Back in the day my great aunt Teddy (who is turning 80 this year) would host a holiday party in the weeks leading up to Christmas. My memories of her house in Colonie are so vivid; the split level ranch would burst at the seams with decorations and spirit. Our job, as kids, was to adjourn to the family room on the lower level and string popcorn garlands for her tree. We patiently threaded kernel after kernel while the grown ups cooked and chatted upstairs. The food was always spectacular: antipasto, Sicilian pizzas covered in sausage, peppers and onions, and cookies. My god, the cookies. I don't know what makes an Italian cookie so magical, but that combination of almond, butter and a light dusting of powdered sugar is just perfection. Perfection in simplicity.
The parties ended a long time ago, though, when Teddy's husband passed away and she moved in with her daughter. Years passed, grandkids were replaced with great grandkids, and Christmas lost a bit of its luster. Every holiday season I remembered and missed the energy that had filled Teddy's home.
I never anticipated visiting that house again but the universe works in mysterious ways. Last year a longtime friend and coworker, Robert, invited me to check out his, "man room." Robert is a music fanatic and he glowingly described it as his refuge, where he could display his memorabilia and blast records. Not having wheels of my own I asked my aunt Julie if she wouldn't mind dropping me off. As we drove, following Robert's directions, Julie remarked, "This was the way we used to go to Teddy's," and when we pulled into his driveway she laughed. It was Teddy's house. Robert's man cave was the family room where, years earlier, I had strung popcorn with my cousins. He had bought the house from Teddy herself and told us the heartbreaking story of how difficult it had been for her to leave. He said that she had cried for the house and for her new loneliness and Robert had hugged her and told her that he and his family would take good care of it. How amazing is that? From one Italian family to another.