October has historically been recognized as the Italian History Month here in the United States. Over the years several web sites have dedicated themselves to encouraging Italian Americans to bring information to organizations and primarily public schools to raise awareness that Italian are known for more than just overworked Mafia references and pizza. I prefer the wonderful list compiled by the Italian Historical Society of America (http://home.earthlink.net/~31italians/id65.html). I would encourage all of you to read through the great list but I am going to include some of the thoughts and names generated there.
October 1st is the day to remember and honor the Italian immigrant. Immigration is a hot button topic right now – and I am right there with all who are frustrated that we cannot find a solution here – or many places in the world today. Italy like the US faces her own threat of illegal immigrants sweeping into their land. France is in the news for dealing with the Roma right now. Here in the US we deal with many nationalities – mostly at our southern-most border. But there was a time not so long ago that Italians were the group America dealt with as immigrants. The Irish had gone through their tough times as immigrants and then the tables turned to the Italians hoping to find a better way here. One little known fact is that along with Japanese, Italians were also rounded up into internment camps during WWII. It was an offence to speak Italian as you were suspected of not being a true American. Indeed even after WWII ended many family members refused to teach their children Italian for fear of retribution. American Italians often speak a mish-mosh of slang and dialect – a mere smattering of words and phrases.
Our family was among those eager to come to the US. We have copies of letters accepting the VISA requests of some while denying others. The post WWII era saw many of the immigrants hoping to gain a VISA to escape the harsh realities of a war ravaged Italy. Itri itself was bombed with more than 65 % of the town destroyed. Valentino was not allowed to emigrate with his parents – he was too old to come with them as a child but too young to remain alone in Italy. He settled living in Germany with his brother for a year until the US would allow him entrance! Within weeks of his arrival he was expected to report for the draft! Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view) he was not fluent enough in English yet so they passed him over. He came to the US an unsure young teen and learned the language and embraced its freedom and culture.
October 2nd is a great day to think about Amadeo Pietro Gianni. Born in 1870, he was raised in California. His parents had immigrated from Italy. After his father died when Amadeo was seven, his mother remarried and he went to work to help his parents in the produce business. Later he would join a group of businessmen serving on the board of a small bank that catered to the Italian American community. He then began his own bank that suffered severe damages in the San Franciscan earthquake. He set up a small bank out of his home to again help folks rebuild the city. When he realized folks traveled to him, he opened branches to accommodate them Eventually he bought out Bank of America and continued with his theory of helping the average individual instead of just the wealthy.
October 3rd is for Guglielmo Marconi. Most will recognize his name as he was the father of wireless transmissions. Born in Bologna, Italy, he traveled around both Europe and America to prove his inventions. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his accomplishments and discoveries.
Hopefull next week I will bring more short biographical notes
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, economy, famiglia, family, gardening, love of family, memories, Peace, politics, ramblings, September 11
This date is a horrid one for most Americans. Where September used to stand for end of summer, back to school, first whiffs of Autumn leaves and bonfires, it has now become a remembrance of the shock for baby boomers to taste a war-like scenario on US soil. Our sense of security, of world power via being loved and ‘right’ has been shaken. For many it has meant a long drawn out process of rethinking who we as a nation and as individuals are. This time has also seen a change in the country’s economic status affecting al of us. It has also meant reassessing what is important to each of us going forward. For me, it has meant a reassessment of our countries politics and policies as well as a reassessment of our place in global issues. It has brought about a deeper commitment to spiritual values and what they should mean on an everyday basis in addition to my own personal internalizing. More importantly it has brought about a deeper appreciation for what family means to me personally as well as a deeper appreciation for what our ancestors went through in their lives.
As a child I grew up hearing stories about my parents growing up during the depression years. My mother talked of her father traveling out of town for work returning home on the weekends. She also told of their wonderful gardens where they grew much of their vegetable and herb needs. My dad told about not being in school yet but following the bigger kids as they collected lumps of coal dropped by trains to take home for family furnaces. He also told how at the same age he followed the bigger kids to bread lines and to get potatoes. His parents hadn’t sent him, but he caught on quickly from other kids and knew it meant more heat or more food if he participated too! Valentino grew up in post war Italy. His family had struggled before, during, and after the war. His mom’s family were farmers so they grew plenty of food whenever and wherever possible. They would work the bits of soil between rocks to plant one plant per spot if necessary. They owned several small pieces of land meaning they would work one area for one crop and go to another for another crop. It meant a several mile walk daily to tend their food supply. Recently the Publics grocery store near our home was torn apart to undergo remodeling. All of us in the neighborhood have complained that it means a drive of an extra two or three miles to the next store. Only one other neighbor and I attempt to grow any vegetables at all – and we are struggling at it! Our herbs are wonderful but we seem not to be too successful at vegetables other than tomatoes or peppers. I suspect my tomatoes grew at some sort of bargain price under ten dollars each but I might be wrong! On the other hand my rosemary is a bumper crop and I have enough to supply most third world nations with rosemary and basil! I think my ancestors would all be mortified – especially my in-law ancestors!
So as I reflect back on the 9/11 tragedies and the lives of my ancestors, I am grateful for what our family passed on to us. I am blessed we lost no one in 9/11 or the subsequent war. I am blessed that our family passed on a spiritual foundation for Valentino and I to pass on to our sons and now to our grandchildren. And as I contemplate the US and her place in the global view, I am grateful that I was raised in a nation that in spite of her faults is still a wonderful place to raise a family without fear of a knock on the door at night or worse.
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, conservator, contingency plan, famiglia, family, family history, family research, filing, genealogy, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, organizing, photographs, research
I took off a bit of time from writing to concentrate on family and some changes we are experiencing along with some test of family loyalties through some trying times. Thankfully love for each other has triumphed in every situation we faced. During this time we have each in our own way found what matters most to us. We have each come to the realization that even as we face anger and or disappointment in one another, we can still know overwhelming love and loyalty and even respect for each other. My treasure chest is full of love for all my family and memories of all the special moments we have shared, the tears, laughter, hurts, and joys. This time has made us grow closer and more committed than ever to each other. As a parent I have been touched by the depth of feeling my sons have shown one another as they have grown. Valentino and I are proud parents as we watch each son make the decisions for where their place is to be in life. We can rest assured our sons will never lose their bonds to one another whether we are here to guide them or not. Rather now we can see that even as they may or may not agree with all decisions the others make, they support one another through good and bad ready to offer a lending hand when needed or just an ear to listen.
In the midst of this we also have been enjoying the visit of a family member from overseas. I personally had not seen this person since he was a young boy of about four or five years old. My sons had never met him. When we first met, there was instant love. I was enthralled with his precious smile and his sparkling dark eyes. I just knew our own children (not yet born) would share those same wonderful handsome good looks! Sure enough – they did! And still do! We met our nephew at the airport and immediately we recognized him in the crowd at the same instant he connected with us. The years melted away and once again the smile and dark sparkling eyes dazzled us. Now however that sweet boy is a handsome charming 6 foot plus professor. His personality fit right in to our family mix easily. His quiet strength has been a plus to us as well as his humor. He is an outsider willing to listen and not judge but he is also a beloved family member who is respected and treasured! We are his chance to practice and polish his English as my sons and I practice our broken Italian. For our granddaughters he is the charming gentleman who has captured all of their hearts. I have warned his mother I am going to find it very difficult to return him back home to her! I suspect his uncle is going to find it even more difficult than I will!
One enticing fact is that he shares a deep love of family history. His long term plans include writing about a particular part of the family history. He began to talk about the trials and dead-ends of attempting to find information on the distant relatives. He knew I had already written of more recent family and he also knew I had worked on the family genealogy. What he didn’t know was how much more information I had accumulated in the last few years. As I began bringing out workbook after workbook and file after file, he was in amazement over all the information laid out. It covered the entire pool table – and filled many folders on my laptop! But the best part was that suddenly I was being forced to do what should have been done already. And if he wasn’t enough encouragement a phone call from another relative in Rhode Island was the final prodding I needed. It was time to actually name and label and date as many of the digital images as possible and fit them to their “proper owners” on the family tree. Every trip to far flung relatives meant I gained more scanned copies of old photos or digital images I made of them with my camera. Needless to say there is not a photo for all of the twelve hundred plus people but it felt like double that number as I have been working on them diligently for over a month using every spare moment. For some family members it meant cropping their face out of a group photo. For still others it meant dating them through many photos showing them as they changed over the years of their lives. It also meant labeling all the digital images of the villages and towns and churches and schools and even the old family homes when possible. There are even photos of the streets where family members lived over 200 years ago. I may not be able to prove which house belonged to them but thanks to information on birth certificates I was able to ascertain streets!
So this brings me to today’s treasure chest moment. My treasure chest has become my laptop. Everywhere I go it comes along for the trip. Blessed with a 6 hour battery life, I can steal many moments no matter where I am to work on the photo project. My laptop wallpaper is a replica of an antique print of the family village in Italy. Somehow I find that relaxing as I flip through files and folders saved across my desktop. As I have worked I also made certain to save frequent updates to my portable hard drive. At this point although I am not finished I have also burned CDs to send home to Italy with our nephew and to mail to Rhode Island to another cousin! Let me use this opportunity to once again admonish you all to make backups of all your work. If my laptop crashes, I would be one unhappy woman to have lost all of my hard work! It is not enough to save work only for myself. If a hurricane or other natural disaster were to destroy our home, I would risk losing all of my research. Knowing that copies have been sent to reside with other family members is double insurance against such a loss!
Sometimes one has to consider cooking for the heart – for health purposes — but then again, sometimes it’s all about for the heart emotionally. Today’s treasure chest memory is the old yellow plaid cookbook my mother was given as a child in elementary school. She still had that cookbook when she married and it was a staple in our kitchen. I used to love to read the recipes over and over. Most were accompanied by black and white photos and of course there were plenty of hints and tips for successful baking and cooking. Years later my mother would buy big fancy cookbooks such as Time Life and they would showcase beautiful full-page color photographs. Yet something drew my interest back to the old yellow plaid book. In it my mother would make notations in pencil about changes or adaptations she preferred. And the front and back cover pages boasted a few of her own recipes. One was for her amazing Yum Yum Cake – a flavorful fruitcake that I still love.
Now as a married woman myself, I often clip recipes from magazines or handwrite copies from friends and family. When I find a cookbook at a garage sale, it is hard to resist buying it. I love to sit in Barnes and Noble and spend a rainy afternoon reading through the newest cookbook offerings. I love the glossy photographs of favorite Italian recipes and have indulged myself with extravagant purchases every now and then. A few Christmases ago I made cookbooks for each of our sons printing out old favorite family recipes of the family from Italy. This past year I drove my mother to distraction as I made another cookbook for everyone with her family recipes. But it is the old yellow plaid cookbook that evokes the fondest memories of my childhood at my mother’s side learning to cook as she taught me to read the recipes and follow the directions.
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, cooking, famiglia, family, family history, food, love of family, memories, pets, recipes
Last night we were treated to a wonderful dinner at the neighbors – our dear friends Anne & Paul. They also adopted a rescue pet recently – the most delightful German Shepherd – what a lover she is! Paul grilled a gorgeous pork loin that wafted through the house with its delicious aroma! We sat outside and shared good food and better friendship! A true pleasure! One of the best parts of this neighborly friendship is enjoying our children – now all young adults. To see each as they have grown up and headed off to their futures has brought us joy and pride. Yet each has maintained their friendships through the years, a wonderful thing to behold!
Anne and I share many common passions in our busy lives. First and foremost – she was the true friend to encourage me on a new career trend when I was worried about Valentino. She sent her husband and me both to class to obtain our certifications in Cardiac Dysrhythmia! That was over ten years ago already. We both love our yards and gardens – and we have both at points in our lives suffered major physical disabilities that we have learned to control and live with or in spite of.
Anne has now also taken herbal classes and like myself is enjoying growing the herbs. Our gardens are not just for looking at but also for good health. We are enjoying the sharing and exchanging of seeds and cuttings. Every spare planter inch is being filled with one exciting new addition or an old time favorite – Sweet Ann, Garlic Dill, German Thyme, Italian Basil, Provence Lavender, Sage, Oregano, and more. The tomatoes and Green Bell Peppers are already showing first blossoms. Soon these will be followed by Fennel, Chives, and Comfrey. Next will be chamomile. Already fresh Rosemary hangs in the kitchen – how I love the aroma! And of course, I can’t imagine cooking potatoes or chicken without it!
My mother in law was one of those fabulous cooks who cooked without the aid of a cookbook. Instinctively she knew what would enhance the flavor of a meal without over-powering the natural flavors of a main ingredient. Concetta was also the village midwife and an unschooled herbalist. Whatever ailed someone, she had the perfect remedy. Chamomile teas or comfrey compresses were common items as well as egg whites and mustard poultices. While on our honeymoon, I watched as Concetta first went out to find wild rosemary. She brought home a huge quantity that she then prepared for us to bring home. She worried about a perfect kitchen not having enough rosemary and she was right! She taught me well! Even now I feel her presence with me in the kitchen as I prepare a favorite meal for our family.
I have been so enjoying my days off – these 3 or 4 day off weekends have done amazing things to restore my soul – it was a long ugly winter season between work, family stressors, and Valentino’s health issues. But sunlight and greenery with the gentle sounds of water fountains trickling and bubbling have gone a long way to rejuvenating me once again. Nothing is sweeter than sitting pool or pond-side listening to birds come awake at first light! That first cup of cafe latte in early AM is heavenly to be sure!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, love of family, memories, ramblings
It’s Monday morning and I am sitting outside enjoying the morning after Mother’s Day almost as much if not more than yesterday. Yesterday we had one of those glorious days where I knew I was a very spoiled woman! All week my sons had worked tirelessly, endlessly to clean the yard and re-landscape sections that had been neglected for too long. Valentino was not up to doing yard work the last several months and my work hours were long and tiring for me to be able to do as much as I wanted alone. My poor koi pond suffered from a pump that no longer worked and storms last year had killed the fish. Our sons bought a new pump with upgraded filter system – and hooked up all the fountains and waterfall again! They even got a birdbath fountain working that used to leak – now it no longer does. Sophia, our newest addition to the family is enjoying the perks of a huge backyard to play in.
Of course our little Sophia needed a warm sweater for chilly nights so I knitted her a sweater last week – showing off Italian pride!
Naturally Tyson also enjoys the backyard – but takes a more relaxed approach to all the commotion of a BBQ. He’s a Catahoula Hound – with one amber and one blue (called a glass eye) eye.
Sophia seems to want to share a secret with Tyson – probably plotting how to get table scraps from us!
Normally this would be a Furry Friends Friday post but today is a day of enjoying the weekend memories. I worked all night Saturday and so naturally had to take a short nap when I arrived home at 7:30 AM. I woke to find my sons had the brick oven/grill cleaned and ready to cook with wood already heating. They had vacuumed the entire house and washed 2500 square foot of tile throughout the house – and polished the marble countertops. It was pure heaven to not have to sacrifice a precious day off cleaning house.
So here it is Monday morning and I am sitting out on the patio listening to Andre Bocelli drinking a cappuccino and listening to the birds. A magnificent peacock has been wandering the neighborhood showing off his fine feathers too! All is right in my world!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, Itri, love of family, memories, photographs
Right after WWII, the family was much too poor to afford random photos so very few exist of Valentino as a very young child. But this is of he and his Papa standing near an old vehicle out near their home.
This expression is one I often still see on his face of intensity and questioning. Almost anticipation of what is to come next. What I love in this photo is the smile on his father’s face. Everyone remembers him as so serious but the hand to his son’s shoulder and smile speak volumes of love and pride to me.
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family history, genealogy, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, Peace, WWII
Liberation Day is celebrated in Italy on April 25th. This is a day to remember being liberated at the end of WWII. There are wonderful parades in all the small towns as well as the major ones all throughout Italy. We enjoyed watching the parades in Cavezzo, a small town not far from Carpi and Modena in the Emilia-Romagna Region.
Sadly this year saw demonstrations turned nasty even in Rome – people the world over are frustrated with their governments, but let’s not forget that Liberation Day is to commemorate the sacrifices made on behalf of freedom-loving people suffering through WWII. Don’t toss that off lightly because we are unhappy now. Rather let us all remember and appreciate the awful prices our ancestors paid to give us life and for the hope of future generations. I have written before about Valentino’s family and the horrors they went through. I often wonder how they managed. I too often suspect we of this generation would not have the strength of spirit or heart to face those challenges now. How would those who live in 40 and 50 floor apartment buildings manage without electricity to run elevators? How would all those city dwellers manage to grow food without yards? It was a different time, granted. Yet we need to consider how very brave and daring they were – how self-sustaining and independent they were, willing to meet all challenges to bring about the end of the war. They often prayed it would be the war to end all wars. Sadly there are those who are only too willing to forget that. I don’t claim to know the answers to end war or to broker peace. But I do want to say thank you for those ancestors who did play a part to bring about Liberation for Europe (and Asia later) and pray we never become insensitive to their sacrifices on all our behalves!
This memorial stands outside the Church of the Annunziata in the center of Itri. The inscription reads:
To her heroes of all the wars all who come of the cross without waiting for the resurrection.
So too we offer prayers for all those of all the towns of Europe and everywhere!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, memories, pets
Life has been hectic and filled with sad endings as well as happy new beginnings.
One of the sad occasions was the farewell we had to give our beloved English Bulldog Contessa Bue (Countess Bull for the non-Italian speakers) – or as we called her, Baby. She was with us for ten joyful and love filled years. One of my sons bought her as a new pup and she immediately became the dowager of the family! She controlled and trained us well! Horribly she was the product of a disreputable breeder and pet store – so disreputable, the animal control and licensing folks shut the store down. In spite of her disabilities, she was playful almost to the end and positively gentle and loving. Where I went, she followed. My son claimed I spoiled her rotten and I have to admit I did. What Baby wanted, she got always! What she wanted was tons of affection and her back to be scratched – both easy chores for us! When it was obvious she was suffering too much, we made our final goodbyes. My heart broke watching her suffer and I wanted to spare her any additional pain. Letting her pass quietly at home was no longer an option. She is at peace now but she will always be part of our family and memories!
My dear sons realized I was aching so they took it upon themselves to research a dog breed that would live a long life if properly cared for. We had also lost an English Springer about 3 years previously so I was afraid to lose another pampered pet Sir Bramble Patch also had a long life (ten years) and was a member of the family so we knew we would not want another loss too soon. We love the concepts behind Rescue Pets so that was our first choice to find a new little one. Soon enough my sons found a beautiful 10 week old Rat Terrier pup through one of the local organizations. She is spayed and micro-chipped already and is housebroken. Within moments she was ours as she snuggled with first me and then Valentino. By the first morning she decided it is her job to wake everyone so she makes the rounds from room to room to gently lick faces good morning!
If you have never considered a Rescue Pet, please do so. Some are abused, some were given up because owners could no longer care for them, and some are puppies or kittens that need a good home. Often Rescue Organizations will rescue abandoned animals from kill shelters when they are in danger of being euthanized. Please consider this instead of encouraging puppy mills that subject their “breeder moms” to horrendous conditions. Those pups will often suffer as a result of congenital problems. Most Rescue Organizations try to care for the animals in home settings so they are aware of not only health conditions but also any personality quirks.
Our new little one was one of those special ones as her mama was found in a dumpster with her pups. We are grateful someone took the time to rescue them because we cannot imagine life without her already!
Meet Sophia – named for a famous Italian Sophia, of course!