The product of an Italian father and Irish mother, I should be … well, explosive. (One guy actually backed away from me after being told my ethnic background.) The way Mom tells it, I was a very homely newborn (true — I’ve seen the photos) who looked up at her with so much love in my eyes that she couldn’t help but melt. Mom and Dad always wanted a large family, but apparently God had different plans. I have one sister.

I have few memories of being a toddler in Mt. Sterling, a farm town just outside of Columbus. I recall the smell of home-grown hamburgers sizzling in a skillet on the stove, an incredibly beautiful-yet-treacherous ice storm, cows keeping an eye on my sister and I as we swung on a backyard swing set, and bubble gum and penny candy from a local store. Funny, the things that stick with us.

Most of my childhood memories are from the eastern side of the state. Like Walt, I grew up in the shadow of a steel giant, the long-since-defunct Youngstown Sheet and Tube. Back in the day, a gal was thought to have “landed a good one,” if engaged to be married to a YS&T worker.

When I was four, we moved to a home that was cozily sandwiched among family. Mom’s twin sister’s family lived directly across the street. They had five children, including a set of twin girls (yes, a twin had twins). Our back yard linked with that of Dad’s only sister, adding six more cousins, including yet another set of twins (boy and girl). Minutes away lived Mom’s only brother, with his wife and six children, including — I’m not kidding — twin boys. I was blessed to grow up under the nurture of loving and supportive parents, with cousins as close to my heart as they were in proximity, and aunts and uncles who always welcomed me and treated me as their own. My sister and I now felt we were part of a large family.

Eventually, many of us settled here in Northwest Ohio, including my parents, and one set of cousins. My three grown children have always been very close to my parents. Their father and I divorced years ago, but “Grandma and Grandpop” have been a constant in their lives. They have been an unending source of stability, love, and support. All three often express how thankful they are to have so many quality years with their grandparents. We have much for which to be thankful, on this northwest shore of Erie.

Marie Elena


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