Nonno was a barber who played Billy Joel records all day long. His favorite song–Scenes from an Italian Restaurant–is also mine. My memories of him are dim since I wasn’t even three when he passed away and yet I feel the legacy he left in our family so strongly. From everything I know, he was just one of those truly extraordinarily awesome people. He loved people well. He was funny and he had integrity. So maybe that’s why I’ve always loved Billy Joel. It’s a connection to him. I think of him, singing the words under his breath in his shop while I sing them too.
I was fortunate enough to see Billy Joel at Wrigley a few weeks ago–with my nonna, aunt, and dad–Nonno’s wife, kids, and first grandchild: me. I can’t say I only love Billy Joel for Nonno because let it be known: all of the people I attended the concert with? They are older than me. They are of different generations. And yet, who knew all the words? This girl.
I think the concert was different for all of us (Dad and Nonna sat by some crazy fools making it a little less than fun for them) so maybe it’s kind of like the song and we were living Scenes from a Billy Joel Concert. But standing there singing at the top of my lungs (bet everyone loved that) with my family, I danced and even teared up when he brought up men and women in the armed forces during Goodnight, Saigon. And I waited for the song, Nonno’s song. He was on my mind the whole night.
And I thought, when the song was finally played: isn’t this kind of magical? That the four of us are here singing Billy Joel with the city of Chicago as a back drop as a famiglia? We are a part of his legacy and here we are and bad things have happened, hard things. Some of those things are still happening. We’re still trying to fight through it. But we are okay too. We are making it–not always well and definitely not perfectly. But here we are, the four of singing the words to a song my nonno sung and loved, a song that might be the soundtrack to our family: Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. And I found the whole thing kind of beautiful.
My nonno listened to this record until it was broken. When I hear this song, I have allllll the feelings. I kind of picture him saying this to me: “I’ll meet you anytime you want at our Italian restaurant” meaning we’ll be together again. #ScenesFromAnItalianRestaurant #BillyJoel #wrigley #?? (also concert was greaaaaaat!)
Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence dancing on the piano during Uptown Girl were icing.
Sometimes I feel like the memory keeper in my family because I know that my family may be reading this and thinking: I mean, it was a great concert, Nina but I didn’t think too deeply about it. And that’s okay. That’s wonderful. Because I love being the memory keeper, I love collecting stories that happened before I was even born, because it’s all a part of a larger puzzle, a legacy, a history, a story. I don’t mind guarding the memories or putting the words to them. In fact, I can’t exactly help it. I’ll collect the scenes and someday they will be a song.