Haibun, heritage, and it was such a Nonna thing

The New Year is well on its way and yet my first blog of the year is still sitting here waiting for me to do something. I have fiddled with a few things but mostly I have struggled to start and finish.

Christmas 2022 was one of the saddest Christmases I have had in many years. I felt the lack of something and it’s been difficult to explain. The feeling leans towards a kind of nostalgia for the memories made and now fading. Much of it has to do with the state of the world today but more of it has been about the past. Life moves swiftly from the now to memories. I found myself missing everything Italian from the food, the music and the sound of the words that flow when the native tongue is in use. Family long-gone and those still alive but far away featured, aunts, uncles and all the cousins I grew up with were sorely missed. We had more time for people back then. It was about family and making memories together. Today everyone is in a rush and memories made are on someone’s phone and then forgotten or so I thought.

Then courtesy of You Tube, I discovered time can stand still, and wind backwards for a short time. Watch the video below and have patience. It takes a while for the Nonna to show the magic that comes from a metal knotting needle and strong hands. The video reminded me of two pieces I had written, both of which have been accepted and published in Drifting Sands, a Canadian Journal featuring haibun, tanka and haiku. Poets from all over the world are invited to write on a number of themes. Surprise, surprise that for two years running I chose to be nostalgic, to create in words what clever phones do today. Somehow it felt more solid, more real to have it captured by vocabulary rather than the press of a button. But, thanks to You Tube videos I found I could have nostalgia and technology.

Australia is lauded as a multicultural environment. We are. Of that there is no doubt. However, it has taken a long time to get to this point and of course, nothing is perfect despite intentions. Differences are always a bone of contention. Forgive the use of a cliché in that last sentence but it fits. One bone, two dogs and a peaceful co-existence disappears. I have wondered if the dogs communicated then perhaps trouble could be avoided. They could agree to share but would they listen long enough to understand each other. Would they hear each other? I don’t think so. Listening does not guarantee hearing. I am obsessed with this topic and often blog on the subject.

As we age, changes occur. We have more time to reflect and it leads to a better understanding of the fact that learning occurs through listening and actually hearing what is said whether spoken or written. I was born here and, in some instances, this made my migrant life easier but not always. I too often, was not comfortable with the differences of my ethnicity. Childishly, selfishly I resented the fact I was different. I wanted to be like everyone else. As I grew older I learned to listen to the wonders of my heritage and I heard how much those differences enriched my life as an individual. Now this Christmas I found myself constantly reflecting on how much I miss those things that set us apart.

We don’t always appreciate what we have especially with those closest to us. It appears a human failing to take families for granted and then suddenly at Christmas or the holiday season for those who are not followers of Christmas, we remember them. I think that was my inspiration for both Growing up and Rattle and Roll. I am very aware of family these days more so than I have ever been.

Growing up   (First published in Drifting Sands October 2020)

“Can’t we get fish and chips?”

Spaghetti and breadcrumbs for dinner is pretty strange, worse than the omelette sandwiches she makes me for school lunches. The kids at school think the aspa… paggerus is disgusting and looks like it belongs in a hanky. I sort of like it even if I can’t pronounce it. But yellow and green bits hanging out of the bread and getting stuck in your teeth all day, come on, they have a point. I grind my teeth. Everything we do is so different. Why can’t we be like normal Aussies and have vegemite or peanut butter on sandwiches, and fish and chips?

Mamma gives me a glare and a muted snarl before whispering we have no money. She nods towards my papa, oblivious to everything when his head is buried in a newspaper. Papa learns English that way. He reads every word, saying the hard ones out loud. Usually, I tease him about his pronunciation. Today, I hurry to set the table.

Later I lick the last of the chilli, black olives, and parmesan cheese mixture off my plate, Mamma glares again but Papa softens it by winking at me. She shakes her head. He shrugs. I keep my head down.

I hold the dress close
and breathe in lace memories
from wedding photos –
a little length to the hem
and she walks beside me

Rattle and Roll   (First published in Drifting Sands October 2022)

Bits of the sticky dough find their way into my mouth. Nonna shakes her head, pinches my cheeks then bends to kiss them. I love when she tells me to punch the dough harder. I hate when she pinches my cheeks. It is such an Italian thing and so annoying.

She pokes gently at the dough and smiles. Under her fingers the dough will turn into long thin strips. She winks. I clap my hands in excitement, understanding her unspoken permission. She trusts me to cut those strips into smaller pieces. I grin. Our eyes meet. She pinches my cheeks. Again.

Later, a firm rattle and roll of her wrist with her metal knitting needle turns those small pieces of dough into cylinder shaped pasta. We call it macaroni. Inside my head I call it magic. At Nonna’s nod, I fill a tray and carefully carry it to the dining room for the important drying process.

So much time has passed, and I have yet to master the roll of the wrist. I don’t want to. It was such a Nonna thing.

crocheted collar
on a handknit cardigan –
gifts from the heart

A piu tardi,

Let’s make this year special and listen to each other and hear the words before they dissipate into thin air. We are temporary on this earth so making the best of things matters.


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  1. Thank you for this heartfelt post that resonated with me of memories of our migrant experiences and the poetry interspersed throughout. ❤️

  2. I feel this… I miss my grandparents and father. So many traditions and memories. Now the rest of us are scattered across the country and holidays aren’t quite the magic I remember, but I hope as a Nonna, I am creating that magical feeling for my grandbabies.

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