After a courageous battle with lung cancer, my Mom, Rita Petti, died on Thursday, November 11th. Chemotherapy was too hard on her body and she died of complications of the treatment. We thought we had more time with her. Although we are terribly sad, we are trying to count our blessings. We are grateful that she did not suffer through a long and drawn out battle. We are grateful that she was aware and made all her own decisions right to the end. But, we are most grateful that we were able to tell her how we felt and she was able to tell us.
I want to tell you a little bit about my Mom because I think it explains a lot about me and my love of Christmas and what I do.
My Mom was born in 1938 and lived through the depression in Italy. She was one of 9 children. For some reason her parents sent her to live with her grandfather and his wife in a small village. Although times were difficult, she was loved and these were the good years of her childhood. When her grandparents died she was sent back to live with her parents. This began a period of neglect and abuse. In an attempt to help her, a dear aunt arranged for her to come to Canada as a fiance. Her uncle worked with a young man (my Dad) who agreed to help and all the paper work was done. She arrived in Canada at 17 and fell in love with my Dad. She was 18 when they married. I was born soon after. This photo on the right is from her passport.
My earliest memories as a child are of lavish, colorful Christmas trees, food and toys and gifts under the tree. I remember the excitement as a five year old opening a box to find the Thumbelina doll I had wished so hard for. I remember the magic of the ballerina in my tiny jewellery box. I remember huge dinners, candy and pastries. I look at pictures and see I was always dressed in beautiful party dresses. Dresses I later learned she made from cutting her wedding dress. No matter what was going on in our family, Christmas was a huge celebration. She worked hard to create the magic she never had. It worked. The excitement of the holidays started building weeks before with baking, shopping and decorating. To this day I still do the same with my own family. This photo was taken around Christmas 1985. Here she is with my children when they were little.
In the last few years we learned a lot about my Mom’s past and the reason she did a lot of the things she did. She collected toys and stuffed animals. She loved having a supply available for grandchildren and great grandchildren. When my Dad would complain she would say “I never had toys as a child . . . I want them now”. The food was always incredible – family gatherings were always bountiful and at times excessive – later we learned to make up for the times she was often denied food as a child.
Regardless of the hardships she endured as a child, my Mom overcame and made up for it by lavishing her own family with love. Unconditional love. Not only at Christmas, on birthdays and other celebrations, but everyday. She wasn’t a pushover but she was fair and we all loved and respected her. This photo was taken two years ago on her 70th birthday with her three children. That’s me in the top left, my sister Sandra and my brother Emanuele.
We will miss her so much. As sad as this past week has been we have continued to learn about our mother. She touched a lot of people and will be remembered not only by her family but by an endless circle of friends.
This was her favorite poem. It’s been pasted on her refrigerator for years. We had it printed on her memorial card.
The Time is Now
If you are ever going to love me, Love me now, while I can know.
The sweet and tender feelings, which from true affection flow.
Love me now, while I am living.
Do not wait until I’m gone, and then have it chiselled in marble, sweet words on ice cold stone.
If you have tender thoughts of me, please tell me now.
If you wait until I am sleeping, never to awaken, there will be death between us, and I won’t hear you then.
So if you love me, even a little bit, let me know it while I am living, so I can treasure it.