My most treasured Christmas memories include my Italian grandmother, the tiny woman who made everything she touched seem big. Take our big Christmas Eve-Chestnut Roasting tradition, for example…
Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. A belt-stretching feast on Christmas Day, followed by another on the 26th, the Feast of St. Stephen’s Day, and yet another on January 6th, when they celebrated the Epiphany.
My siblings and cousins had no trouble believing that Nonna saw Babbo Natale leave gifts under the tree, because the only way one tiny woman could prepare a feast like that all by herself was to start cooking and baking on Christmas Eve!
By the time we arrived on Christmas morning, the table was set and every burner on that big white stove held a steaming pot. We kids passed the time drawing pictures on the cooking-fogged windows while our dads read the newspaper and our moms carried baskets of homebaked bread and bowls piled high with homemade ravioli, gnocchi, fettuccini, and meatballs to the table.
My uncle once remarked that if we put a noise dosimeter on the table, the sound of laughter and the clink of utensils on plates would likely break the needle…and he was probably right!
Next, the piece de resistance: Dessert! Il panforte (gingerbread glazed with honey and hazelnuts), torrone (a nougaty delight made of honey, sugar, and egg whites and topped with toasted almonds), farfellette (flaky pastry bows topped with powdered sugar), and biscotti.
Every car that backed out of Nonna’s long driveway groaned under the weight of its food-filled occupants and bowls and bags of leftovers. “Buon Natale!” Nonna called, waving from her porch. And we rolled down our windows, counted one-two-three, and bellowed “Buon Natale, Nonna!” loud enough to rattle her neighbors’ windows.
Finally, stuffed to the gills, intoxicated by the memory of too-many knock-knock jokes and too much whipped cream, we fell into bed, exhausted but content.
And that’s what I wish for you, dear friends…a very Nonna Christmas.
Summer Lane is no damsel in distress. For the past two years, she's been battling her way back from her worst nightmare all by herself. So she doesn't need the fabulous former Marine Zach Marshall swooping in to save her.
But she needn't worry. Zach has hung up his shining armor. His instinct to rescue has only brought him heartache, and he's not about to risk it all again—even though everything about Summer makes him yearn to help. But she just might accept his challenge to step up and conquer her fears on her own. Even her deepest fears, like trust…and love.