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Life Story Club Contributor

One of my favorite family photos is us on vacation. We’re posing in front of this multicolored building. My brother and I are smiling and at the last second, my dad decided to kiss my mom on her cheeks and her eyes just like lit up just as the photographer went to take the picture. So like, that’s probably like one of my most cherished photos of my family.

So now it’s just my father, with me and my brother. We’re five years apart, which is nice. So we can help each other out a lot.

I’ll start talking about my parents. My mother’s name is Maria Misha Lottie Costa. She’s the youngest of three and was raised in South Ozone Park, New York. Queens. My dad, Alfredo Costa, is the oldest of five. He was born in Naples, Italy. First came to the US in the 70s. Had to return to fulfill military service. Didn’t end up doing that. He came back to the United States in 1981 and has been here ever since.

My dad worked his whole life, well, since he was 16, at a pizzeria, eventually owning his own, and having a venture in a Brazilian Trust, which was a really fun excursion for us because anyone who has had Brazilian cheese bread knows it is probably the most delicious thing on this planet.

And my mother kind of bucked the trend for her family. She was the first to go and graduate from college. She has a degree in computer sciences, so she was one of the amongst one of the first group of women to be working with computers in the computer industry in the 80s, which I love bragging about that. She’s like no “Russian woman were there first.” I was like, “I understand that. And also, you were there.”

My parents met in 1982, working at Forest Family Restaurant in Queens. And my mom really loves root beer. At the time, for some reason the root beer tap was in the pizzeria section of the restaurant where my dad worked. And she would go find any excuse to go get root beer just so she could go flirt with my father. And their first date was on New Year’s Eve going into 1983. My mom and her family were all Italian but the majority of our family is from Northern Italy, so they’re very tall.

All my uncles have size shoe 13 and over. My grandpa is a size 14/15 wide and they keep their shoes at the bottom of the stairs. This was the first time he was meeting her family ever. And he said, “When I opened the door and I saw the shoes at the front and I said, what did I get myself into?” Because he thought he’s walking into a home giant. But my grandmother, my maternal grandmother, is Sicilian so she and her family were on the shorter side.

From there, they dated for about five, six years. While they were engaged they separated for a time because my mom said, “Oh I can’t wait till we get married.” And my dad, in a one off comment, said, “I can’t wait to see my mother,” which did not sit well with Maria so she left the engagement ring on the table and said, “You need to figure out if you want to be with me or not.” And it only took about four months of separation before they got back together and then another year before they got married in 1988.

Then in the 90s they had two wonderful kids. And their careers evolved, especially my mom’s. She went from being not only computer programmer, but a loving mother. Everybody who has ever met her has had nothing but lovely to say to me about my mom. They immediately go, “Oh, you’re Isabella. She just can’t stop talking about you.” “Oh, you’re John–your mother just loves you. She doesn’t stop talking about you. She’s so proud of you and your accomplishments but she did tell me that you do bother her a little bit.”

So to connect with my mother’s friends in this time since she has passed has been really wonderful because not only do I like hearing how my mom used to express her emotions about me and her feelings about me and my brother. It’s also nice to see how her genuine kindness and compassion and selflessness towards everybody in the community, how she really impacted them. And how she really changed how they viewed working in a community that they didn’t really identify with. How they approach parenting, how they approached dealing with other people that they didn’t really want to deal with.

My mom is a huge yogi. She brought that into the house in like 2000 and worked with her colleagues at Verizon Wireless to learn not only mindfulness techniques, but how to destress and then even during her chemo treatments, she would work with patients that she met in the waiting room area, whose blood pressure was too high, to help them lower their blood pressure and relax a little bit before getting this like one blood test needed to make sure that you’re able to go get treatment that day, so that they didn’t have to wait another week to come back.

And working with like the nursing staff and even when she was in hospice, I watched her speak with the woman who was taking care of her, and they were having like a genuine heart-to-heart about relationships with difficult men, and I liked being a witness to that. That was really special because she had told me that she approached parenting a little bit like her father, which is like, I will never tell–even though she did tell me, and I knew she didn’t have to tell me–that she loved me. And even though I wanted to hear it. And she told me she approached parenting like her dad did which was a lot of bit of tough love, and then eventually you’ll get the softness. So to see her have this conversation with somebody in a way that I know she wouldn’t have been able to have with me because I’m not in relationship or I’m single. And so it’s like to witness and hear what she had to say with this woman. I was like, “Okay well I’m going to take that nugget for myself.” So it’s been a really interesting time reflecting on how my mom was as a parent, and as an individual, too, because sometimes that gets lost.

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