we play with little Serafina, my sister and I see my grandmother, and for that I am eternally grateful.
  • I loved her tremendously, and perhaps because she was in my life until I was 30, and died very suddenly because of a very brutal form of cancer. It has been a hard adjustment in losing her–I tear up even writing this. There are just some people you imagine will be around forever, because they were there forever.

I often look to music to remember. Maybe, I get that from my grandfather the jazz musician, and Serafina’s husband. The music I hear sticks more in my memory then books or conversations.  For that reason, Cat Power’s “Maybe, Not” has stuck in my head as a song that reminds me of my grandmother’s passing, mostly because I worked through the song while dealing with her passing. I now sing it to her namesake, little Serafina. The song has a mixed meaning since it reminds me of Serafina the Great, but the title also has our daughter’s nickname, Maybe, in it. Please listen to it, and think of someone you miss.

Cat Power “Maybe Not”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Caryn permalink
    October 14, 2010 9:46 am

    I read and listened. What a truly inspirational woman. Your post today made me tear up, too. Little Serafina will know her namesake – your memories are so vivid and she clearly lives on in you, your mother, and your sister.

  2. Colleen permalink
    October 14, 2010 4:19 pm

    yup crying at work.

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