Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, Christmas, famiglia, family history, Holiday Spirit, Italy, memories, Presepi, ramblings
I brought these treasures home from Italy and Germany – I hate to even take them down, preferring to leave them to grace my kitchen year round. No – they are NOT kitchen witches, although often mistakenly called so. These are replicas of La Befana also called Nona Befana.
She was according to legend an old woman who was constantly cleaning her home, something typically Italian I might add! When the three Magi came by searching the Christ Child she was too busy. Then her heart spoke to her and she began to search too.
Now she roams the earth each January 6th searching as did the Magi for Him! Let her help keep Christmas alive a bit longer for all of us each season!
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: 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, family history, love of family, memories
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.
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, genealogy, love of family, memories
My best treasure here on earth? My four sons. Each of them would by themselves would be a blessing to any parent. For me to have been so blessed has been joy beyond belief! Never, not even for one moment have we regretted being their parents! Four decent young adults now – but they were four rambunctious delightful boys growing up. We were never a wealthy family but we were rich in our identity as a family. I began my hobby turned passion of genealogy in order to teach my sons their heritage, to introduce them to family they had not met. When Valentino became disabled, all four understood we had to make changes and adapt. Later when I was forced into a wheelchair due to an injury, again they adapted. Whatever needed to be done, was accepted and done. Yes, of course they had moments they did not agree with or enjoy. We encouraged them to always speak freely and honestly even with complaints. We asked only they do so respectfully. Our lives revolved around home and church. They developed close bonds with one another. Yet they were typical brothers with disagreements, anger, frustrations. Their personalities like their looks were and are totally different. They could hardly be called “four peas in a pod.” Still they loved one another then and now. A shared special bond that nothing will break. Each is opinionated and stubborn in their own ways. They voice those opinions freely to one another. Each is always eager to tell the other right from wrong, how to look, how to act, even how to react. But they are always brothers. They stand for one another against the world when it counts. And they love deeply. They are family, blood. They learned well the lessons of family we wanted them to know. Time, age, none of it matters. Only the bond of family stands the test of time. Nw as they look at the next generation in the eyes of children and nieces, they know well what family means. For me as a mother and grandmother, I could ask for no more. I miei tesori! These are my treasures! I thank God I was and am so blessed!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family history, memories
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!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, cooking, famiglia, family, family history, food, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories, recipes
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!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, love of family, memories, preserving photographs
This week my sister and I sat together for hours literally working on a labor of love for family. My posting here has been sporadic of late as I have had to deal with one family situation after another. The Good Lord has kept His Eye on all of us and we have come through most of the storms, but I can’t and won’t dare to say we have been untouched because that is the one thing I can assure you is true. We have been touched deep to our core as we have dealt with family& medical emergencies, especially during the holiday season, including the loss of a much loved aunt. With her passing we now have lost the final of four siblings – my dad, two brothers, and his sister. My dad was the first to pass away back in 1983 and it is still as fresh and painful as yesterday. At times like now he is missed even more as this was a final chapter for us in some respects.
This all becomes part of my Treasure Chest of Memories and Emotions. Aunt Beverly passed December 17th, 2009. She is the wife of my Uncle Clifford written about in an earlier post “The Policeman and The Case of the Silver Spoon.” This beautiful woman had the sweetest shy smile, yet was so beautiful she could easily have been conceited. An accomplished businesswoman, a medical professional, she was also a wife and mother with many varied hobbies. This gal begged my mother to teach her to sew and then went on to even tailor men’s suits for her husband. Her sewing room was one of the best stocked and most organized I have ever seen. Later she would encourage me to sew more and even taught me to smock! When my sister and I were younger, she used all sorts of scraps of fabric to sew us a huge box of doll clothes one Christmas for our Ginny dolls. I can’t imagine how long she worked at this gift but there were probably close to a hundred little outfits for us! We had the best dressed Ginny dolls in our group of friends!
So my sister and I spent our day putting together a tribute for Aunt Bev’s Memorial to be held next week. But long after we finished I sat late into the wee hours going over old family photos and remembering so much of my childhood and the stories I heard about the childhood of these four siblings. How my dad loved his brothers and sister! He loved his parents too but it was his great grandfather and his siblings that stole his heart! Even when there were family disagreements ( and of course there were), to the end of his life he hurt and rejoiced for and with his siblings and loved them dearly! It was by his example we learned the meaning of family and to appreciate the rich history of our roots. We weren’t nobility or famous or even very rich – yet each member held a valued place in the family itself and thus an important place in our hearts.
So now my family has shrunk in the physical sense but my treasure chest of memories and emotions is ever rich and overflowing as I think of them. I know they are all happy to be once again sharing a laugh, a tear, a hug – and we may miss them but can’t help but be happy knowing they are together again!