Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, genealogy, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories
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!
Tags: ancestors, famiglia, family, family history, love of family, memories
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!
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories
In Italy, All Saints Eve or Day of the Dead is day of remembrance and honoring the dead. There is some slight confusion or mingling of the two days – November 1st celebrates the saints and November 2nd is to actually honor the dead. I figured today I would explain to those not familiar with some of the Italian traditions about cemeteries in Italy. Land is at a premium in Italy – available land is needed for farms and housing. Each town though has a walled cemetery usually set outside the main part of town. Inside the walls of the cemetery are considered consecrated land having been blessed by the priest. There is usually an area where smaller metal or wooden crosses adorn the graves of those who cannot afford larger headstones. Headstones in Italy are often works of art with beautiful sculptures on them. Many also have an encased photograph of the deceased. The walls of the cemetery usually are also crypts for those who choose not to be buried in the ground. After approximately 20 years families will reuse the graves for others in the family. Bones of the buried are moved to what is called a bone room housed in the basement area of the chapel. This may seem morbid but is actually a matter of family honor. On this day once a year, everyone goes to the cemetery and honors their deceased ancestors! Flowers are everywhere including at the chapel. Families visit the graves often and bring flowers but this is a special day for everyone. Mass and prayers are offered up for all of the deceased. Sadly we Americans do not have anything of this nature and it is a shame. Our children are not taught to remember those who have gone before us. There is not an emphasis put on valuing what our ancestors did for us. In a land such as Italy where children understand that land and homes have passed from generation to generation, children learn of the sacrifices of their ancestors on behalf of family. It is the respect for family and history that endears Italy to so many of us. It is the call upon many of us to want to return to this sense of family and remembering with pride and gratitude that we understand forms the underpinnings of a civilization that will survive instead of merely exist until something else comes along to replace it.
So it was for me as my mother in law accepted and welcomed me to her family. I was never treated as only a daughter in law but I was loved as a daughter, a member of the family! Of course family has disagreements and times of strife but they are always family, always there to help, to liten, to offer advicde, to love! Famiglia!
Tags: famiglia, family history, Italy, Itri, love of family, ramblings, Wordless Wednesday
I am blessed! It’s still the same!
Tags: doctors, famiglia, health, insurance, posting schedule
Just want to post a quickie note apologizing for not posting anything new this week. Dear Valentino is having a rough week -he is in the hospital dealing with some physical issues. He was not feeling well during our trip so we suspected he was going to need some interventional care. We keep a pretty close eye due to his heart valve replacement and we have been quite fortunate for the last 14 years that all has gone well. I credit that to his excellent doctors and again they have impressed me. For all of the faults of the American medical system, we have been blessed with doctors who in spite of a decided lack of medical insurance at one point in our lives, went above and beyond in his care. That continues to be the case even though they are dealing with imperfect Medicare payments and fee schedules. Although we do not rate the home visits that doctors still offer overseas, we did rate a rapid return of phone messages and a great doctor who was not in a hurry to hang up. He was more than willing to talk and reassure a very nervous wife on the telephone even though he was not going to be the cardiologist on the case in the hospital! (Thank you Dr. Messersmith!) I will be touching base here off and on for the next few days but will be back on schedule by next week!
UPDATE: Bonnieshusband is officially home and settled back in after his hospital stay. I want to thank everyone for their kind words of good wishes and prayers – God is always good! After speaking with our normal GP and cardiologist, we met a new cardiologist who was wonderful and spent time to talk. The next day the covering cardiologist was a doctor from the hospital I am employed at. It was extremely conforting to have a PA (Yay Sandy!) and doctor who I knew and felt comfortable talking with. He is also an excellent doctor whose opinion and skills I trust implicitly! Val responded well to everything done and did not need any major interventions as a result – so answered prayer!
In any event I credit all the well wishes and prayers from all of you! Thanks!
Tags: family, honeymoon, Italy, Itri, wedding
Valentino and Bonnie were married February 19, 1977. The evening was bitter cold in Providence, Rhode Island but excitement was high! Bonnie’s parents had come from Connecticut to help with all of the preparations. The day had been spent shopping for last minute items such as extra flowers and ribbons. Lillian wanted to add her personal expertise and love to all the arrangements and bouquets.
That evening the photographer had his car towed by the police and he was over an hour late for the reception. One of the bridesmaids, Doris, had spilled a glass of red wine all over the front of her pale blue gown. Fortunately Lillian was able to use club soda to rinse all traces from the gown before the photographer arrived for photos. No one was the wiser!
In the morning Valentino and Bonnie drove to Connecticut to stay with Lillian and Norman until a Monday night flight would take them to Rome! They all went shopping Monday because Norman and Lillian wanted to be sure nothing was forgotten for the month long honeymoon including gifts for family!
Bonnie packed her wedding dress and carried it on board the plane where the flight crew greeted her warmly! All the women wanted to see the dress of course and mid-flight surprised the couple with an announcement from the captain! His copilot presented the couple with a bottle of champagne as the captain wished them well to the applause of all the passengers!
After Bonnie and Valentino each had a small glass, Bonnie cleverly re-corked the bottle to take with them. It fit in her carryon bag with the neck protruding out slightly from one end. There was a long pedestrian escalator in the Rome airport that took passengers to customs and immigration checkpoints. Up two stories or more were long metal catwalks where armed soldiers patrolled. They held their machine guns in the ready position with the safety unlocked! The agents were in bulletproof booths that one would slide in passports to be checked. Suddenly a huge explosion was heard and the guards dove under their desks for protection. The soldiers were anxiously scanning the crowd seeking the person responsible. Bonnie began laughing so hard, tears were running down her face while other passengers began to giggle with her. One of the soldiers noticed a metal light fixture swinging on the long chains – and dust was billowing from its top. “The light must have exploded!” he declared. Bonnie and Val certainly had no intention of correcting him with the information that the explosion was her champagne cork hitting the metal light! She was more afraid of calling her father to bail her out of a Roman jail!