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dear nonna

Dear Nonna;

When I was maybe four-years-old, you told me to record my voice.

In that moment, I was upset. How could my Nonna think my voice sounded screechy? It was my absolute duty to prove to my grandma that I, in fact, had the voice of an angel: I could speak into that tape recorder, and surely, I'd hear a beautiful playback as I smiled smugly back at my caretaker.

I'll never forget that feeling in the pit of my stomach as I pressed rewind, and then play:

"Is that MY voice?!"

Like nails dragging across a chalkboard, car tires screeching as they come to a complete halt at a red light, or a mighty-mite firecracker cackling in the distance as children collect their candy hauls on a cold, Halloween night. I was mortified to hear that voice. My voice. It's like Nonna knew that someday, her high-pitched granddaughter would somehow find her way in a world where her voice would be heard by so many more people than just the family who kept her safe.

The irony in this entire situation is that I wish I recorded a tidbit of my Nonna's voice, talking to me and telling me she loved me. She used to say, "Amore Nonna!" to which each of her grandkids, including me, would reply, "Tutti Nonna!"

It's crazy, those words meant so much to me in that moment. Yet, not one piece of me ever thought to record her sweet voice in order to preserve that sentiment for life.

We never know when we're going to lose someone. And sadly, we take for granted the precious moments that bond us with those we love and are lucky enough to love right back.

My Nonna was a tough shell of a woman.

She didn't show much affection. Hell, she sometimes didn't even want to kiss me hello whenever I didn't call her for a few weeks. She was cold on the surface, yet she'd invite you over for dinner in a heartbeat if you were courageous enough to endure her lectures. Over the duration of my time with her on this planet, I endured plenty of those.

Nonna struggled heavily with mental illness.

It's something that my mom recently opened up to us grandchildren about and it has definitely hit home for me, because, well, I'm still struggling with my own mental health myself. As I type this, I can't help but feel a sense of sadness for all of those years Nonna had to suffer in silence--no one understood mental illness in those days; it was far too taboo for my grandma to ever talk about her daily demons. And while most strive to push past issues under the rug, I'm here trying to piece together the jaded bits that are somehow leftover after my Nonna finally found her own sense of peace.

When I was four years old, my Nonna recorded my screechy little voice. She played it back to me in hopes of me hearing the flaws. Not to poke fun, but to somehow make me aware of a tiny defect that could potentially inhibit my way of life someday.

Nonna didn't know I'd eventually obtain my degree in Journalism. She didn't know I'd work alongside a Junior B hockey team on live television. Nonna had no clue that I'd write for a renowned website and interview star athletes who probably would never speak to me had I not adjusted my pitch all those years ago.

It's like she knew, that someday I'd be something. I'd be someone with a voice to help others and share my own adversities with the world through a sports lens that showcased so much more than just a boxscore.

I always told Nonna I wanted to be a sports reporter.

To her, sports was Formula 1. Sports was Italian soccer. Sports was whatever made her little husband, my Nonno, smile. She may not have watched every match or followed every tantalizing headline, but she made sure she supported my Nonno by making the food to accompany the event. Whether it be the World Cup, the Euros, or even just a simple Vancouver Canucks game on a Saturday night: Nonna committed herself to the oven of love. She whipped up a mean Pasta Al Forno and she scooped up that meaty plate of carbs for anyone who was lucky enough to sit at her table.

My Nonna and Nonno moved to Canada when they were a young family with my mom and uncle. They didn't have much direction, but something about Vancouver was calling their name. They built a beautiful foundation in the city I'm writing from right now, and their roots as a family grew into an incredible family tree.

If they never moved to Canada, I wouldn't be here right now scribbling in this blog.

Today, I said goodbye to the other half of my Nonni. I'm the first grandchild who will get married without at least one of my grandparents by my side. I won't have either, actually. And that makes every bit of who I am want to melt away into the sewers below. I know, that's pretty dramatic. But as someone who has always put my family first, that is one of the saddest, loneliest statements I can ever accept in my life .

On October 3rd, I'm moving from Vancouver, Canada to Italy. The same move my Nonna and Nonno did so many years ago, I'm about to do in reverse.

It seems like a dream, really. Everything I've ever wanted to accomplish in North America somehow has taken shape on another continent. Lucky for me, I'm an Italian citizen and my future hubby holds an EU passport, too. It's almost like we were written in the stars to truly begin our lives in a unique place.

Nonna always told me to live my life to the fullest. As much as I should have been there for family dinners, she always understood the hustle it took to make it in an industry dominated by males. I talked to her about it often, actually, because both of us had worked in the hospitality industry for a very long time. Nonna made a career out of serving; I was paying for my student loans for my journalism degree. Waitressing became an easy part of life that both my Nonna and I could somehow relate to.

There were nights I'd work only four hours, yet I'd cash out with nearly $500 in tips in just one shift. Nonna was my biggest hype woman when it came to serving. She'd always ask me how much I'd make on the nights I'd miss a big family dinner.

"$435, Nonna!" I'd say when I'd join her for lunch on the weekend to catch up.

She was always so proud of me, because she understood what it took to be a really great waitress. Most of y'all reading this may think, "Pfft, that sh*t is easy peasy, I could make $100 an hour no problem!"

My Nonna and I would both laugh at you, to be completely honest.

Serving others isn't only a skill, it's a passion. In order to be an amazing server, you have to truly want to be around people. And as much as I preach being a sports reporter, I absolutely adored being a waitress. Every single person I served made an impact on my life. I made it a point to get to know each customer; regardless of who they were or where they came from, every person was family. I prided myself on my "gift of gab" and made it my mission to make friends with almost every table I was lucky enough to aid.

When so many of my friends and family members would tell me that "serving wasn't a real job," Nonna always kept it real and held my hand to keep going.

And honestly, thanks to her judgement, I stuck with my restaurant and bar gigs for nearly 14 years of my life. I don't have a huge savings account. I don't have a house worth millions of dollars, but thankfully, I have this passion inside of me to completely follow my heart. Because even when I was working those late nights as a server, I had the time to focus on what truly made me happy: sports.

When I met NBA stars Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant, Nonna laughed.

"Remember when I made you record your voice?"

Who knows. Maybe if my Nonna never made me playback that God awful, screechy declaration, I would have never found my voice as a sports reporter. I would have never wanted to work with a hockey team and be their on-air reporter. I would have never tweeted my way to 11,000 followers on social media, all of which seem to admire my voice.

I owe so much of who I am to my Nonna. And so, I vow to honour my grandma by moving back to the place where she used to call home. I have accepted a role with a company that will allow me to elevate the narrative behind motorsports, something both my Nonna and Nonno were always passionate about. I vow to make them proud, by being the best version of myself and choosing empathy in everything I do as a Producer.

I pledge to carry the positive voice of my Nonna with me in everything I do. And ultimately, I promise to speak up about mental illness, so that others who are suffering in silence, just like my grandma and I did, can hopefully find their voice in a world filled with background noise.

In just 19 days, I'll be moving to Italy and I promise you, Nonna, I'm going to make you and Nonno so damn proud that you never gave up on me.

I love you. Thank you for giving me the strength, grit, and heart to use my voice.


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