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The Swallows of Capistrano

By Stefanie Norlin

Every afternoon as the sun dips behind the bungalows, my nonna sits in a chair below the marble window ledge in her dining room, a ball of yarn spinning at her feet, and makes soft, delicate things:

White doilies with lace edging, simple square serviettes, stacks of wooly baby blankets. She’s the matriarch of our family, a slightly stooped woman with papyrus skin, watery brown eyes, and thick square teeth like Chiclet gum. My mom, sisters, and I visit as often as we can: her house, our Delphi. “What a surprise,” Nonna exclaims each time the front door slams behind one of us. When I kiss her forehead on those afternoons, I can feel her lean into me under my chin, smaller than I remember.

     The last in her most recent set of baby blankets—swan white and downy—rests partially finished on the table next to her chair in the dining room. “I told her they’re for a student who got pregnant,” my mom shares with me one day after work. We both glance at the window where Nonna sits dozing off in the sunlight, and when I don’t say anything, my mom shakes her head. “There just wasn’t another way, Stefanie. She’d never have made them otherwise.”


About the Author

Stefanie Norlin is a Detroit-based writer, book lover and French fry connoisseur. Her essays and poems have appeared in Christianity Today, Urban Faith magazine, the Wayne Literary Review, and others. She’s also received the Tompkins Award in both 2013 and 2016 for her creative nonfiction. You can learn more about her writing at or find her on Twitter at @stefanienorlin.