The Italian half of my family is from McCloud, CA, a tiny logging/railroad town near the base of Mt Shasta.
Sisi means ‘aunt’ in Italian and I grew up around a whole crew of Sisi’s.
My grandma was Sisi Angie. Her sister was Sis Baker. There was my Nana’s sister, Sisi Bread. There was Sisi Mary from my grandpa’s side and Sisi Kay was one of my Nono’s sisters.
Sisi Baker was Caterina (Americanized to Catherine), named after my Nana’s mother. The same name as my daughter.
Sisi Baker, my parents and I all lived in Redding, CA so we used to go and visit her all the time. My grandma and Nana would be there and my mom would sit with them around the kitchen table and talk. Sisi Kay smoked so we didn’t stay long when she was in town.
I’d sneak off to watch TV in the den as often as I could but I spent some time at the table with them. I wish it had been more. I wish I’d paid more attention.
My visits got more sporadic after I moved away but I loved seeing Sisi Baker, her hair fluffy and pure white. I’d ask her how she was doing and she’d always answer “Fat and sassy!” Then she’d pat my belly and ask “What’s this? What are you hiding under here?”
She died while I was on vacation in Maine in 2012. I sent cards to her nursing home a few times but I don’t remember the last time I talked to her.
She and my Uncle Bud used to get into wicked fights.
He’d sit in the living room watching TV while we were talking in the kitchen. He’d get up every few minutes and turn the volume up one notch. Like a frog in a pan of slowly warming water, you wouldn’t notice the sound until it was deafening.
Sisi Baker would yell at him to turn the TV down. He’d yell back that he couldn’t hear over the talking and then they’d be screaming at each other. One of them would turn the TV back down and the process would start all over again.
I never understood the two of them together.
But I miss those evenings at her house.