By Rosalba Stocco, MSW, RSW
I don’t remember how it came to be that I said “if only”…
What I do remember was my husband’s immediate response.
“If Only my Nonna had wheels.”
He repeated, “If only my Nonna had wheels.”
With some light prodding, he explained that it was a popular family saying.
If his Nonna had wheels, life would have been very different for her, for her children and her grandchildren. They would have had the privileges and opportunities that did not exist for them.
He explained that if Nonna did not have wheels you had to simply figure out how to get them yourself. There was no use whining or feeling sorry for yourself.
Yet in his case, although his Nonna did not have wheels, she saved up her pension money and bought him his first and only bicycle. She gave her grandson what she could not give her children.
He said that with that bicycle he felt like the richest person in town. He had wheels when so many adults did not.
That bicycle opened doors to new opportunities. That bicycle made it possible to go to school and work at the age of 12. It facilitated earning money to purchase a scooter and eventually a motorcycle.
Later when he decided to immigrate to Canada, his father tried to bribe him into staying in Italy by offering to scrounge up the money to buy a car. His father never owned a car. He did own a cart and a donkey. He also owned a bicycle– never a scooter.
Our son got his first bicycle at age 5. He too talks about how special that little black bicycle was for him. Later when our children learned to drive we purchased an extra vehicle and then another. Our grandson is hoping that we will replace our vehicle about the time he gets his driver’s license.
I am not so sure that will happen even though my husband’s grandmother set the precedent for purchasing wheels.
Some family patterns are simply pleasant echoes of the past. These are the stories we love to tell. These are the stories of heroes who loved, overcame and against all odds perhaps found a way to provide “wheels”. We want to identify with these heroes who in spite of the tragedies that befell them they overcame with dignity, honour and overflowing love. These are the stories that induce nostalgia for the “good old days” when things were simpler.
What we forget is that when we selectively choose to not acknowledge the different shades of gray about the “good old days”, we lose the complexity of what makes us who we are today. So while it is true that Nonna bought that bicycle, it is also true, that money could have gone to buy material for a new dress for her granddaughters or herself, or something to make farming a little easier.
Nonna invested in a youngster. That bicycle not only brought joy to him, it brought the opportunity to increase the family income. Today that is called “child labour”. Back then it was giving children an opportunity to build their skills so that they could have a better future than their parents.
When we remember those “good old days” we may be excluding fragments of the family soul because although some family patterns are musical echoes of the past some family patterns are haunting trials and tribulations.
Sometimes we choose to remember the upbeat tunes and in some cases, like mine the haunting ordeals overpower our lives. If that is or was your experience, I can certainly understand.
My journey was all about transforming the eerily haunting grievances into sweet haunting echoes. You see my Nonna did not buy me wheels. (Part 2 to follow)
Reach out today
To learn more about reclaiming the love stories of our families and gaining a new perspective on what love truly means, stay tuned for Rosalba’s and Jacqueline’s new book Love Stories of our Families.
Rosalba helps individuals, couples, and families heal and live a more productive, harmonious life. To book an appointment or to find out more about how Systemic Family Constellations therapy can help you, reach out today. You can call or fill out the contact form.