Driving with Nonna

Driving with Nonna is always an adventure. And I mean that in every sense of the Merriam-Webster definition: an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks. Getting in the car with Nonna is an undertaking that often involves danger on some level and always involves unknown risks.

Like when she breaks into song, lunges over the front seat to redirect your driving, and/or hits on passengers in other vehicles.

Why would Nonna’s singing cause danger?  Because she makes up her own lyrics, and then hits you on the back of the head (while you’re driving) when you don’t sing along to the song, with her lyrics. In the spring, driving back from my Uncle Johnny’s place in Chicago, that John Mayer song “Say” came on the radio. Nonna broke out into her own rendition, with swaying dance moves and baritone melodies. It was hysterical, beautiful, and utterly distracting. And while she was serenading Gramps and me, Nonna gave a little smile and wink at a line of Harley riders passing us, and laughed her belly-filled laugh when one waved back.

She stopped singing just long enough to say “I’ma rrrreally frrrriendly!”

We made it home in one piece, and I tried to prompt her to sing on film, even trying it with “her” lyrics. It’s not nearly as remarkable as her car performance, but you get the idea:

Then more recently my best friend Angie and I embarked on another Chicago-bound trip with my two 80+ year old grandparents. We drank big cups of coffee and prepared ourselves for a constant stream of consciousness aimed our way for 2 hours down and back. On our drive home, we were all having pleasant conversations – my grandfather and I in front, and my Nonna and Angie in the back seat. As we passed the familiar 7-Mile Fair signs, Nonna lunged forward and screamed “WAIT! YOU GOTTA TAKE-A RAWSON AVENUE!”  Angie, God bless her, patiently asked Nonna why we’d get off at that exit, when ours was much further ahead on I-94.  Nonna said, “Because, eh, what do you think? I know what I’ma doing.” I, not nearly as patiently as sweet Angie, reminded Nonna that I’M driving and know EXACTLY where I’m going, and that she shouldn’t scream orders at the driver because it causes accidents. I also reminded her that there’s no good reason to take Rawson, because whatever construction Nonna thought there was on the freeway, there wasn’t. To which Nonna simply replied:

“I love-a Rawson. It’s a little cutie street.”  How do you argue with that? I exited at Rawson.

And finally, my most recent experience driving with Nonna happened just two nights ago, when my car broke down for the 5,000,000th time. The tow-truck man offered me a frequent-tower card (not funny dude, not funny) as he dropped me and my rebellious car off at my grandfather’s warehouse. Gramps graciously came to pick me up at the warehouse and drop me off at my apartment, as all were in the same little town. So at 10pm, Gramps pulls up with a little Nonna in his passenger seat. I took over the driver’s seat for the ride home, and as I climbed in Nonna was all giggly and bouncy like a little kid.  “Wow, this is an eesighting night!”  **I love how she says exciting – someday I will have to get it on film.

We start to drive home, windows open, me venting about my dying car, Nonna just listening quietly in a very unusual, un-Nonnalike manner.  And as we sit at the red light near my home, me still blabbing, Nonna still listening, a little Honda pulls up next to us with its windows down and a handsome young man behind the wheel. Nonna takes a long puff of her cigarette, smiles her wide smile, gives a little wink, and says, “Hello Sweetie.”

Perhaps it was her tone; perhaps it was her overall delivery. But the driver’s face looked like Donkey’s in the first Shrek, after their introduction to DuLoc:

The light turned green, Nonna gave another wave with her cigarette-free hand, and I just leaned over and said, in my best Nonna Voice, “She’s not hitting on you…she’s justa rrrrrreally frrrrriendly!”

We accelerated through the light, laughing together as Nonna said over and over “I am! It’s-a true! I am! I’ma soooooo frrrrriendly!”

17 thoughts on “Driving with Nonna

  1. Court’…Another Nonna gem! (Remind me to tell’a you about the time in San Bernardino–a city well known at the time for its drag-racing on Friday nights…ANYWAY, my dear roomie & I were headed to a Halloween party in her fast white Firebird. We were stopped at an intersection, when two young guys pulled up next to us, most likely to check out if we were fresh flirt material–until they realized that the occupants were, in the driver’s seat, a nerd with a unibrow, and–me–a carrot, with head cocked forward to accommodate my tall crown of green. Speaking of green, the light couldn’t turn fast enough for those poor young guys, especially after the unibrowed nerd winked at ’em!…She-a friendly, too! 🙂 )

  2. I too can’t wait for the next episode. If you know the story behind the story, it is riveting. If you know some back ground (i.e. it is a 1993 Labaron an arranged marriage), it is even more “can’t miss tv” ) but we can leave it to the screen writers too fill in those blanks. I encourage you to be more prolific but know the real story is still in process. It is like a Harry Potter story only it is happening real time. Can’t wait for this next story. Also love the inserts of the “live action” I am proud of you and ggod luck with your new roomies! LOL

    • Eric I love that you read it! So next Christmas, when all hell is breaking loose in the Zanardi household, we can just laugh together at the funny parts 🙂 And we’ll have Nonna sing us her version of “Santa Clause is coming to Town” and John Mayer’s “Say”!

  3. I aloooooove this awebsite!!! I thought when I saw you and Nonna on the video how similar and fun you both are. Her lyrics were good. I laughed when you took Rawson. I think more like you than Angie when responding to backseat drivers. I wish a Nonna would wink at me time while I was driving. 🙂 Good post! 5 stars!

  4. Some day you are doing to look back on these entries and smiiiiiiiile and be so glad you wrote about your life with nonna. I’m so glad I get to read about it. 🙂 Keep the stories coming, girl.

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