I used to throw my cousin Michael off the back of a fire truck when we were little.

Michael and I on Christmas Eve 2013 (with our aunt Grace in the background)

All of my cousins are younger than me, so it’s natural that, over time, I’ve developed soft spots for each one of them. I have six cousins and Michael is – hands down – the one I’ve always had a motherly instinct for. He was a cute little kid who, though Italian, looked not-so-Italian; he had white peach fuzz all over his face and ginger hair. Show me an Italian with ginger hair and I’ll show you a purple watermelon – they just don’t exist!

Michael and I have always had very similar interests. We both love nerdy things like comic books, war epics, wizards, dragons, and Lord of the Rings. We’re both relatively quiet individuals in a sea of family members who are overly loud and madcap (did I mention we’re Italian?). We use our eyes to communicate when mostly everyone around us uses their hands to express themselves. I’ve always said that Mike and I are more like brother and sister rather than cousins. We come from the same mold and were crafted from the same pot of ingredients.

Wedding 1
Michael & I, July 2017

As for the possibly abusive undertone of this post’s title, yes I used to push Michael off the back of a fire engine. Him and his older brother Adam used to have this awesome red fire engine that a couple of kids could sit in and drive around. We used to zoom around my aunt and uncle’s basement in this contraption on the daily and because Michael was the youngest, he always got shoved in the back of the truck where it was easiest to fall off. He’d tumble off the back and start crying immediately and me and Adam would laugh (sorry Mike). But, without fail, I’d climb out of the fire engine, scoop Michael up in my arms and kiss him until he stopped whimpering. Deep down, despite his tears, I knew he secretly enjoyed this whole process. Right, Mike?

I got Michael one of his very first jobs at Toys R Us. I had worked at our neighbourhood store for four or five years and when I heard that they were hiring, I thought of my cousin right away. Hmmm … who would I love to spend more time with? Michael! He got the job and he stayed on for years after I eventually left. We trusted each other and knew what made each other tick. We were so close we could practically read each other’s minds – and still can.

Sometimes I look at my cousin and think how incredibly lucky I am to have him in my life (and it’s the same with ALL my cousins, not just Mike). Our family unit has always been incredibly close and tight-knit and we all grew up doing everything together; strawberry picking, cottage jaunts up North, going to the cinema together, colouring in the same colouring books and using the same container of broken Crayola crayons, and making castles with wooden building blocks and reluctantly knocking them down when the adults told us it was time to clean up and go to bed.

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Alessandra & Michael on their wedding day.

Michael got married just over a week ago and I caught myself crying a handful of times that day. Him and his wife Alessandra are two peas in a pod and I couldn’t imagine my cousin with anyone else. They compliment each other beautifully and their love and respect for each other is clearly evident. I cried because I was so unbelievably happy for him. He’s my baby cousin and to see him marrying the woman of his dreams in front of the whole family was almost a surreal experience. Truly, it’s the happiest I’ve ever been – the feeling was one of euphoria.

Michael, you’ve made me – all of us, in fact – so so proud. I’ve watched you grow up from a little tyke being thrown off the back of a fire truck to a wonderful man who is unlike any man I’ve ever met. I’ve cradled you in my arms and held you till you stopped crying when you were little. I’ve given you the biggest bear hugs when everyone else around us greeted each other with two-cheek air kisses. I’ve sat next to you at every family gathering because there was no one else I’d rather be side-by-side with. We’re certainly a pair, aren’t we?

Love you to the moon and back xx

She knows the human heart and how to read the stars

I’ve wanted to post new content on here for the past couple of weeks but every time I start writing something, I abandon it halfway through and ultimately delete it. The last thing I attempted putting together died a horrible death after I had written three whole paragraphs. I’m not entirely certain what happened, but I suspect my despondent mood had a lot to do with it.

The trouble is this: when I’m not feeling my best or my most confident, the words just don’t come out. Or, if they do, they tumble out of my brain and land on the page haphazardly and every which way. When I read them back, hoping to hit the “Publish” button, they make absolutely zero sense. Rather than spend the next three-and-a-half hours – perhaps even four hours – editing these random sentences down to a post that is relatively coherent, I just end up trashing it. It’s easier that way.

I don’t want to come off as permanently joyless and dry-as-a-raisin, but the past six months have been absolutely horrible ones for me. Things were looking up in April/May but promptly fell to the ground straight after in June and I haven’t completely recovered from that. Yes, my grandmother died and yes, the apartment I purchased four years ago got delayed again (for a third time) and yes, a romantic relationship that I had hoped would blossom into something more lasting faltered. All this, plus I had to forego seeing my best friend in the UK when I was forced to cancel the trip to London I had started planning back in Autumn 2016. I haven’t seen Katie for over two years. Let me repeat myself: she’s my BEST FRIEND. Can you imagine not seeing your bestie for more than two years? Worse, can you imagine having planned a trip to see her and then, at the last minute, having to cancel that trip while your grandmother lay dying in a hospital bed?

No, I thought not.

All this … this is precisely why my mood level has been below zero recently. And do you know what? I have no idea how to fix it. At this point, I don’t even care anymore – I don’t give enough fucks to rectify the situation. I’m just gonna sit here – or lie down – and wait for something to change. Wait for someone else to come my way (preferably brandishing a bunch of red roses and a Chapters/Indigo gift card worth $2,000) to take this incessant ache in my chest away. Imma wait right here. You carry on.

And everyone who’s been posting about #InternationalKissingDay on social media can go fuck right off.

Whisper tales of gore

I like to think I’ve got it all figured out, but in actuality, I literally have no fucking clue what the world is trying to tell me right now. Should I pack it all in and start over? Should I continue on the road I’m currently on and just bulldoze my way through everyone in my way, not giving a shit who I trample or sit on? Should I buy a bouncy castle, put it in my backyard and eat squishy giant marshmallows whilst hopping from one castle corner to the other? Should I do what comes naturally and proceed to buy copious amounts of fantasy novels I won’t actually get to reading until five years from now?

Yes, I’ll do that. The bouncy castle was way too expensive anyhow, I could have bought a small farm for that price.

See, this is what I do when I’m feeling inadequate/disappointed/irate/annoyed; I say – or, in this case, I write – silly, nonsensical things that make absolutely no fucking sense. Ultimately, this makes me smile and isn’t that the point? Isn’t that the best way to get yourself out of a funk? Well, aside from smelling 100-year-old library books? Smiling kills shitty moods and it kills enemies. Smiling (and giving the middle finger) is my subtle way of saying “Fuck You” to everyone who’s upset me or disappointed me in the last two week period.

You know what else makes me feel better? A long-haired, shirtless horse trainer called Tristan Ludlow. Be right back — gonna go watch Legends of the Fall now and pretend I’m Tristan’s plaything. What a joyful scenario that would be *le sigh*

Hey now, hey now, don’t dream it’s over

Nonna noun (among Italian speakers) a person’s grandmother

Nonna died just under a week ago. You know what I’m gonna miss most of all? Her laugh. No wait! The sound of her voice when she yelled at me. No, really. Her voice was a fucking work of art – high pitched, searing, and unbelievably comical all at the same time. As I grew older, I couldn’t help laughing hysterically every time I heard her yelling (and that just made her yell even more – with a certain naughty glint in her eye ’cause she knew I secretly enjoyed it).

I’m going to miss all the Chapman’s Neopolitan ice cream she used to feed me (the one that came in the big rectangular cardboard box) and all the glasses of full fat homo milk she used to force down my throat. Who even drinks homo milk anymore?! Come to think of it, maybe all that homo milk is what triggered the dairy allergy that came to plague me in my late 20s. Way to go, Ma.

All those years we spent Christmas Eve at her and my Nonno’s house when I was growing up will forever be some of the best days of my life. My Dad’s side of the family would all congregate at my grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner and present-opening every single year without fail until my Nonno died ten years ago and it got to be too much for just my Nonna to host on her own. I will never forget how excited I used to get during the car rides over there – I literally used to bounce up and down in the backseat from the moment we pulled out of our garage to the moment we rolled up my grandparents’ uphill driveway.

My Nonna taught me it was okay to want to be on my own. There’s no shame in wanting some quiet time for yourself and for wanting everyone else to go away for a little while. In one of the last conversations I had with her, she told me that it’s not worth it to settle. Don’t settle down with the wrong person and start a family just to say “I did it.” She’s actually one of the main reasons why I finally decided to start travelling solo. She’s the one who spoke no nonsense and always gave it to me straight, no matter if the truth was harsh or disappointing. That’s what life is after all – it’s not always rainbows and butterflies (no matter how much Mariah Carey tells us it is). It’s pain, it’s struggle, it’s hope, it’s effort, it’s joy, it’s perfection, but fuck it’s HARD.

What would she say to me now, now that she’s resting and is (finally) at peace? Would she say she forgave me for ruining her flowerbed all those years ago when I didn’t know any better? Would she tell me how much she admired my pluck and nerve when I sang along (super-loudly) to George Michael’s I Want Your Sex in Venezuela when I was all of six years old? Trust me, my family still talks about it.

I think she’d be proud of me – well, she was always proud of me – but I think she’d be particularly proud of how I handled her death. I didn’t cry, I didn’t break down, I kept it together at her wake and at the funeral, I stoically stood beside my sister while she spoke the eulogy and I wrapped my arms around my cousin as she quietly wept at the cemetery. I offered hugs and encouragement to anyone who needed them and I stood by my father as he watched his mother’s coffin slide inside the vault, right beside my Nonno’s coffin that had been placed there a decade ago.

This is not me tooting my own horn. Rather, this is me attributing all of my compassion, my backbone, and my ability to care for others to my Nonna. From my youngest days to my oldest, she was there. No matter how many sofa cushions my cousins and I used to build a fort in her living room, Nonna never got mad. She would hand us some more pillows and drape a blanket over us, making sure we were happy, warm, and staying out of trouble. She raised us right. Her way.

Thanks Ma xo

I’m doing the best I ever did, now go away

Sitting here now in the relatively peaceful atmosphere of the outskirts of Toronto, I’m thankful I’m far away from what’s happening in other parts of the world. If I had gone through with my UK trip as planned, I would have been flying home today from London and if I’m being completely honest, I probably would have been an utter mess of soggy marshmallows right about now. Navigating my way through Heathrow and its endless hallways of security checkpoints and military presence would have played havoc with my frail mind, let alone actually boarding a plane filled with equally on-edge passengers praying into their barf bags that they’ll make it home safely in one stinking piece.

So there’s that.

On the other hand – and totally unrelated to the pompous, uneducated losers populating our world and filling it with unmitigated hate – things seem to have calmed down a smidgen here at home. Yes, we’re still waiting for grim death to take hold of my grandmother and (finally) offer her relief and yes, we’re still stressed and frazzled beyond belief but we’re coping. I think we’ve got the hang of it now (it’s only taken us a grand total of seven fucking months to get it right). We seem a lot more sedate than we previously were and we’ve finally begun laughing again. That’s what was missing the most – the laughter. If there’s one thing my silly family excels at, it’s the ability to laugh at anything and anyone at any given time of the day or night (yes, even when we’re fast asleep). Chuckles, giggles and guffaws are what keep us going. To hell with everything else!

Must dash – the new Doc Marten boots I ordered for my birthday – thanks Sabrina – have arrived and I so desperately need to commence spending the next two years – possibly three – breaking ’em in. It’s a hard struggle, life.