Sunday, 17 February 2013

Happy Birthday Nonno - 85 Years Young!


Some 24 years ago I started dating this gorgeous Italian guy.  I met Carlo when I was working as a manager of a frozen yogurt shop and I thought he'd be perfect for my best friend, Diane.  He was handsome, funny and charming - what's not to like?  Every day he would pass by my shop and tell me a joke to brighten my otherwise boring daily routine, and we'd chat over a Swiss Mocha coffee.  When Diane finally came down to meet him she look at me quizzically and asked why I was introducing her to a man I was obviously in love with...

In her speech at our wedding, Mom said she knew Carlo was more than a friend when she walked by my bedroom door and heard a man's voice on the answering machine (yes, I am dating myself) saying "Ciao Bella"...Mom loved Carlo from day one...she called him her son-in-love.   They had much in common back then - a love of red meat, Genoa salami and gin and tonics but to name a few.  

When I met Carlo's parents I was taken aback by their instant welcoming warm embrace - literally!  Mama Bruni came to the door wearing a smile from ear to ear, arms open and ready to hug me, which she did.  All the nervousness melted away and I knew this family was one in which I could fit.  My father-in-law was friendly and welcoming, with a loud laugh and a big smile.  The same reaction I have seen him share with everyone who comes to their home.  Which leads me to the subject of today's post - Papa Bruni.

Today marks the 85th birthday of the Bruni partiarch.  Ortenzio was born in Calabria, one of 9 children to Pasquale and Maria Rosa Bruni.  They were a hard-working family who struggled to survive, their focus being to feed their large family and keep them safe through the Depression and World War II. (Sounds like an Italian version of my own father's Russian Jewish family, no?).

Nonno, Nonna and our girls on their
61st Wedding Anniversary (September 2012)
My father-in-law will often regale us with stories of his childhood, how he met my mother-in-law when they were children - it's at that point he gets a far-off look in his eyes, looks at Rebecca, and says how much she reminds him of "Toni" as a girl.  Some stories are funny, some are sad, but all are heartwarming.  Stories about how he wooed my mother-in-law, and changed the course of his life in order to win her hand in marriage (he had saved all his money and bought a ticket for Argentina, and Mama Bruni's father said he would only allow them to marry if he moved to Canada - thanks Nonno Cesare - otherwise Carlo and I would never have met!).  So many stories, so little time.

And tonight we will gather to celebrate his reaching this milestone the way he prefers it - in an understated, quiet evening spent with his family at home.  

Nonno and 3 of his grandkids on his 85th birthday

I wanted to do something to let him know how special he is to all of us, and to me...so I baked a vanilla cake garnished with chocolate "85"s.  He is not much of a sweet tooth, but I know he'll have a small piece and smile to himself as he looks around and sees the legacy he built, his family.  

Nonno - Buon Compleanno e Cento Anni!  Auguri!