“What is the girl’s first name?” my grandmother asked when my uncle came home after being in the Army to tell her about his fiancee.
“Floriana,” he beamed.
“Floriana? What kind of name is that?” She frowned.
My uncle smiled. “Italian, Mom. It means ‘flower.’”
My grandmother, being a good stoic Lutheran mother, said nothing but sighed.
My mother said her brothers couldn’t keep their eyes off her when she arrived. Dark lush long curly hair, deep eyes, thick lashes, and a beautiful face. My other uncle told me it was her thick Italian accent they liked, which made them think of Sophia Loren, when she spoke, which wasn’t much. She was pretty quiet and shy, which was funny because my uncle didn’t say much either. No one could figure out how the two had gotten up the nerve to utter two words to each other, much less get married.
My uncle said Grandmother fretted over as to whether she could cook, keep a house clean, take care of her son. “She never says a word so I don’t know what she knows,” my grandmother complained before my uncle and aunt got married. She needn’t worry. Aunt Florie’s house was always clean to the last inch, though crammed. She liked flowers–everywhere. Anything with a flower pattern on it, she stuffed into their bungalow on the north side. The curtains, the chairs, the china—all blooming with flowers. Their bedroom, which I only saw when we put piled our coats on the bed, was a riot of blossoms and blooms and roses. My dad wondered how my uncle could sleep at night with all that going on. It was quite a decorative statement from such a quiet woman and my plain, easy-going uncle.
One Easter the whole family was invited to their house for dinner, and she served us meatballs with “Sunday gravy,” a thick red sauce she had kept on the stove for two days that had cooked down to the deep heart essence of tomatoes and garlic and meat. My Grandmother and aunts daintily picked at their plates and tut-tutted, put off by not having the traditional ham on the holiday and the boldness of a blood red meal. My uncles all asked for seconds and thirds.
My mother said once my uncle’s co-worker had remarked on her “fine legs,” and my uncle hauled off and clocked him. She invoked a passion in my laid-back uncle that was hard to fathom. He was uncharacteristically protective of her. And she returned his passion with a comfortable home, a steady love, and a tolerance for his family that I doubt few others could have borne.
On their fortieth wedding anniversary, they invited us again for dinner. The house was, if you can believe it, jammed with more flowers, inside and out. My aunt slaved over her Sunday gravy, yet again, on her own anniversary, denying any need to relax and visit. When my uncle finally caught her wrist and got her to sit down, he raised a glass in toast and said to her, “Il primo amore non si scorda mai, Floriana.” She smiled and translated for us all in her Italian accent. “He said, ‘The first love you never forget,’ which means in Italy that the first love never grows old.” She touched his face, kissed him, and then rose to finish serving the meal.
Perduto e tutto tempo che in amor non si spende.
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- Trompe Loeil – Thrift Shop Accent Chair Aunt Mabel Floral
Trompe Loeil – Thrift Shop Accent Chair Aunt Gladys Floral
Trompe Loeil – Thrift Shop Accent Chair Aunt Helen Floral
Trompe Loeil – Thrift Shop Accent Chair Aunt Patsy Floral
Trompe Loeil – Thrift Shop Accent Chair Aunt Agatha Floral
Trompe Loeil – Thrift Shop Accent Chair Tiny Flowers
Trompe Loeil – Thrift Shop Accent Chair Aunt Ethel Floral