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My Turn: Nourishing bond of grandparenting

Super stars claim ability to recall events in their lives dating back to their days in the crib at 6 months old.

Really?

I wish I had that gift. Lately I, too, have been thinking about my life and the family that helped shape the person I've become. My mom had three sisters and three brothers and, being the only niece and grandchild for 11 years, I was showered with lots of attention.

My grandparents came from Italy and settled in Flushing. I recall spending a huge amount of time with my grandparents; Grandpa Francis, who was known as Frank, and Grandma Giovannina, who was known as Jenny.

I would sleep at their house from time to time and I just loved it. My aunts and uncles were always around. Grandma was in the kitchen most of the day whipping up some wonderful meal for her family to devour later that night. She never read a recipe. She didn't have to; she just had a gift when it came to feeding her family. Grandpa and I were buddies. We would take long walks to the grocery store and with shopping bags in each hand, then haul them back home to Grandma. My reward when we got back: Grandma made sure Grandpa flagged down the Good Humor truck so I would be treated to a toasted coconut ice cream bar. Make that three bars. My grandparents loved them, too.

Summer stays were always the best. Since I was still pretty young, I just took these sleepovers in stride. Grandpa was very artistic. He would make beautiful shapes with his protractor and I would color them in with his stash of Paradise Pencils. It seemed he had hundreds of them. At night while my grandparents relaxed in the driveway rocking in their favorite chairs, I would catch lightning bugs and put them in a jar with wax paper and a rubber band to keep them safe inside. I was never able to figure out how they escaped from the jar only to be found all over the kitchen in the morning -- their final resting place, the floor.

Speaking of nighttime, on the shelf in my grandparents' very cramped bathroom rested two glasses containing their teeth. I never questioned why they did that, they just did.

Holidays were amazing. There were hundreds of homemade ravioli sitting on the dining room table, covered with a white sheet, waiting for my folks and aunts and uncles to feast on. A huge pizza with spinach tucked inside the crust was so delicious. Apple pies were baked in huge pans, light, flaky and also delicious. Struffoli, known today as honeyballs, sat in a box inside the enclosed front porch until Grandma would bring them to the table.

In my eyes my unassuming Grandma, with all this talent, was magic. In my early teen years, I discovered I loved to cook. I inherited the culinary gene, thanks to those sleep-overs and hanging out in the kitchen with Grandma.

Our frequent weekend trips to Brooklyn to feast at an aunt's house were an amazing adventure. A huge table made of plywood on "horses" held an array of Italian delicacies that would give some of today's food shows real competition.

Years had passed and I got married. I would tell Grandma about my manicotti from scratch and she would smile and praise me in her heavy accent. I basked in her praise and I was grateful to be a "chip off the old block" so to speak.

I, too, am a Grandma, now. When my two grandsons were very small, we had our special time of making cookies, sometimes for holidays and sometimes, just for fun. I think they ate more raw dough before they even became cookies. What a mess we made -- what fun and memories we also made. There were games to play, a TV show to watch and colorful fall leaves to collect. I hope they'll recall these times as I often do.

I realize there is a day in September to celebrate Grandparents, but can it be only one day a year? Grandparents give hugs and smiles and praise to their grandchildren all year around. They have tears in their eyes as they watch them perform at school concerts or when the grandchildren receive an award from a sport or activity they worked hard to achieve.

In the coming years. I would like to think that this grandma and grandpa have given our grandsons some "magic moments" to remember. I know I will not only remember the joys of this journey one day a year, I will remember the blessings always.

--Diane Sciacchitano, North Massapequa

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