When I open my eyes my face is sticking to the plastic-covered, velvet green couch. I sit up and look in the mirror hanging on the wall above it. I’m a little girl. Grandma is near the stove, singing an Italian opera along with Pavarotti. Dressed in a clown suit, he's staring at me from the album cover on top of her record player. Whatever is cooking in the pot smells good. She offers me some lunch, but I shake my head, no. Italians eat everything, but little girls do not. I sip some ginger ale instead, looking around. It’s very warm in here, and that’s how grandma likes it. Dried wishbones are suspended on a nail above the fireplace. I listen to the squishing of her black Naturalizers as she walks around. She’s dressed in an apron and flowery house dress. We watch The Price is Right on television. I know every inch of this apartment. Throughout my life I’ll be drawn to the patterns and colors of this place, always grasping at things that remind me of her presence.
She puts her hands out and calls me to her, looking purely joyful at 80 years old. She grabs my face, squishing it a bit. I squirm.
“Bella principessa!” she exclaims. Do you know what that means?”
I try to shake my head, no.
“It means 'beautiful princess.' That’s what you are. Do you know that?”
I shrug. She pulls me close in a tight hug, and I can feel her bones. At the age of six, I can’t wait for this hug to end. Now, I sometimes dream about it.
This is my heaven. I drive past the apartment on the way to a friend’s house and slow down, staring at the entrance. Automatically, every time I pass, I feel tears forming, because I know that everything inside is different now. If I went through that door today, unannounced, I’d most definitely be arrested.
Actually, in my mind, I can go there anytime I want. After a nap on the plastic couch I always feel relaxed. Where’s your heaven?
Above Top: Santa LaCapria (Great-Grandma) in the 1940's, Second pic: With me @ 3 years old