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Francesca Galbo

What's In a Name?

By: Francesca Galbo
College Now Course - BSS 1

Ever since I was a little girl, I had a problem with my name. Well I'm not a little girl anymore, so I suppose I've grown into it. I guess it always bothered me because I was always the one that stuck out amongst all of those "Danielle"s and "Samantha"s. However, I've come to realize that not only does my name make me unique, but it represents an important part of my past.

My great grandmother Francesca was an amazing person. Unfortunately, I'll never know just how amazing she was, considering she died before I was born. All I know is that she left Italy to come to America, bringing along a child (my grandma) and a very strong language barrier. She was very poor, and had a very hard life. I only know what my mother tells me. After all, she would know best. My mother was very close to my great grandmother; they took care of each other. When my great grandmother was dying, my mother vowed to name her first and only child Francesca. Lord only knows how she knew her first and only child would be a girl, but nevertheless, I'd say it's pretty lucky that I was.

Throughout the years I have learned that I share much more with great grandma then my name. As it turns out we have a lot in common. We're obstinate, opinionated, independent, and we both, as most Italians do, love food. My mother often reminds me how strong of a connection I share with 'Grandma Francesca'. For this reason, my mother gave me a family heirloom on my sixteenth birthday. I inherited a gold ring with an engraved F. It belonged to my great grandmother, and now it belongs to me...and always will.

Since Grandma Francesca was a very important part of my family, we still carry out some of her famous traditions. There is one special way my mother and I bond during the Christmas season, and that is making Grandma Francesca's famous struffles; or, as they are more commonly known, 'Christmas balls'. When my mother was a little girl she used to spend her time in my great grandma's apartment, watching roll out the dough, cut it into interesting shapes, and throw them into the BIG pot. Next they'd need to be fried, add some honey and sprinkles and enjoy! I'd watch my mother repeat this same process, sneaking a taste of dough now and then, wondering when I'd be able to help. Well, I've been participating in this tradition for the past three years now; and sure enough, in about two weeks I'll be back at the stove- wrapped in an apron waiting for the water to boil. Not only does this tradition help me to share a sort of 'baking bond' with my mother, it helps me feel closer to my late great grandmother as well.

As the Christmas season approaches, I can't help but think of other traditions that have been carried down from my 'typical Italian family' throughout the years. For instance, Christmas Eve, has always and will always be spent at my grandmother's house for dinner. While the whole family has always, and will always enjoy a nice big dish of ravioli. This tradition started with my great grandmother, and when the tradition can no longer be carried out by my grandmother, it will pass to my mother, and eventually, to me. However, I must admit this tradition has been slightly altered. My Grandma Francesca used to miraculously wake up at 4:30 in the morning to make her ravioli- from scratch. Well, the generations after her have taken a more lazy approach, stopping by Pastozas to pick up a few boxes of raviolis and then simply tossing them into the BIG pot

Finally, the last tradition would have to be after dinner Christmas Eve. Back at home, my family opens up presents. Yes, we open up presents on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. Let's just say I realized at a very early age there was no Santa Clause. My Grandma Francesca hated the hassle of waking up in the morning to watch her children, and her children's children open up what little she had to give. She figured that since Christmas Eve is pretty much a warm, loving family experience for everyone, why spoil it by continuing the next morning? So the tradition goes as follows: once each 'youngster' in the family has come to the realization that there is, in fact, no jolly bearded man in a red suit coming down the chimney, the gifts are to be open on Christmas Eve, after dinner. Personally, I like my Grandma Francesca's method. Since I am now a teenager, and sleep is a great interest of mine, that is how I like to spend my Christmas morning, like each morning of my life-sleeping. I am the only one in the family who really loves to follow this tradition. "It's because you're Francesca", says my mother. It's not because I'm Danielle, Samantha, Alexandra, or Nicole-it's because I'm Francesca, that's who I am.

I have come to realize that wherever I go, and whatever I do, my Grandma Francesca is with me somehow. All I have to do is look at her pictures, participate in one of her 'annual traditions', or stare at the gold ring on my finger, to feel she is by my side. I represent her in some way-whether it be my independence, stubbornness, or outspoken personality, she is a part of me. Like I said before, I never knew my great grandmother- but I sure wish I had. Because I know that one day, I will be 'Grandma Francesca"- carrying out the same traditions from my great grandmother, and making some new ones of my own.