Before I start, I know I’m a little late to the game, and I was hoping to post sooner, but life got in the way.
Ok, so if you didn’t hear, let me share the news. The CNE is returning to Toronto this summer after two years without it, and it makes my heart smile! Some of you may be wondering why I care enough to write about it, and it’s simply because it’s something that means a lot to me.
Attending the CNE has been one of the biggest traditions in my family, which started back in 1971, the same year my parents got married. My dad took my mom that summer, and it became an annual thing. From just the two of them to a family of three, four and when I came along five. We never missed a year, and it was something we always looked forward to; it was such a big deal for us. We didn’t have family vacations growing up (except for two trips to visit family in Italy) or a cottage to escape to. Our life was pretty simple, but we had everything we needed, love, joy, happiness, laughter and good health.
Our annual visit to the CNE was the best! We would make it a full-day event with some rides, concerts, air show, food (we always had Pizza Nova, it was my dad’s thing) and games. My dad was all about the shooting games (he was a hunter, haha) and the gambling tables. I remember being a little girl by his side, wanting to put money down on the table to place a bet and see if we could double up my one-dollar bill (haha, I started our young). My dad and I always made sure to go see the horses, other farm animals and, of course, the dog show…OMG, we could watch that dog show over and over again, and we did, haha. We never missed it, and we always had a blast. As I sit here thinking about all the memories, I find myself smiling because those were some of the happiest times, those were the days!
As the years went by, the family grew, and the tradition continued. My nieces joined us, then my nephews and finally my Samantha and Liliana (and eventually Marcus). Not one year passed that we didn’t attend. I still remember sitting with my dad during the summer of 2015 while he was battling cancer, and he would often bring up the CNE as he knew it was approaching, and he would tell me that no matter what was to happen, I had to promise him that we would go that summer. I remember looking at him, trying to hold back the tears and say, “Papa, please don’t talk like that! You are gonna feel better, and we are all going to go together.” but he insisted I promise him and let me tell you, it wasn’t a promise I wanted to make. I couldn’t even think about attending without him, but I made him that promise because I knew how much it meant to him. Every few days, he would bring it up again to make sure that I knew just how important it was for him that we continue with the tradition and each time, I would reassure him and give him my word that we would.
Less than a month before the gates to the CNE opened, my dad lost his battle with cancer and passed away. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced. Trying to navigate through life without him was difficult, and I could barely cope. The days were creeping up, and soon enough, the CNE was here, and it was time to keep our promise and continue with the tradition but without the person who started it all. So here I was about to do one of my favourite things, something I look forward to all year, but for the first time, I was dreading it. I will never forget that day going without him. We all tried to put on a brave face for kids and each other while trying not to break down in tears; we somehow managed. We got the kids on rides and played games just like Nonno would have wanted. We made sure to have pizza for him just like always, and of course, we made sure not to miss the dog show.
We never missed a year of the CNE (well, minus the last two years, thanks to COVID), and as hard as it is to go there without my dad, we will continue to go and carry on with the Crispo family tradition that he started. The memories we made there will be with me for life, and I know that are still many more to come.
We’ll see you in August!