My Gramma Jo would have celebrated her 94th birthday last Thursday, the same day Sylvan turned 22 months old. When Gramma passed away in June of 2005, then Sylvan was born three months later, constitutionally unable to stop moving or to allow the adult holding him to stop walking, bouncing, or dancing, my Mom said, “Hmm, sounds like Gramma Jo.” Since Sylvan started walking, then running and dancing and hopping and twirling and wrestling, he has delighted in the world and protested very little. Gramma danced into her last year of life, and she certainly wouldn’t let any of her sisters get away without a quick partnered shuffle-step at a family reunion or birthday party.
We joined Netflix last week, after the only good, independent movie rental store in town shut its doors unexpectedly. Our television has lived in the garage since we moved in, so it’s only been turned on for some Olympics footage, a PBS Yosemite in winter special, and each summer season of “So You Think You Can Dance.” Thus, we’ve missed the good TV along with the barrels full of dregs. So, the first DVDs in our Netflix queue? The full 86 episodes of The Sopranos.
We’ve watched four so far. I’m glad my Italian heritage bypassed the north Jersey printed short suits and (at least recent?) mob ties, and I’m thankful that Gramma spoke like the true Italian-American that she was. Listening to Tony and Carmela Soprano say “stroy-a-del,” “mootzarell,” and “pro-jhoot,” just like Gramma, makes me want to correct my Americanized culinary language and tell it like it is. When I worked in Manhattan, I regularly bought “stroy-a-dels,” or sfogliatelles, at Bruno King of Ravioli on 8th Avenue in Chelsea. One day, the man behind the counter said, “Who taught you how to say that? That’s not how you say it.” Chastened, I started calling the pastries “sfoy-a-tella,” at least similar to Wikipedia’s pronunciation of “sfo-lyah-TEL-e.” But, after hearing Carmela say exactly what my Gramma used to say, I’m sticking to my guns. “Mootzarell,” here I come!