As many of you know my mother has a difficult time the last two months combating a broken femur/hip that needed surgery, then a heart cath and stent, and that followed by small bowel surgery. At her age, recovery is slow and her energy levels are low. But through it all she worries more of others and how she is causing them problems rather than dwelling on herself. So while I wrote this a while back for her, I think too of all the moms out there – and with all of the manmade turmoil and natural disasters, I pray for all of you!
This shows my mom (left standing) with most of her siblings when all were still living. Most were either ordained minister/missionaries or married to one or active laypersons in their church! What a glorious legacy they have all left for my generation!
I Am My Mother’s Daughter
I am my mother’s daughter
Sitting at her knee
Too young life’s twists and turns to see
Now young and yes so strong
Easily lost in the throng
Holding ever so tightly to her hand
Anxious to be off exploring all the land.
I am my mother’s daughter
Walking by her side
This is the day long awaited
I’ll be my intended’s bride
No longer very young, still strong
No longer lost in the throng
Holding ever so tightly to his hand
Anxious to meet the future we plan.
I am my mother’s daughter
Sitting now next to me
Proudly holding her grandchild for all to see
No longer young nor strong
Seeing in her grandchild only perfection, non wrong
Holding ever so tightly to the tiny hand
Anxious to share a life so grand.
I am my mother’s daughter
Sitting now at her knee
She’s now so very far from young and not strong
Eager to be a part of the angels’ throng
All life twists and turns able to see
Holding so tightly to my hand
Tells me again of His Plan
She’s read to the end of the bible story
He’s awaiting her in Glory
The angels too her await
Soon she’ll be at heaven’s gate
It’s not the ending to this life
Always full of fear and strife
It’s only the beginning
To eternal life so bright
Full of joy, and no more night.
©Bonnie DiCrocco 2007
Tags: Easter, famiglia, family, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, photographs, religion, traditions
Easter 1957 – There I am on left wearing a dress I still remember because I loved it so much – blue and white soft stripes!
Typical Easter fare sold in stores in Italy – huge chocolate eggs wrapped in glossy foil colors – the eggs are hollow and filled with small toys!
Easter Sunday passagiata in Sperlonga
Easter flowers for Padre Pio, Itri, Italy
Easter Egg Hunt, Melbourne
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, Itri, love of family, memories, Women of March, WWII
All of this month most of the genealogy bloggers have been following prompts to write about the women in their lives. March is headlined as 31 days of Women. Due to some circumstances in my offline life I have not stayed on task day by day but today it’s the day we write about timelines for one of the women in our lives. Both my mother and mother in love were young women during WWII. Both were raising young children but in decidedly different circumstances.
My own mother faced the anguish of her husband being gone 38 months – much of it overseas. They were able only to communicate infrequently via letters that were always censored by authorities to prevent leaking secrets accidently. My mother had a map that she often would mark as she figured out where my dad was – he was pretty surprised she could figure any of it out considering he wasn’t able to give hints. But she would compare news from overseas with tidbits gleaned and her strong faith kept her focused tightly on praying him home!
My father in law was considered too old to serve in WWII but he had served in Africa during his Italian army days so Concetta too felt the pain of a husband gone for long periods of time. During WWII he helped the town’s folk figure places to live safely when the bombs from both sides were a constant threat. I have written before how Concetta survived the bombing and total destruction of her home. More than 65% of Itri was obliterated by the bombs before liberation came. Our family was moved to a cave on their property outside town but many families also built Indian style teepees or large lodge huts with a center pole to allow for smoke from the fire to ventilate. She not only grew her own food, she also ground own wheat for flour to bake bread and make her wonderful pasta! She scavenged for wild mushrooms, wild asparagus, and dandelions along with circoria. Her family ate well as she was so wise and attentive.
Yesterday we were supposed to choose women to represent our ancestors in movies. The obvious choice for my mother in love would be Sophia Loren. Sophia is perceived as a “sex-goddess” and a tall elegant woman. Yet as an actress, she is a chameleon who would truly understand the depth of the character and the adversity she faced in WWII with her children. My mother would be aptly portrayed by Diane Keaton. She is a vivacious energetic woman who has played many women similar to my mother. I can see her as the young wife facing working a factory job with a young baby who would later become one of the leaders in her small town as well as an accomplished poetess and homemaker.
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, genealogy, love of family, memories
Thanks to Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist I am going to submit a few posts this month in Honor of Women’s History Month. This post will be a catch-up because I am a few days behind the start though. I was named for my grandmother Jane Brown Hyndman. She was also called Jean. Born and married in Scotland, she came through Ellis Island and brought her children with her to join with her husband James. No easy task for any woman, it was more difficult for her because she was lame from a childhood illness leaving her with one leg shorter than the other. Her son-in-law (my dad) chose my name for his mother-in-law – what a wonderful complement! So I was named Bonnie Jean to honor her and her Scottish roots!
I have often written about my husband’s family and often about my parents but haven’t really written about my maternal grandmother. She passed away when I was about 9 months old so I was not fortunate enough to have known her personally. Most of what I know has come through stories told by my own mother and my aunts. They all agreed there probably was never a sweeter woman than she born. She loved the Lord dearly and she encouraged all of her children to know Him in a real and personal way. Although lame she was mother to 10 children who lived. Half were born in Scotland and half here stateside. Even still her children always felt compelled to take care of her and protect her. They thought they had hidden the whereabouts of one son serving overseas in WWII only to learn later that she was well aware of his whereabouts!
Tags: ancestors, conservatives, conservator, famiglia, family, family history, family research, genealogy, jealousy, love of family, memories, Peace, politics, ramblings
This is another one of those posts that isn’t sure where it belongs. It is alternating positions from genealogy to politics to religion and back again. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your dear readers (all 1 or 2 of you) could not make it fit elsewhere! Within the families I research there were at various times several family feuds taking place. Seems someone managed to find a reason to be distrustful or even downright hateful over someone or something else. This amongst families who prided themselves on being “god-fearing” decent folks! Consequently researching those families at times I am met with a branch pruned off our tree when it should still be flourishing.
Back on my honeymoon I had a missed opportunity to take a photograph of a family member – an elderly person so I should have known better. Foolishly I thought I would have another opportunity but of course that did not happen. I not only did not get that photograph, no one recalled her correct name. Were there valid reasons for the family rift? Sure. Was it worth not keeping family together? No. Thanks to younger generations learning that painful lesson, we are all benefitting from reuniting the family. I was blessed to have someone find me on a social networking site and even sharing photographs with me. Cousins are getting to reunite and getting to meet newer family members. It’s nice.
One of the other families has a member who took off for an adventure. They never wrote home again or called. Several of us are looking for that person – we have been for a couple years now. No trace, no mentions anywhere. It’s as if they never lived. It is hard to understand why they no longer wanted family. Stranger still that family did not try to keep connected with them because no one could point to a specific problem. Even the family stories never included a remark about this person. Just gone?
One family member decided to marry someone not approved of by the parents for the odd reason of being from another town. “Those” people weren’t as “good”. Or some such foolishness. The marriage lasted through the birth of several children and well into their eighties. Theirs was an incredible love story when men were not so openly professing their devotion to their wives. They stand holding hands in the only known photograph taken just before his death.
I have unfortunately also seen family feuds amongst the church family. Back a few generations most family members didn’t have the option of leaving one church to go to another one. Here in America rural communities usually had one Protestant or one Catholic church. Later there would be more choices and larger cities would also offer others. In Italy most towns only had one parish priest and one church so folks learned to get along or not attend. Sadly now churches seem to splinter frequently or people jump from church to church each time something or someone upsets them. Further those disagreements often take very public and very messy turns especially when the preacher or priest is involved in the disagreement!
And then we come to those public families such as blogs or politics. Nothing sets me on edge, teeth jarring, nerves screeching like fingernails scraping on a blackboard like flame wars on blogs. How is it we can all find ways to banter and chat on a forum, everyone getting along even as they may disagree about problems and solutions until some unknown spark sets off a maelstrom of epic proportions? Suddenly one poster will call out another and off everyone goes huffing and puffing. Name-calling is usually only the least of it. Worse are the threats to drag someone through a “Joe the Plumber” scenario. Google bombs are created to publically harass and humiliate. If Google isn’t enough we can then also subject them to YouTube recordings to live forever in the bowels of the Internet. Some have even had the distinction of driving weaker victims to suicide via the social network. I personally love to read all sorts of blogs and follow all sort of political viewpoints. I tend to lean conservative on most issues but thanks to incidents within my own life, I often understand and even (Horrors! Gasp!) agree with some liberal views also. The last election cycle was a wonder to behold. Members of the conservative family have taken great delight in devouring their own young. The slightest difference of opinion has no room for acceptance.
Granted sometimes we have valid reasons to walk away from a loved one or family member. I just wish we would try to find it in our collective hearts to think long and hard before we say or do things that amount to pruning that branch off the tree. Admittedly I am not a super green thumb but I have learned one lesson over time. When you carelessly whack off branches too aggressively without care or in the wrong season, the tree dies. Soon that branch rots where it was pruned and the whole tree trunk is infected and dies.
Perhaps it was best said long ago – “The tongue is mightier than the sword.”
Tags: Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Italy, love of family, memories, Presepi, ramblings
Christmas is always my personal favorite – and fortunately I married a man who also loves the holidays. Growing up in Italy Valentino approached the Holiday Season a bit differently than most Americans. The emphasis was never on extravagant gifts but rather on family and sharing love, hospitality, and spiritual values with those around him. He doesn’t remember a tree being the central theme but rather the presepe – nativity – was the center of the family holiday. Later there would also be a tree that family would pose near. But it was the large nativity display that he most eagerly awaited setting up every year. Coins would be saved to buy a figure or two whenever they could afford. These were the old composition figures, many wax-coated to make the colors shine. The display would consist of all of Bethlehem as they thought of it. There would be many shepherds and their sheep scattered all over the mountain on the way to the crèche.
When Valentino and I first married, he was reminiscing about his childhood presepe and my parents were soon interested. We lived with them in Connecticut the first few years. Dad asked if Valentino would build a display for everyone to enjoy. We shopped until we found the perfect set – naturally it was from Italy, a Fontanini! Made of a safe polymer in old fashioned wood tones, it was the perfect choice for an outdoor display. Valentino built a small display right near the front entrance and covered it over with pine boughs and set small twinkly clear lights like stars all throughout them. The ground cover was sand with white flour roads to move the Three Wise Men along their journey day by day closer and closer to the crèche. Scattered about were small wood huts and shepherds with sheep. What a sweet memory – but sadly Florida hurricanes years later would ruin our few photos!
When we made the move to Florida we knew it would be even nicer to build this tradition for our children. The temperate weather here and a big covered entrance meant we could enlarge the display year by year. The boys anxiously awaited their trip to our favorite Christmas store to each choose a new figure to add to the display. It became a family affair to set up the display – usually taking a long weekend to get everything in place. Valentino would take the time to share the wonderful bible stories of Jesus’ birth in simple enough terms for the boys to understand. Soon many of the neighborhood children would want to listen too. Year by year the display grew larger and more elaborate as more shepherds and then angels and townspeople were added. Then we began to find that some smaller children were dropping by when we weren’t home to play with the figures. The Fontanini figures are unbreakable but the money we had invested in them had grown considerably. Fontanini had started a collector’s club and offered special limited edition figures that we had begun to enjoy. Sadly it became obvious we would no longer be able to make the display an outside one. About that time we moved to a newer home and gained a huge family room with plenty of space to set up the display. I discovered a group of collectors online and our involvement with Fontanini and all things Italian nativity related grew into an almost obsessive compulsion! Then we were able to visit the actual Italian factory on a trip to Italy! What a joy! The Fontanini folks are some of the warmest and most enjoyable people. They treated us to a tour of the facilities and gifted us with a few special figures that were never sold in America! Now our display is still huge but inside so we can enjoy it all hours!
May You all have a very Blessed Christmas Season and Happy New Year!
Tags: Fall, famiglia, family, memories, photographs, ramblings, Three Signs of Fall
There are three signs for me that say Fall is upon us! Nothing says fall like beautiful the beautiful changing colors of leaves and flowers and of course pumpkin patches. When younger I delighted in the crisp piles of leaves we played in – frustrating my dear father who was attempting to rake them! What fun it was to jump and bury ourselves in those leaves. They always had a wonderful unique scent to them. I knew it meant soon we would be having bonfires to roast marshmallows. We would often go to the local farm where we could choose a wonderful chrysanthemum plant in glorious fall colors. They had rows and rows planted and would dig them up and put in a clay pot, any size you wanted. We would bring home several huge pots to put out near our front door on display until after Thanksgiving. Hanging on the front door would be big bunches of multicolored Indian corn tied with a big straw bow.
But the most fun was to climb over all the pumpkins in every size imaginable until the perfect one was found. It had to be huge of course and just right to carve a face! I am too old to climb over the pumpkins as I did when young but instead I can enjoy my grandchildren as they hunt for their perfect pumpkins!
We always opted for the traditional jack-o-lantern smile with teeth and triangular shaped eyes. Now my own sons are so much more creative than me.
No silly faces for them – now we have wonderful spiders and scary faces as well as BOO!
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: famiglia, family, family history, Italy, love of family, ramblings
Here in this part of Florida our little ones (and some not so little ones) start school next week! It used to be those many years ago when I was young (no I am NOT going to count them out loud for you) that we dreaded Labor Day Weekend. That bittersweet holiday was one parents enjoyed and children dreaded as it meant the end to summer fun and time to get ready for school. How I loved though the school shopping with Mom! We would go to the Five and Dime to pick out new notebooks, pencils, a pencil case, crayons, and lots of paper! Best of all I enjoyed agonizing over which lunchbox I wanted. My all time favorite was a shiny red plaid metal one – it made me feel a connection with my Scottish family. Although my mom was born here, most of my aunts and uncles were born in Scotland and obviously my name of Bonnie Jean (I know! I know! A real name because I’m not just Valentinoswife!) was a reminder of my wonderful heritage! Then began the quest for new clothes and of course new shoes.
My aunt told me of how she was ashamed when she did not have enough dresses for school so would turn a collar inside to hide it if soiled. She admitted later that she had more than enough clothes but in her mind she wanted more special things! I suspect she was trying to gently teach me not to be too prideful! My husband and most of the family in Italy recall wearing smocks in school. Their purpose was to protect children from taunts and embarrassment over clothes also. It was post-war Italy and money was tight for most villagers so parents were struggling to feed families. They had little money to send their children to school so extra clothes were a luxury!
How different from the lives of most of our children now. Today we face children like my grandchildren having so many clothes to choose from each morning that they want to change outfits again and again until they achieve “The Look”! One big change for us in all this was new clothes. All of the grand daughters are attending a charter school. This is a public school that is geared to helping the children excel in all areas. They are required to wear uniforms so although we shopped for clothes, we had very specific items to purchase. One positive note – although uniforms are intended to put all children on equal footing instead of competition over name brands, it is also a real help to parents. No more squabbles over what to wear in the mornings when dressing for school. The biggest choice will be skirts or pants but the shirt is standard as are the colors of skirts and pants. This will be plenty of individuality for her as she can choose between scooter skirt, shorts, capris, or long pants! Even the little jackets and cardigans are uniform issue with school logo embroidered on them.
Now as I help a little granddaughter get ready for her first day of kindergarten I am astonished at how things have changed and yet remained the same. My daughter in love and I have share shopping tips helping one another in the search for supplies. The list has expanded since my sons went to school. Now it included the usual notebooks, crayons, pencils, glue sticks, and pencil cases but also a lot more. School budgets have changed and so have teacher needs. Now the list includes plastic sandwich bags and in two sizes, Band-Aids (where did school nurses disappear to?), a change of clothes safely labeled, hand sanitizer, a roll of paper towels, dry erase markers, a box of tissues, and disinfectant wipes! Some of this pleased my granddaughter no end. She loves to clean???? Wonder whose genes those are??? So she is absolutely positive this means she gets to help clean the classroom every day! We did have fun over her choice of backpack and lunchbox. She and her cousins chose Hello Kitty themes so Auntie bought a backpack for each of the girls and we found the insulated lunchbag! Somehow I suspect we will not have escaped all squabbles though. There’s still homework to face!
Tags: ancestors, genealogy, family research, Itri, Italy, family history, photographs, family, famiglia, conservator, love of family, organizing, filing, research, contingency plan, memories, Carnival of Genealogy
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!