adriana suriano
2 min readJan 5, 2023


my father and his sister, my zia, saw each other after 24 years. they lingered around each other. my father gingerly guiding her small slightly bent frame around the christmas day dinner table that was leaning precariously to the right. my father towereing a foot above her.

when she saw me, she said let me tell you a story. we walked to a different room in this tight but comfortable Milano flat her son, my cousin, lived in.

“Adriana,” (she said this to me in Italian, but my written skills are so poor, that I am recounting this in English)

“Adriana, listen to me. I am going to tell you what my nonna told me. When she died, my mother started to remind me of the message that has been passed down for generations.”

“Yes, Zia. Tell me.” my hands intertwined with her beautiful 77-year-old hands that are as cold as the mist in the air outside. Mine are warm with moist sweat dripping.

“Sono un Suriano!” Her tiny forearms forming these two fists that jolt in the air.

I mirror the same motion back. Much larger forearms from a combination of lifting weights at the gym and being 30–40 pounds heavier than every Italian I have seen so far.

“do you know what that means,” she grabs my face and squeezes and squishes my 51-year-old cheeks wrinkled and full of sunspots.

“What zia?”

“It means you are stronger than anyone around you. You never stay down. Never. You always get back up. Always.”

“Always, Zia?”




adriana suriano

i am a first generation italian-american who grew up in southern new jersey. Life is amazingly beautiful and devastating. Sometimes in the same day.