My Nanni

Photo #1 1949, Brooklyn, NY, snapshot, Nanni wearing her favorite hat
Photo #2 1987, NY, NY, portrait, made at Olin Mills Studio

My great-grandmother Angelina Incorvaia (Snavely) was born in Palermo, Sicily in 1899. She insisted on keeping her family name "to make asure everybody know I acome from Italia". At her funeral in Bayridge, Brooklyn, her neighborhood friends told me the real reason she kept her name was because she had said she didn't need some man's name; after all, she was proud of her own.

I spent the first 14 years of my life living in a three-story brownstone in Brooklyn with my parents, my father's parents, and my father's grandparents. At the time, I often wondered why it was that our entire family tree had to live in one house. Our Irish friends didn't live like this; nor did my Polish cousins.

The years following our move made me realize how deeply I missed that house and our neighborhood; the wafting smells of garlic and fresh bread, the sounds of voices coming through the walls as people arrived for Sunday dinner, and my grandmother's tales of fishing and cooking in Italy. When she laid the table she would undoubtedly tell her grandchildren some story about uncle so - in- so who had argued with someone over what kind of noodle was to be eaten that day. "I assure you" she would proclaim "there will be no disagreements at my table, Sunday is the day for love". Although we would all grow silent and listen intently, it was inevitable that someone would cause a fight, usually food related, that very day. She'd just sip her glass of wine, throw her hands up in the air, and laugh.

I've talked to my nanni every Sunday for as long as I can remember. Whether near or far, I've had to report on what I was preparing and/or eating for Sunday dinner. I suppose that is why, only four weeks after her death, I find myself propping these pictures up on the Sunday dinner table to help me remember the things I loved most about her. As each week passes I realize that this huge void in my life is not some weird dream I've been having. She is really gone.

I miss her.

photographs and story submitted by Patricia Snavely
during the exhibition
"Telling Our Own Stories: Florida's Family Photographs"
at The Southeast Museum of Photography
in Daytona Beach, Florida, June to September 1997

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