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Dancing Barefoot

Dancing Barefoot

Chiara Montalto (June 14, 2008)
Frank and Carmen, dancing.

Thoughts and memories on love and dancing.



 Hello there. Ciao. Welcome to my little corner of the world. I am so thankful to I-italy for this opportunity. This blog is named for one of the best gifts I have ever received, my most favorite tee shirt, which reads, over a slice of pizza, “Everyone Loves an Italian Girl.” That shirt, silly as it may seem, makes me very happy. I wear it with pride.
I was not, however, born in Italy, but Brooklyn, somewhere in the mid - seventies. Nor are my parents immigrants, they are also Brooklyn born. I am also the niece of a beloved Catholic priest, and granddaughter to Carmen (Carmelina), Frank,(Francesco) Andrew and well…I’m getting to that. The last of my generation on both my parents sides, all four of my grandparents were four of the grandest human beings I have known. Their impact on the woman I have become is indelible. My mother’s mother, Chiara, suffered that fate of many Italian-Americans. When she was in school a teacher declared her name too “unpronounceable”, and though it was never changed legally, she went through life, at various points as Chiara, Chiarina, Claire, and Clara. Though at different points in her life different people called her different names, to my brother and I, she was always just Nana. The latter of her names, Clara, to my dismay, is what her headstone reads. When I was born, my mother, in an act as much of rebellion as of tradition, named me Chiara. No one’s ever going to change that, but I do spend an awful lot of time and energy in explaining Italian pronunciation.
My connection to my grandparents has profoundly impacted the woman that I have become. My grandmother Chiara/Clara died years ago, when I was in college and living abroad in Spain. It was Easter, and I was literally stuck in Spain for a week after her death. Soon after I came home, I moved in with my grandfather Andrew, her husband. I was twenty, and he was eighty - six. My grandmother Chiara/Clara used to always say that she didn’t let her hair go gray until she saw me and realized that her granddaughter had her black hair (my mother, who we call “the German,” is more fair in complexion). I was at the start of my adult years, living with my eighty- six year old grandfather, and I was named for and looked exactly like his wife, who had just died. Crazy shit. The decade that I spent with my grandfather Andrew, and his recent death have been the most profound and important experiences of my life. He was the pillar that held me up, and his death shook my foundation to the core. He is a topic I will continue to return to, for the rest of my life.
My father’s parents sadly deteriorated with senility and Alzheimer’s disease, during the years I was living with my maternal grandfather. I am remembering in this moment my 16th birthday. My friends and I, we were the crazy, weird kids (that is, until Nirvana came out, then we were cool). And this is another bullet point about me- music is always a reference point. But I digress. Back to that 16th birthday. My friends and I- sitting around in our baby doll dresses, Doc Martens, post punk glory and adolescent angst, listening to the U2 cover of the Patti Smith song “Dancing Barefoot”- to this day, one of my favorites. On vinyl. Now, my father’s parents were VERY loving, sweet people; My grandfather Frank did everything he could to make my grandmother happy. They used to have a sign, that hung in their kitchen that read “I am the boss in this house and I have my wife’s permission to say so.” That little sign summed up their relationship perfectly, at least in their youngest grandchild’s eyes. And my grandmother loved to dance, in particular, the cha-cha-cha. It was her favorite. So right there, in the middle of a circle of angst- ridden, miserable adolescents, to a U2 cover a Patti Smith song, my grandfather Frank grabbed his Carmen, and they danced the cha-cha-cha. At the song’s end, he whacked her on the bottom, and announced to all my friends “ My girl- my girl’s still got it.”
I thought I’d die of embarrassment in that moment, but now, that story is the definition of what I’d like for my own life. That story encapsulates the love I am seeking, uncool and kitsch as it may seem. A love that gives no heed or call to time and space, stylistic differences or musical tastes. A love, that though it may advance in years and age, stays true to its eternal grace.

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Chiara, bella... This is so

Chiara, bella... This is so beautifully written. (it is not because you are my cousin that I say so!) I enjoyed every word. Please continue to brighten everyone's world with your beautiful stories!

This story really hit me, as

This story really hit me, as I had an intense and infinite connection with my Grandfather Frank, so much so I even changed my last name to his in honor of everything he taught me about love, family, and loyalty. I go to sleep now with thoughts not only of your beautiful story, but hope that I will find love like that in my life..... I will forever see the image of your Grandparents dancing!

iallonardo's picture

very nice post! i completely

very nice post! i completely agree with you, as my grandparents definitely, without a doubt helped shape the person I have become. . . and continue to grow into. o and also, i love my "everyone loves an italian girl" t-shirt too!

the blog...first post

Wonderful story...and of course, it brings back some of my memories.....your Great Grandpa, Louigi was beloved. He came to America and made a wonderful life for his family...your Grandpa Andrew and his siblings. The house he built in Brooklyn, where I grew up, still holds a huge place in my heart, and when they tore it down, after over 100 years, my heart broke...that house was so full of memories it could have become a museum!! Your Grandparents and your parents lived in that house with us, and those are some of my fondest memories....along with incredible Italiian dinners!!! Best wishes, Chiara... I am very proud of my modern/tradtional cousin... like the wedding band I gave you that belonged to your Great Grandmother...keeping the 'circle of family' is as precious as any ring of gold and is priceless.

La fotografia

Thanks for the beautiful foto and the beautiful story. On this Father's Day, it reminded me of my father Antonio Rubino and my mother Rosina. Keep your beautiful name and don't let anyone shorten it. My parents suffered the same fate with their first names. After they passed away, I found out that they were born with the Italian names above, although all their other documents showed Anthony and Rose. Now, of course, these things rarely happen when children born of foreign parents go to school, and it is the children who decide to keep their given names or change them. We must continue to honor our heritage and never forget or origins.