Linda and Susan walked together to Molly’s house early the next morning wearing play clothes, their best party dresses folded neatly in their school bags. Linda had arranged that Mom would drive Nonna over at 10:15, once all of Linda’s classmates had arrived. Most of the work at been completed the night before, but the yard needed to still be set up. They had painted several Italian flags on old newspapers. These were going to be hung on the garage and on the back porch. They didn’t have a patron saint statue, but they had improvised by painting a picture of San Geranno carefully copied from the encyclopedia. Linda hoped that Nonna wouldn’t mind. Molly’s sister Jill had helped them to make paper flowers in white, green, and red to decorate the porch rail and her brother Ricky had set up several yard games for entertainment. Mrs. Gilford had helped more than anyone by being the chief chef. She had eyed the list of recipes doubtfully when Linda and first presented them hopefully, but had pulled through with help from rations spared from Susan and Linda’s family, some pasta that came graciously from their pizza-loving Italian neighbor, and of course the great crop of tomatoes grown in the victory garden. Linda was confident that there was enough delicious food for each of her classmates to have at least a sample of spaghetti, lasagna, and of course pizza.
Once everything looked perfect, the girls ran inside to wash up and change into their party clothes. They reemerged just in time to see their first guest coming up the sidewalk. It was Alison, and she carried with her a covered dish.
The girls greeted her and Emily exclaimed, “Oh, a trifle! I haven’t had trifle since before the war began, there was just never enough sugar.”
“Yes,” said Alison sheepishly. “I wanted to bring something, but my mom didn’t know any Italian recipes. So, I brought something from my own English heritage! I got the idea from Emily’s cookbook project. We had to change it some, there is less sugar than what the recipe called for, but I think it will still taste good!”
“I think that’s great,” said Linda, grinning. “We aren’t in Italy, or even Little Italy, so I don’t think everything has to be perfectly Italian. I don’t think Ricky’s ring-toss game or hoop shooting contest are Italian, either.” The girls giggled and made room on the food table for Alison’s trifle.
Much to Linda’s surprise, many of her other classmates brought food as well. There were German dishes, Swedish dishes, and just plain American food. Linda was glad that there would be plenty of food for everyone, and was even happier that her classmates had been inspired to find their own traditional recipes, largely thanks to Emily’s project.
At 10:15 Linda heard the honk of mom’s car horn in the driveway. She ran to the front to help a bemused Nonna out of the passenger seat. “I have a surprise for you, Nonna,” she said breathlessly as she and Mom led her to the backyard. “I didn’t want you to miss the Feast of San Genarro this year, so…” she spread her arms wide gesturing to the scene before them in the backyard, hoping Nonna understood. Nonna surveyed the scene for a moment while Linda waited anxiously. When Nonna finally turned to look at her, there were tears in her eyes. Linda wasn’t sure what to say, but she didn’t have to because her grandmother and pulled her into a tight embrace.
While Linda’s classmates spoke politely to Nonna and Molly brought her a plate of food, Linda looked up at Mom.
“Are you nervous?” Mom asked.
“Yes, but I think I’m ready,” Linda replied steadily.
Linda climbed to the top of the porch steps and cleared her throat. She looked out at her guests; her whole class was there, as was Mrs. Littlefield. Molly’s family, who had graciously helped her to host, were looking at her attentively. Joey was there too, and there was Mrs. Gilford. Even just a few weeks ago, she never in her wildest dreams would have imagined she would be doing what she was about to do. She cleared her throat again and announced, “Nonna is an opera singer and has been teaching me to sing. One day, if I work hard, maybe I will be as good as she is is. I would like to dedicate this performance to her.” Mom gave her the starting note on the piano through the open window to the McIntire’s living room and Linda began to sing the aria Nonna had been teaching her. It wasn’t perfect, and probably couldn’t even be considered to be operatic, but she had worked hard to memorize the Italian words and was able to sing with confidence and a steady voice, just like Nonna had taught her.
When she was finished her guests applauded and she found Nonna’s face beaming at her through the crowd. She made her way down the steps to her grandmother and looked up at her shyly. “What a beautiful gift, dear,” she said through the tears that again misted her eyes. “I feel more at home than I have in weeks. Next year,” she said, suddenly sounding mischievous, “We will sing a duet!”
Linda watched happily as the rest of the party unfolded. Her classmates seemed to enjoy the food, Ricky showed off with his hoop-shooting, and Nonna began to give a group singing lesson. While she watched, Linda began to scheme the solution to her next problem: securing Mittens a place inside. She was on the verge of approaching Nonna with a carefully thought-out argument when she observed Molly and Alison having their singing posture strictly critiqued by Nonna. Linda grinned and sat back down on the porch steps. Nonna was still Nonna. One thing at a time.
Disclaimer: this is purely a work of fan fiction, written for my own enjoyment. It is based on characters and events portrayed in Molly’s book series. These were written by Valerie Tripp and are copyrighted property of American Girl.