Memories New and Old

October 28, 2011 at 09:24 | Posted in Fragile Family Friday, Gardening, Italian Cooking, memories | Leave a comment
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I have begun to read a favorite book The Lost Ravioli Recipes Of Hoboken. Once again it stirs emotions and memories. I’m not Italian but my husband is. Yet in spite of not being Italian something deep inside me calls me to the kitchen in search of special flavors to treat my family to. Like the authoress I did not learn to make ravioli as a child but I did learn to cook many other meals at my mother’s side. Years later it was my sister in law who undertook the task of teaching me to make pasta and the family’s favorite ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach smothered in rich thick tomato sauce.

   

While others thought me foolish because it is so simple to buy prepackaged pasta in neat cellophane-wrapped containers, she understood me.

But somewhere deeper inside me has been a yearning to explore further, not willing to settle. Time has been spent making our yard over into a large garden.

And when the first harvests this spring and summer brought us a huge bounty of lush vegetables, I found myself not yet satisfied.

The garden was redesigned; huge raised garden beds were added and the area enlarged. More detail went into our planting layout to maximize the yields.

It’s not that I want a farm by any means. Nor am I giving into wild fantasies of no food available to eat. But something compels me to continue this quest. Next came the challenges of preserving my own fruit jams and marmalades. Then it was homemade pickles and those followed by huge beautiful jars of lush roma tomatoes.

Our sons laugh and tease – they want to know how I am going to hide the herd of beef cattle here in our suburb yard. Yet they enjoy the jokes as they sit together over a meal of big plates brimming to overflowing with pasta and homemade sauce and fresh baked bread warm from the oven!

So it is now that my granddaughters want to linger in the kitchen with me as I cook. One of them has taken to watching cooking shows on TV but she admonishes her mom that none of those cooks are as good as her nona and nono! Juliana is fascinated with the jars of marmalade and had to help with the pickles and tomatoes. She watched as I started to prepare to can them. Soon she was wrapped in one of my aprons and standing on the stepstool at the sink helping.

Together we filed the jars with the tomatoes and fresh basil she helped pick from the garden. Nono lit the fire and set the big pots of water to boil. When the jars were finished boiling in the hot water bath, we listened intently for the magic “ping” of the jar lids to tell us they were set. Juliana was so content, so happy – and then she turned to me and said, “We’re cooking great memories together, aren’t we?” How is this six year old so wise beyond her years? She got it when I wasn’t sure what it was I have been seeking. Memories. Those fleeting wisps, fragile ties to family now gone from our lives. When I was young, my father every year would bring home bushels of pickling cucumbers. I would watch as he pickled them, boiling them with wonderful smelling spices in hot brine. How I loved the crunch of those pickles! How much more I loved watching him, being with him in the kitchen. Memories. I would watch my mother enjoy her gardens, digging in the rich Connecticut soil. She could make anything grow from gentle lady slippers to the sturdy patch of rhubarb tucked behind the garage. The aroma of her fresh baked rhubarb pie would fill the house! My mother in law, too, could make a garden grow to incredible harvests. She grew everything from artichokes to eggplants. At her elbow I learned to pickle eggplants and crack green olives! We picked dandelions for salads and mushrooms for sauce. And we made fresh ricotta cheese and solid cheese for grating from fresh goats milk.

Memories. I realize it is family I have been seeking. I yearn for the family of my past …. And I want to share it with my family that they can also pass it on, my sons and their children. Through the richness of the earth to the pleasures of the food as we sit together at the table eating. Amore e’ Sapore di famiglia. May it always be so……

Day Planner, Task Scheduler, or Calendar Foe

April 15, 2011 at 02:43 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, Fragile Family Friday, Spiritual Walk | Leave a comment
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Many times in life I have found myself questioning if I am doing enough … enough as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee, and witness to others. It begins to feel as though storm clouds are rolling in about to burst over and around me while I am powerless to halt them! During many of those times I have received feedback from family or others to keep me focused. This previous month has been a difficult one. I found myself disappearing from many areas as I dealt with pressing family issues. My mother broke her hip and from the surgery and subsequent rehab, we have been pulling together as family. We saw a small setback as she was readmitted to the hospital to have testing where it was found she needed to have a cardiac stent – surgery that she came through wonderfully. We are all so grateful to the Lord for seeing her through and back on track with all of her rehab!

Once again though I find myself exhausted as I try to be enough for everyone. Working nights means so many lost days sleeping instead of being with family. Days off are spent with my mother or trying to clean the house or work in the garden. My granddaughter seeks my company as do my husband and sons. Friends are relegated to snatches of conversations here and there mostly via cell phone as I hurry to the next appointment. I think of my own grandmother and how she managed without dishwasher or microwave! It feels as though my house is gaining its own life separate from me no matter how I try to clean and organize. I find myself overjoyed at times as I accomplish a basic cleaning of the kitchen and washing dishes….I actually finished a task!

I find myself again in awe of the women in my life, my ancestors who lived such full lives. How did my mother in law accomplish all she did? Every day she cleaned her home, cooked for a large family, cared for elderly parents and parents in law (even as one battled a broken hip), and successfully farmed to feed her family. It was often necessary to walk the two miles to the farm each day. During the WWII years, she maintained her family living in a cave after the home and most of the town were bombed away. It was what most of the folks around her did too. So many women who saw this as nothing beyond what they were capable of – after all everyone else was also doing the same things. Church was a vital part of her life too, as was her witness to others. All of this without the conveniences of automated farm equipment, modern fertilizers, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, or even an automobile much of the time! Certainly there was no physical therapist or rehabilitation center to aid in the care of an elderly parent! How did she manage to schedule this life on a daily basis and still be the incredible wife, mother, friend she was?

So here I am at a crossroads learning to balance too many tasks to find my way. Why with all the extra conveniences and support do we women find ourselves overworked and tired and complaining? What is it that we seek? I know what the deep desire of my own heart is….

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.

She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.

She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.

She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

(Proverbs 31:10 – 31)

Sisters

March 4, 2011 at 16:42 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family research, Fragile Family Friday, memories | 4 Comments
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This photo from 1972 shows five of the most beautiful strong women I have been blessed to know – the sixth wasn’t present for this photo when taken. My mom is the woman in the burgundy gown, surrounded by four of her sisters. Each in their own humble way displayed grace and love in all areas of their lives. . Aunt Bessie was never married but she was a devoted aunt. How I enjoyed our times together. When my first son was born, she was a proud great aunt showering him with gifts! Her little sleeper was one of the tucked away and saved for memories items! When she passed away she bequeathed her beautiful platinum and aquamarine ring. We both shared a March birth month and she knew I admired the ring always. Now it is a cherished memory of her. Aunt Jean was a quiet woman devoted to her husband and son. She too was a proud great aunt crocheting colorful baby blankets for my sons. When she learned I regretted not knowing my grandmother (she had passed when I was 9 months old), she gifted me a magnificent crocheted bedspread that had been handmade and gifted to her by grandmother as a wedding gift! How I treasure that spread! Aunt Mary was also a quiet woman who took pride in her family and home. Her delight would be luncheons spent at her table, my mother, she, and I sharing stories of their childhood and old friends. My little one would be entertained feeding her pet squirrels in the backyard and running around in the grass. Aunt Ruth was our world traveler when I was young. She and her husband spent over 20 years in Thailand as church missionaries selflessly giving of themselves to others.

There are only three sisters left now, Ruth, Beatrice, and my mom Lillian. Visits are not as often although they try to catch up often via the phone. Aunt Ruth is still a hoot with her dry sense of quiet humor. We always knew Aunt Bea loved to joke and tease, and of course I grew up enjoying my mom’s sense of humor, but it is Aunt Ruth who surprised us the most. Her lips hardly smile but her bright eyes dance when she starts to joke and tease! Her dry wit is always a surprise!

Mom fell this week and broke her hip so we will be facing surgery for her and a long road to rehab and recovery but even now at 89, her gentle spirit makes her loathe to be a burden or cause anyone worry! She hates to complain so the nurses keep reminding her to not ignore the pain just because she is trying to not annoy anyone! It will be a long recovery period but she is well worth the time!

March – Women’s History Month

March 6, 2010 at 05:47 | Posted in ancestry, Carnival of Genealogy, DiCrocco, family research, Fragile Family Friday, Italian Cooking, Itri, Italy | 3 Comments
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My mother in law was one of the most incredible women I have ever known. She was raised as a simple farmer’s daughter in Italy and the family did not send her to school. She was in her seventies when she learned to read and write. She decided to learn so that she could study the bible! Incredible!

This photograph was taken only a few months before she passed away but even here, her beautiful spirit shows through! I met my mother in law 3 days after I married her son, the baby of the family – her Tesoro! But from the first day I arrived in Italy, she welcomed me with love and respect and joy. Although the family were unable to travel to the United States for the wedding, she and all of the relatives eagerly waited to greet us.She prepared a beautiful wedding reception for us in her home. The entire month she opened her home to guests from near and far who came to meet me and wish us well.

 As a younger woman she assisted as one of the midwives for her area. If she sent an expectant father for the doctor, the doctor knew he was needed for an emergency. He wanted her to go to school to become an assistant but family obligations prevented that goal. Yet she learned to do many simple first aid techniques and helped where ever needed. During WWII she survived the bombing of her home and evacuation to nearby mountain caves where she cared for her family.


She never had training as a chef or nutritionist but she knew how to prepare nourishing and flavorful meals from meager supplies. She recognized which wild mushrooms were safe to eat. And she raised bountiful garden harvests of all sorts of vegetables. Her farming expertise didn’t stop with plants. During a visit to the us in Connecticut, she taught a woman in our town how to properly milk goats to yield the most milk. I knew she wanted to teach me to make cheese so before she arrived for her visit I went on a hunt for the plastic baskets to use for cheese making. Finally I bought fresh cheese that came in one such small basket and located the manufacturer on the bottom. I called the company in New York to attempt to buy a few. The gentleman listened to my story and laughed – seems the wholesaler only sold in lots of many gross at a time and I hardly needed a couple dozen. Yet he was so impressed that I would do this, he mailed me a few dozen as a gift! Concetta and I spent a happy time making fresh cheese together properly! We found local ‘ pick you own’ fruit farms and then she taught me to make jams and marmalades in addition to putting up vegetables.

During the bad times or when family were in trouble she would take them in and find ways to make do to care for everyone. She helped to raise many of the grandchildren and even great grandchildren as the need arose. Through it all she never complained. This was the meaning of famiglia! Towards the end she cared for first one elderly parent and then elderly in laws. She taught all of us what the meaning of selflessness and humility meant. She taught us love in the face of unpleasantness as well as in the face of love. She walked her faith and shared it with all of us by her deeds and actions as well as her words. Her love for family was so strong that even near the end of her life she had the presence to recognize us and share a hug, a smile, a kiss. As her son sat with her and she held his hand, once again she spoke to her Tesoro and her eyes lit with love! Famiglia! Grazie Concetta – we love you still!

Fragile Family Friday – January 22nd

January 22, 2010 at 01:12 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Fragile Family Friday | Leave a comment
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Today I have decided to add another category to my Carnival of Genealogy blogging: Fragile Family Friday. There are times we realize more than others how tenuous and fragile the threads of family are that bind us together. So I am instituting this new category to highlight those moments. I won’t promise this will be an every week occurrence but rather I intend to save it for those unusual times that deserve to be remembered. So today’s post is a bit unusual for my normal posts but one I think we should take to heart. Family ties can be fragile for a whole variety of reasons. Sometimes, the connection isn’t a clear one but family always referred to a person as a member of the family. Or perhaps it was a step parent or child accepted without question. Or as in this instance perhaps it deals with the concept of we are all one family ultimately. We as genealogists (even we amateurs) often say we are amazed and saddened we didn’t pay closer attention to stories we heard concerning family when we were children. We usually have lists of questions we would ask if possible now of our ancestors if ever given a chance anew.

This week as my sister and I worked on a memorial tribute to our aunt, we poured over old photographs. We chattered away with all the expected questions: “Where was this taken?” “Who is that?” “What’s his first name?” “Whatever happened to them?” Aside from the typical scenario, all of us are in the midst of another tragedy. This past week Haiti was decimated by an earthquake. As with most natural disasters such as a library roof cave in last year in Germany or the earthquake in Abruzzi, Italy, we can only imagine the terrible loss of vital records. Haiti is such an economically poor nation and many of its people do not have a solid education. She has already often suffered with massive hurricane damage so it is not to be expected that reclaiming lost vital records will be a priority for them. The thousands of orphans will have a potential to be adopted but certainly will not have the option of tracing family through unsealed court records given most are now lost forever.

Most genealogists applaud the tremendous efforts of the LDS to microfilm and preserve records from around the world. This time we will most certainly not be able to rely on stored records. So for this Fragile Family Friday I want to propose a suggestion to all of us. Right now there are many organizations collecting funds and that should take priority for now. But we genealogists should consider another donation – that of our time and knowledge. We can help future Haitians who would want to trace their family trees. As with the slavery generations of the US, many times we will stumble across snippets of information in other unrelated records. Keep a separate folder or computer file for these tidbits. Remember to note the sources too. Someday we can all submit these to recreate many of those lost records. It will be a case of indirect information but for someone hoping to find any trace, it will be meaningful. Another way to help is to volunteer your time. Many of us live near immigrant communities. Many of us work with Haitian immigrants. Maybe a group can form to make a short trip together to one of the communities a bit further away. All of us have plenty of knowledge of how to fill our pedigree or family charts. This is the time to gather as much verbal information from elderly members as possible. Maybe they can recant the names of a family who lived near them. Perhaps dates will be sketchy or unknown but names or partial names remembered along with the town. Bit by bit we can help these wonderful people reclaim a proud heritage. We can do this now before a generation is lost forever. This is something we can do at little expense financially but it will produce an invaluable gift to future generations. Family is fragile – we can teach how to protect it in a very special way.

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