My Nonna, Dina Morsiani,
lived through two world wars and a depression.
She and my Nonno Vittorio,
would rise early to operate the small bakery
that provided bread and pastries for their neighbors.
Although there was a church on the town square,
my Nonna preferred the quiet of the daily Mass
at the modest monastery chapel on the edge of town.
While we were youngsters she traveled from Italy
to live with us in Canada for a while
and provide some assistance for her daughter,
our young mother, in a new and unfamiliar land.
From time to time she would bring out her cards
- we called them Nonna's Cards -
which was actually a beautiful and worn Italian tarot deck.
I have only a vague remembrance of the cards
and what she said as she turned them over
and revealed their meaning.
Her interpretations were always benevolent
and hopeful no matter the gloomy and foreboding look
some of the cards appeared to have to our innocent eyes.
What I do remember keenly was our excitement
and enjoyment each time she brought out the cards;
our anticipation before and laughter after each reading.
And after they were put away,
we would soon be clamoring for their return.
Later I learned that my Nonna had been quite a reader
at home in her small town of Castello.
Both her husband and son (my Nonno and Zio)
were wary of her reputation as a tarot reader
to the point of forbidding her to do it.
So, as soon as the two of them would leave after dinner
for a glass of wine at the neighborhood osteria,
the word would quickly spread among her friends
that Dina was reading cards.
In my mind I picture them
furtively passing my Nonno in the narrow streets,
laughing as they arrive to gather around Nonna's table.
Then, around that table they shared dreams,
hopes, fears and failures, loves and disappointments,
illnesses and celebrations;
all evoked by Nonna's intriguing personality of intuition,
gentle inquisitiveness and a warm caring.
The imagery of the tarot meant
dispensing with pleasantries and small talk
and invited people to talk about
what was really on their hearts and in their lives.
No matter what the reading
of a particular night might bring,
the overriding message was about carrying on,
of enduring the predictable
and the unexpected that life brings.
The gathering at the table meant
that you were not alone
no matter the burdens of that day.
It seems to me that spreading
and reading the cards with her friends,
my Nonna Dina was acknowledging the depths,
foibles and aspirations of the human spirit;
and that our lives are enriched
and eased in their being shared.
I give thanks for her life
and for the memories she gave me.
- Carlo Busby