home is where the heart is

We start talking about our grandparents. Of landing in the United States after months of hardship in their homelands, of escapes from war and terror and oppression, of arriving in this new land laden with sadness striving for a hopeful future for themselves, their children, their grandchildren.

The stories are full of details of coal mines and lace factories, intertwined marriages, and large families. There are stories about religious obligations to become nuns and priests, of husbands and wives widowed, of marrying the next family member in line, of keeping the family together at all costs. So many stories.

I think about my grandparents, two sets that migrated from Italy’s shores. One from the North, one from the South. My father’s parents Teresa and Riccardo; my mother’s parents Francesco and Rosa. My memories of their lives are fuzzy. I reach out to my brother to see what he can remember. I reach out to my uncle, my father’s sole surviving sibling. Both are dead ends. Figuratively. Literally.

What I do know is that my father’s parents, both from the same town in Italy, crossed the Atlantic to find each other in Brooklyn; my mother’s parents married in Sicily, my grandfather migrated to the Fashion District, my grandmother emigrated to Carroll Gardens soon after, with three children in tow.


Brooklyn was everyone’s home of choice, and it has become my home of choice, too.

Photo credit: @pixabay


’tis the season

I have a friend who falls into hibernation mode on the day of the dead. She burrows away in her suburban home with a herd of cats, a crackling fireplace, and a good book. As a late October baby, I used to love kicking off fall, embracing the changing color of the leaves along with the new year. Lately, though, I find myself following in her footsteps, as soon as the Halloween candy disappears into the greedy hands of goblins and ghouls, Power Rangers and clones of Darth Vader. My desire to socialize wanes and I am suddenly grateful for the automatic downloads of a library queue filled with murder mysteries and chick lit. And Finn, my source of unconditional love curled at my feet.

Later this week after a turkey dinner and a closeted day inside while the rest of the world creates havoc at the shopping mall, the onset of the Christmas season will begin. First, there will be sightings of mistletoe hung over doorways, holly and cinnamon-scented candles, a pine comb wreath. There’s sure to be an endless earworm of Christmas music, and the on-air promotion of favorite holiday classics like Rudolph and Frosty, and of course, a mixture of Festivus celebrations. If we’re lucky, we might even get snow.


Amidst all that chaos and inevitable confusion, I will undoubtedly have to remind myself to breathe  … bracing myself for the arrival of the annual house ghosts. We all have them you know, it’s not just Scrooge who can feel their lingering effects.

I will welcome those memories with a bittersweet embrace as I strain to hear the laughter of my boisterous, multi-generational family crowded around the large mahogany trestle table. The clinking of glasses, the tremor of knees bouncing on the wood floor with the aroma of garlic in the air.

dreaming of the sea

shell-2460434_1920My mother was a seashell collector, the Beachcomber. My dad was a rock collector and with each visit to the shore, we brought home pieces of our beach experience. From the sands of Barnegat and Bay Head to Aruba, from the playa Linda to Montauk, Antigua, and Sicilia. We have seashells and rocks from every location traveled.

This scavenger hunt wasn’t limited to my parents’ journies but also included family and friends trips, as they traveled the world. For them, too, discovering seashells, beach glass and rocks became a vacation ritual. They would bring back conch shells, oyster abalone, and pink and white stones. And as soon as my brother and I began to travel, we too contributed to the bounty.

In every children’s tale, there’s almost always a character who lifts a shell to its ear to listen to the sounds of the ocean. The calming repetitive ebb and flow of the sea, rushing up against the shore. As a child, I remember thinking how it was Mother Nature’s way of communicating between the earth and the ocean, and all its wildlife above and beneath.

With every keystroke, I yearn for the sea, and so it surprises me that I can count on one hand how many times I’ve visited it this summer. A mere pittance that doesn’t even make up a 24-hour period. With one month to go, and the summer waning its orbital spin away from us, I find myself traveling west to spend 7-days in the desert, surrounded by mountains and mesas, flat ground and dirt. Nary a swimming hole nearby, the only semblance of water whatever we can fit in the RV tow.

right here, next to me

There are some days, even now nearly four years since my Dad died when I find myself thinking he is still alive. It is a fleeting moment, lasting thirty seconds or less. It lingers in the air like smoke from a snuffed out candle.

Sunday morning, not quite 2 AM, an evening in with the muses talking about life and friendship, death and spirituality, family and friends. Monica and Suzie fall in and out of sleep, their voices a rolling cannon of sighs punctuated by snores from our favorite pug, Jello. It’s a midnight symphony at ebb+flow headquarters.

A few minutes later, the third uberPOOL passenger in a white Elantra, I find myself zigzagging from one side of Brooklyn to the other, the sickening sweet air freshener pungent in the front seat. This road traveled is like a driving race course with every pothole and speed bump a replacement for the orange cones.

Opening the door, I am greeted with a famished hello from Finn.

In the bathroom, I change out of my street clothes into PJs, running the water to brush my teeth. The door is slightly ajar. In the white noise and ambient sounds, I almost hear my Dad shuffling down the hallway.

When we shared the same space we had this institutionalized ritual where he would ‘find me’ on his way to the washroom just as I was returning from a night out on the town. Nonchalantly, he would ask how my night was, and in this moment, I hear him asking about these friends of mine whom he has never met, and how they are doing.

I can hear the shadow of his breath, the early morning scratchiness in his voice, as if he were standing right here, next to me.

distanced by a decade, memories breathe still

Three years apart in age, my mom (b.1928) and dad (b.1925) were born at the beginning of the Great Depression. Their early childhood stories are family-focused, tales of sacrifice and tragedy, of making do with all that they had. Their joy sprung from the little things: trips to Coney Island, walking along the boardwalk, hand-me down bicycles, the surprise of roller skates for Christmas, card games, family-style Sunday dinners, visiting aunts, uncles and cousins just a short walk away, church on Sunday, Knights of Columbus dances, and movies.

Almost all of my childhood memories include my mom and dad dancing. Old photos show them sharply dressed, swirling across the dance floor. The most vivid images live in my memory bank: from weddings and garden parties to BBQs and beach days. An open melody, the crooning of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and others in the background, the tap-tap-tap of the shoe on the hardwood floor. It wasn’t long before my father would stand and ask my mom to dance. Even right there in the living room.

When not dancing, my parents would watch the classic movies popular during their youth. Snuggled together on the moss green sofa a montage of the greats moving across the television screen: Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, Barbara Stanwyck, Laurence Olivier et al. Sometimes they would share stories of movie releases, the double features, saving their pennies to see the latest film, waiting for autographs to be signed. Sometimes they would each be lost in their own reverie of shared moments with friends and family, way before they thought to start their own.

I remember my mom and dad dancing, early fall 1999. A few weeks before my brother’s wedding. They are in the living room watching a program, the autumnal sun is fading. There is music playing and Dad asks Mom to dance. Her eyes light up and with all the energy she can muster, she stands. I clear the furniture from the rug and Dad holds her hand, quick-quick-slow-slow as if they are on pause. Dad is smiling and she is laughing, happy.

Three months later she is gone.

I will forever in my dreams see them dancing, a perpetual couple waltzing atop a music box.

Lucy Romano Preziotti
b. 9/19/28 – d. 1/23/00

Movies from the ’40s ||  Classic Movies || Love Songs of the 40s & 50s ||