That’s my mom in 1964 from her hometown in Tuscany, in between Pisa and Florence. She’s standing on a small bridge that is special to me for a variety of reason. The small village way up the hill is where my grandmother was born and grew up. The bridge crosses a small river where I occasionally played.
The bridge didn’t get much traffic, thus the road was gravel. Greenhouses and a few carnation fields lined each side of the road. A the far of the road was the stone apartment building where my mother and her siblings were raised, and where my grandparents still lived when I last visited.
I remember the stone entrance and stops as I walked to the third-floor apartment, which was small with a stone floor. No – this wasn’t the Tuscan villa of our dreams.
My grandfather was tall, quiet, and stern man who provided for his family by working in a factory. I also recall waiting for him at the end of the street for his return home. My grandmother was the stereotypical short, smiling, pleasant Italian grandmother who was a domestic goddess with her cooking and sewing.
Mom was the fourth of six siblings. The oldest, my uncle, was in a wheelchair, thus live at home his entire life. The next was an uncle that I never met because he died in an accident in his 20s. Four girls followed – two older aunts, my mom, and my youngest aunt.
1964 is a long time ago. Since then, most have died – my grandfather (1964), my uncle (1965), my grandmother (1973), Mom (1987), the oldest sister (2010), and the second oldest sister (2012) – let alone the spouses and my dad (2010), my paternal grandparents, Dad’s two sisters, and their spouses.
So that leaves Mom’s youngest sister, two first cousins that I last saw in 1964, and two first cousins that I have not met.
Well – that’s where I’ve been as I just returned from my first visit to see my relatives since 1964 – visit to focus on my last tie to my Mom – here youngest sister – and yes, my four first cousins and their families.
Obviously, the first encounter involved hugs and tears … and then we ate, drank, and laughed … and that was only day 1.