Growing up, I missed a lot of ” Sunday Fundays” with friends; whether they were swimming, hanging out, shopping, whatever. If it was a Sunday, everyone knew where I would be. Sunday was a day for family. All day long. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was an amazing way to grow up. It helped mold me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Growing up Italian Catholic meant two things on Sundays: 1) You went to church and 2) you had Sunday dinner with your entire immediate family. To most, immediate families meant mom, dad, brother, sister, dog, whomever lives in your home, right? Not in our family. Immediate family meant my grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, and yeah, even sometimes 2nd and 3rd cousins. And when I say Sunday dinner together, I mean all at one long table. It doesn’t get any better than that… or any crazier/louder than that either. The first time my husband who is only a tiny bit Italian came for sunday dinner, he asked why everyone was screaming, and he seriously had a headache the whole night after leaving. I really didn’t notice what he was referring to! “That’s just how we talk,” I said!
The smell of sunday dinner is something that will never escape my memory. The smell of fresh warm garlic bread, a fresh batch of gravy (no, not sauce) on the stove simmering all day long, creating an aroma that filled your nostrils the second you walked in the door. Wine was poured, plates were completely filled and you couldn’t leave the table until you finished your plate, oh and the salad was always eaten last.
I was lucky enough to begin life with both sets of grandparents. That meant church, then going to my paternal grandparents for an early dinner (Italians also eat very early on sundays, usually around 2pm or 3pm) and then heading over to my maternal grandparents for dessert and then cards. It was never a complete sunday without cards! And you want to talk about loud? I think we knew every swear word in both Italian and English by the time we were 3! My family always fought hard, everything was an argument, but we loved even harder. Kisses and hugs, food galore, laughter, love, and family, every sunday. What more can you ask for?
Unfortunately, Sunday dinners ended early on my paternal side, when I lost my Nani and Papa at a very young age. My Nani first, then my Papa a few years later. The void of losing them that early has still never left me. I was fortunate enough to still have my other grandparents and the Sunday tradition carried on with them until I was 30 years old, almost 4 years ago. I lost my maternal Nani first, then my Papa a few years later. History sadly repeating itself. I’d say that is pretty lucky and pretty damn amazing though to be able to say that every sunday for 30 years, I had the wonderful comfort of knowing that no matter how bad the week was, what was going on in any of our lives, no matter what time of year, no matter who was getting along and who wasn’t, we were together as a family every single Sunday.
We still carry on the tradition with my real immediate family now at my parents house with my brother and sister and their families and myself, my husband, and my son Matteo. No, it’s not the same. It’s still loud, it’s still crazy, it’s still filled with love, but it’s just a little quieter, a little tamer, our hearts are a little heavier with the loss of more and more family members each year. But I will say this, sundays are still for family, we still sit at one long table, the pasta is still served, the bread still warm waiting for us, laughter still fills the house from morning to night, and the love for one another is still growing strong. We still know that no matter what, we always have sundays together as a family. I like to think my grandparents are smiling down on us from heaven, clinking their wine glasses together, and still smelling the fine aroma of great food, love, laughter, and family at every single Sunday Dinner.