Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nonna Constantino

This past weekend, I got to talk to my Dad about his mother, Josephine (maiden name) Constantino. She died of cancer long before I was born, but I do have a relationship with her from beyond the veil.

I've heard a lot from her about cooking, while I'm preparing food, and lo and behold, it turns out she owned J's Luncheonette for a period of time, a place that served breakfast and lunch and later moved on to serving dinners!

My father has never really spoken of her to me, but recently, I've been asking more questions about her.

The red-haired Josephine was a "firebrand," according to my Dad, enjoying her Scotch and Chesterfield cigarettes. She went to church every Sunday and prayed frequently to Mary Magdalene (most interesting considering my own tight relationship with the Divine Miss M., as I like to call her). My dad thinks that her family was also from Calabria and perhaps one side was from Sicily (not surprising given the close proximity).

Most amazingly, my dad said she would cure him of the "malocchio." In Italian culture, this is the dreaded "evil eye" brought about my someone's envy, negative thoughts or hyper-fixation on another individual. My dad has memories of my grandmother doing something with olive oil and saying some special words to him, removing blinding headaches that he got as a child (prolonged headaches are seen as one of the symptoms of the malocchio). I've heard of the ritual involving olive oil, water, salt and special prayers, so this was incredible to hear that my grandmother was working some juju. The ritual is passed down among the women in the family, although I'd like to think she might have told me had she lived to know me.

How I wish I had met her in life...

(Above right is an image I found on the web of an Italian wise woman, ready with her bowl, to lift the malocchio.)

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