On Enchanted to Remember

Wedding

That was August 23, 1952. Their wedding eventually led to their daughter introducing me to them before a college football game in the fall of 1974. We married in April 1977. August 2012 was their 60th anniversary celebration, and the delightful footnote that the entire wedding party was still alive.

My mother-in-law loved both of these songs. A toast to a good person with the gentile heart that everyone enjoyed and respected. We will miss her, but the love and memories she gave us will last forever.


On a Bridge Walk

Regulars may recall this past post (when I returned from Italy) opening with a picture of my mother standing on a small bridge in her hometown. I eagerly anticipated walking across that bridge toward the apartment and strolling through the city center, but my cousins kept us busy – besides, I started each morning by visiting my aunt.

It was day 8 and my time was running out, so I declared the morning as mine, and solely mine. I was out of the house by 9 AM for my journey, and after a short walk, the bridge stood before me. I quickly saw the sign for one-way traffic, and noticed drivers using is as a shortcut. Knowing the aggressive nature of many Italian drivers, I carefully watched and waited for a few minutes and recognized that alertness would be paramount after crossing the street.

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Suddenly, there I was – standing on the bridge looking around at the fast-flowing stream, the surrounding hills, the valley, the small town of my grandmother above, and the walk ahead – all with tears rolling down my face.

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I walked down the street toward the old apartment building. Besides asphalt replacing gravel, it was just as I remembered – greenhouses were still there, as were some houses, and a large old factory behind the apartment. Some carnation fields were still present, but olive trees now occupied some of their space.

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In a short time, I arrived at the apartment. Today, the U-shaped structure is vacant and the courtyard entrance is blocked – but the blockade did not hinder my view of the third-floor windows (not the top) where I had images of my handicapped uncle spent much of his day – or where my grandmother lowered a basket to receive something from below.

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I climbed a small wall to see the courtyard where I played and the stone opening that led to the walk upstairs. As tempted as I was, I didn’t go further.

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The house across the street still stands, but the small lot of carnations is now a grove of olive trees.

The emotions of this walk along were many as I thought much about my family. I looked at the small village on the hill knowing that my grandmother, an aunt and uncle were smiling from the cemetery I earlier visited – as were the family members from the city cemetery across town.

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On this day, I came, I saw, and left feeling content. Because I had my peace, it was time to continue my walk away from the apartment toward city center. Ciao!

On Why

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Mom, her sister that recently died, and my cousin

A recent post focused on where I went during my blogging break, but this post one is about why. Sometime this past September, my sister forwarded me an email that one of my mother’s two remaining sisters had died. Shortly thereafter, I realized that all four grandparents, Mom and Dad, and all my aunts and uncles had died – well, all but one – and one that I hadn’t seen in since 1964.

The thought of having only one person left on the family tree before me weighed on my mind for many weeks. I finally talked to my wife about what I had been thinking – the need to return to Italy, especially to see my aunt.

She asked questions, but to give her time to think, I didn’t bring it up again for about 3 weeks. Later, we agreed I would go during the time she was on a winter getaway with her sister.

Although I planned to go by myself, my wife asked if I would ask my sister to go along. I know that would be the right thing to do, but being that we are opposites, I knew 10 days was well beyond my 36-hour tolerance limit I eventually asked her because it was the right thing to do – Mama Mia, she said yes!

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I’m proud of this pic in Florence

The trip was successful. All four first cousins not only greeted us upon arrival, but were active hosts treating us with wonderful meals, wine, and trips to classic Tuscan places as Pisa, Florence, Lucca, Cinque Terra, and San Gimignano. In my opinion, we were too active because travel and sightseeing wasn’t my goal. Then again, these are great sights and doing these things for us was important to my cousins!

One evening I went dancing with my oldest cousin and her husband. The same cousin also took me to the small village high on the mountain where my paternal grandparents lived. Heck, both of these experiences could be posts!

I saw my aunt every day. Even though I struggled with my words, I’m confident that she knew what I wanted to say – so in that sense, mission accomplished. I did get a chance to walk the city by myself, but not as much as I wanted.

As for my sister, no – we didn’t grow closer as my wife hoped … and once again, I will do the right thing by not saying much.

On Where

MomBridgeThat’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.

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