Treasure Chest Thursday July 22, 2010

July 22, 2010 at 02:48 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday | Leave a comment
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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!

Tombstone Tuesday – the Burial of Winter Blues!

May 11, 2010 at 11:39 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Italian Cooking | Leave a comment
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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!

Treasure Chest Thursday 4/29/10

April 29, 2010 at 02:52 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Treasure Chest Thursday | 1 Comment
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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.

Liberation Day April 25th

April 25, 2010 at 22:00 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Current Events, Itri, Italy, memories, Political Opinions, Somber Sunday | 1 Comment
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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:

revered corpses

Itri

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!

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter to All!

April 4, 2010 at 17:59 | Posted in Amore di Italia | 1 Comment
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When I was a teenager I worked at a local department store. I worked in gifts and candy selling primarily Russell Stover and Wedgewood. I enjoyed working there and found I loved selling. More importantly I discovered I was very good at it while being totally honest with people. I didn’t have to resort to lies or trickery to sell.ple responded to the truth and I was able to meet sales quotas and bonus marks consistently! Over in the next department was the infant wear and accessory items. At Easter they offered wonderful stuffed animals in soft pastel colors to appeal to all the children. Way up in a high display sat the softest sweetest beige mama bunny in a pink velvet skirt. She held a baby bunny in her arms. But the selling point at least for me was that she was fitted with a music box too. When the music played she rocked her baby gently. I was no longer a young child but for some reason this bunny spoke to me. I was captivated by her. She was not an inexpensive creature so there was going to be a nice bonus to whoever sold her. I dreaded seeing her leave. My mom came to shop that week for special Russell Stover chocolates for the adult family and friends we shared Easter with. Unbeknownst to me, she had already done some shopping. I never caught on but she had listened when my friends and I talked about this sweet bunny. Within six months I would be leaving Connecticut to go to college. She knew I would need a reminder of home and maybe even a silent friend to be with me.

Easter morning there in place of chocolate in my basket sat this precious velveteen rabbit with baby! When September came, she and baby traveled to school with me and was given a place to sit in my dorm room. She was indeed a reminder of how loved I was whenever I was feeling homesick. Today she sits atop an armoire in our bedroom, still reminding me of home so long ago! She carries with her still a reminder that our greatest gift was the one given freely for us at Easter. May you all know be blessed with the peace of Easter. I pray you are all blessed with joy, health, and more this Easter! Io prego Lei è tutto benedetti con gioia, salute e più questa Pasqua!

Treasure Chest Thursday – Concetta’s Earrings

March 26, 2010 at 05:01 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday | 2 Comments
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When her son brought his bride home, she gave the newlyweds her bedroom. Every morning she would insist on bringing them the first coffee in bed. She planned a huge party for the couple as a wedding reception. All of the family came from all around Italy for the party. Furniture was cleared out of the main room and huge tables were set around the walls of the room in a big square so no one would feel left out. Neighbors and friends came all day to bring gifts for the couple and take photos of them together. The big table in the front room displayed all of the presents for everyone to view.

It was Concetta’s gift to Bonnie that was the most special of all.

The women all went to the bedroom to help Bonnie prepare. They fingered the beautiful wedding gown and touched the little seed pearls. Laid out on the dresser was a pair of obviously gold antique earrings. The daughters and granddaughters were all talking about them. Each remembered watching Concetta


 

polish these beautiful earrings and replace them in her dresser. Everyone gathered close as Concetta picked them up one at a time to place in Bonnie’s ears. It was then she embraced Bonnie and told her, “Valentino, my tesoro, is my baby son. But now you are my daughter. When the two of you disagree, I will stand beside you so that you will not be divided by me. These earrings are yours now because you are my daughter. You come before nieces and granddaughters.”

And this was the love she gave to the American girl who loved her son. Unquestioning, unwavering, steadfast love for all of her life. Bonnie vowed she would follow the path this woman taught her when it became her turn to be a mother in law too.

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!

Treasure Chest Thursday, The Gift of a Ring

March 4, 2010 at 04:11 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday | 2 Comments
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Maria and Fernando decided to take the couple on a walking tour of Milano. They would do some shopping and visit the Duomo di Milano. Near their apartment was a small jewelry store where they looked at rings in the store window. There was a beautiful 18KT ring with a fancy vintage appeal. It was like a small flower. Valentino had bought Bonnie a beautiful 18KT cross and chain in Gaeta their first week in Italy as his wedding gift for her. He had made the promise of this gift before they were married so she was not expecting another gift. After all, the entire trip itself was a gift of a lifetime dream for her. All day they gazed in store windows and occasionally she would try a ring on for size and look. She would gently tell Valentino that none were as pretty or unique as the first small ring near the apartment. And then she would remind him she was not expecting a ring because she already had her wedding ring!

The next day they were scheduled to take the train to Germany to visit Carlo and his wife Elsa who were unable to make the trip to Italy. Bonnie spent a lazy morning washing her hair and packing for the train trip. Maria made her a special breakfast while the men took a walk together. Valentino was like a boy when he returned, too excited to hide his surprise for the following week when Bonnie would celebrate her birthday in Germany. He had a beautiful small box with the precious flower ring inside! He and Fernando had gone to the first store and bought that ring as a gift! After thirty years together and many wonderful presents, it was still her favorite because it held so much love!

February 19th, 1977 – 2010

February 19, 2010 at 06:08 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, DiCrocco, family history, memories | 2 Comments
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Today is a special day – at least it is for me! It is my 33rd wedding anniversary to Valentino!

Yes, I really am Valentinoswife – and blessed because of it! It seems that so many folks are rushing to get divorced – or we read the latest statistics that claim over 50% of Italian males and over 60% of Italian females cheat on their spouses! Those are frightening statistics to me. I cannot imagine that many unhappy people – yet it seems I know many of the unhappy ones here in the US. I haven’t seen the latest fidelity stats for the US, but I bet they aren’t much better than Italy’s. I do know that many years ago I made a decision to not watch soap operas on Television. It seemed that the poorest person lived better than most folks I knew – serving tea in from fine china in mid-afternoon while real folks were working. And it seemed most women were engaged in one affair after another. It felt a bit too much as if they were pushing the general idea that it was okay because everyone was doing it! But I wasn’t and I didn’t want to. This week a few of the younger women I worked with asked what my secret was to stay married so long. Another asked what it was like to wake up with the same partner every day for 33 years. I have no answer but I do know marriage is work. It is a state of mind. It is a decision one makes – to stay married and be committed to each other or not. Valentino said there was no point to being married or even getting married if one had not already made those decisions. As for the waking up to the same partner every day: I cannot imagine a time when I would not! I cannot imagine what it would have been like if I lost him during any of the medical crisis we faced over the years. When on our honeymoon we heard a love song played over and over on the radio everywhere we went. It had won the San Remo Music Festival that year right as we arrived in Italy. You can read about that experience here but I have to tell you, we listened today to that song already. It still brings tears to my eyes remembering how romantic and special that time was.

Through my husband, I was blessed to become part of a large extended family and welcomed with open arms. I learned from my mother in law how to share my sons with future daughter in laws as she shared her son with me. Her heart and arms opened wide to accept me and love me unconditionally because her son did. I learned that money did not guarantee happiness but love and respect do! I learned that family stick together no matter what even when upset with one another. I learned that even in spite of disagreements, family pull together to help, to protect, to love one another no matter how far apart they are in miles or years! As I research the family tree, I learn the stories told for years by one another – and I uncover some they did not know before.

This then is the legacy I hope we are passing on to our sons and their children. It is legacy of love, of family. Happy anniversary to me – and to Valentino – I love you know more than ever! For always!

Treasure Chest Thursday Francesco’s Wooden Spoons

February 11, 2010 at 01:52 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Italian Cooking, Treasure Chest Thursday | 3 Comments
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When Concetta needed spoons for cooking she couldn’t just run to a store to buy one. Money was tight and stores weren’t always close by. So Francesco would sit after dinner with a smoke and he would whittle her one from a piece of scrap wood. With just a simple knife he managed to carve beautiful spoons. They were a perfect size for stirring the big pots of sauce for the family dinners.

Along the way Valentino ended up with two of these spoons. They were still in wonderful condition but I did not have the heart to use them. Looking at them I thought often of the wondrous meals Concetta cooked for us using anything at hand. How I loved standing at her elbow watching her and making notes on recipe cards so I would remember every step after she returned to Italy.

On one of our trips to Italy a nephew expressed deep sorrow and disappointment that he had nothing to remember his grandfather by. He had lived with Francesco for several years and loved him dearly. “Not even a stone or brick from the family farm” he exclaimed. Valentino said nothing at that time but when we planned our next trip, Valentino packed one of our two spoons. When we surprised our nephew, he was overcome with emotion. He held that spoon ever so lovingly and then made a special place in the kitchen for it to be displayed. Like us, he did not have the heart to risk using it but rather wanted it always on display as a reminder of this special couple.

But our story does not end here. Back home we went on a visit to cousins in Rhode Island. As we told the story about the spoons, one of the cousins was touched by how we shared with our nephew. So she in turn had a surprise for us. Wrapped in tissue for many years was a spoon carved by Francesco. But this one was a double affair: a large spoon on one end and a fork on the other with a foot rest in the middle of the handle! It’s perfect for spaghetti or noodles as well as the sauce. Francesco had whittled one of these for several in the family as gifts. Our cousin had tucked hers away in tissue unused for over 20 years so it was still the new white pine.

I know this spoon was meant to be used in the kitchen and maybe tossed as it became old. I am sure Francesco thought it would be replaced soon enough. Yet it holds such sweet memories and so much love, that we can’t bear to use it. It is a piece of Francesco with us still, a tangible reminder of how he loved his family. And it evokes many reminders of how much love an Italian family shares through simple every day tasks like whittling a spoon or cooking a pot of sauce!

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