Dear Aunt Nancy,
I am sitting by my pool, drinking a Coors light as I write this intro. I figured it was the best way to get in a headspace to memorialize your life, as so many of the best parts of it revolved around drinks by a pool with family and friends.
I drove by 10 Valley Avenue today. The family that lives there now was in the pool. I could hear the contagious laughter of parents with their children. I closed my eyes and in that moment I could hear the echo of the laughter that once came from our family when you owned that house.
I remember learning to swim in that pool. I remember making wave pools and whirlpools and playing taps with my cousins, who were all so much older than me but always made me feel included.
I could hear you, my dad, uncle lou, my mom, aunt patty, uncle rod, and the rotating cast of supporting characters that would be there on any given weekend. You all had such booming voices that got louder and more filled with raucous laughter as the day turned to night.
I could hear the distinct clink of a horseshoe ringing around a stake and the combo of groans and celebrations that comes with it. I remember always wishing I was old enough to participate in those horseshoe matches. One time on vacation when I was 12 or so, me and dad won a beach horseshoes tournament. The only reason I had any interest in horseshoes was because of 10 Valley Ave.
I could hear dominoes slapping the table and the number of books being stated during a game of Spades. The only reason I know how to play either of those games is because I saw it so much during my childhood, and based on what I saw when you all played, I thought they must be the most fun games in the world.
It was a beautiful symphony put on by the ghosts of the past.
There are SO many memories for SO many people tied to that house, and you were the reason for that. You were a true Italian matriarch in that your maternal instincts extended to anyone who needed a mom. You stepped in and were a mother figure for my brother and sister when their actual mother could not be one. Thank you so much for being there for them when they needed you the most. My heart hurts so badly for them. And for your girls, and your grandkids, and uncle Lou. You were loved so much while you were here, and when you live life right, your passing crushes those who you leave behind.
I will always admire how you became such an amazing mother and grandmother when your mother (and my “grandmother”), was the complete and total opposite. To break that cycle and achieve what you achieved as a mother and grandmother is truly amazing.
I meant to complete this in one sitting last night, but then Chris called me while I was working on it. We got to talking about how great those times were. So many of his friends thought of you as their Aunt Nancy, too. I bet if I talked to Kimmie, Anna, or Mimi they would have stories of friends who felt the same.
Then I tried to finish this on the second night, but I got a Video chat request from Anna. Everyone was in Florida, gathered together for the first time in years, doing a shot in your memory. I think it’s fitting that, while trying to write this, I was twice interrupted by family. I think that is your way of saying the best way to honor your memory is to make it a point to be in contact with everyone more often.
What you created at 10 Valley avenue for both your generation and the generation that followed is truly something to be celebrated. The fact that you and my parents had such a lively 30’s and 40’s that were filled with fun and laughter with family and friends makes me happy.
Part of me is sad that I was too young to really have vivid memories of that time, but more and more have been bubbling to the surface since your passing. I remember Tina and Mimi babysitting me. Between you, Tina, Mimi, Kimmie, and Anna, I was doted on like a literal Prince. Even Princess loved and protected me like I was her own pup. Mimi and I talked a little on video chat last night and she reminded me how we used to watch Barney and Power Rangers when she babysat me. Two things I remember absolutely loving as a kid.
I remember staying over one night when my brother lived there and you let me have a pina colada with a little bit of alcohol when I was like 12 or 13 lol. That was awesome. I have vague memories of Christmases on Concord St. that have come back to me once my mom mentioned them.
I have always felt extremely blessed by the amount of love and affection I was shown as a child. The silver lining of your passing is that it has made me realize just how much of that love and affection came from you.
It is kind of poetic in a way that you passed on the fourth of July because it is a day that revolves around gathering with family and friends. It is the quintessential holiday for drinks by a pool. It’s a day that’s about everything your life was about — and now it will be a day that we honor your memory.
I like to think that the Afterlife takes different forms for different groups of souls — a common gathering place where they often met in their earthly lives. For our family, I think that place is 10 Valley Ave. Grandpa, Tina, and Aunt Patty were there to greet you with a cold beer. You’ll be there to greet us all someday.
One of my biggest feelings of regret right now is that I didn’t put more effort into seeing you or talking to you in my adult life. You were such a huge part of the amazing childhood that I had, and I just wish I could have let you know how much that meant to me while you were still here.
But I didn’t. So I hope there is WIFI in Heaven.
Rest in Peace,