I am going to save most of the beautiful pictures, scenery and experiences from today for another blog. I want to focus on the incredible family time we had this evening.
Tonight, I was introduced to Elvira Di Renzo. She is our cousin’s mother and is 76 years old, living in Palmoli, Italy. Palmoli is 727 meters (ps. I don’t know how to convert the meters to feet but it is 2,385 feet says the internet) above sea level. It is up in the Appenine Mountains, but also only 15 miles from the Adriatic Sea, and is an incredibly beautiful town with views that I cannot describe with words. The drive up the hills was absolutely beautiful. It is about 20 degrees colder up there but when we saw a Shepard with his flock, we had to stop. I got some great pictures but we got ambitious and starting running toward them and they went running. The only thought going through that man’s mind was “who are these dumb Americans running after my sheep?” We just said Ciao and walked away with our heads down.
Elvira called me little Margie immediately (Margie is my mother and my grandmother’s name) and told me that she was already familiar from my Aunt Betty, who she was very close to also) talking about me. Although I hardly understood her, it was so special to me. Aunt Betty has been gone for over 10 years but she was definitely not forgettable for any of us.
She came with us to tour some Palmoli sites. We first visited the Castello di Palmoli and the garden was so simple but had the most amazing flowers. I took several pictures of them, of course. The funny part about this is that the castle was closed and locked but with one phone call and 10 minutes, the Mayor was there to open it for us. We got a tour of the castle (built in 1095) which was absolutely amazing. For some reason, I love old doors and windows and architectural detail and my pictures will show that. The castle provided so many opportunities to photograph but, of course, my phone died as soon as we climbed to the top of the tower. Yes, sadly that means no more pictures. The view from the top was unbelievable (I feel like I am running out of original descriptive words to use that mean amazing).
Next we walked to the church, surprisingly, we walked in right in time for mass. So, we stayed. I prayed for growing faith for myself and those special to me. Why did I feel like I was closer to heaven in this place? Italy has so much religious history, especially in the Catholic Church, it was nice to attend a mass.
After, I noticed that I could make a donation and light a candle in this beautiful, Italian church. My mother would have loved this place and I know she would so appreciate a special prayer from her daughter in the city where her Grandfather, Dominico, was born. So, I made a donation and started my special prayer and asked Elvira to join me to light the candle for my mother. The picture you see is of that happy moment for my mom, Margie (don’t cry Mom).
We walked through the cobblestone streets of Palmoli in the rain to return to the car to head to Elvira’s for dinner. Of course, she cooked for us. We sat around the table and talked about our family and ate cutlets and potatoes and peas! Everything was delicioso! She brought out Italian doughnuts after the meal.
She sat next to me, squeezed my arm and told me about working with my Aunt Emma, sewing clothes for my Grandmother and living with my Aunt Betty for three years (1966-1969) in Norristown. She talked about my mom being the energetic one (likely where I get it from) and my Aunt Donna being calmer. We saw a fantastic picture of them when they were younger and she told me to be sure to talk to them for her, including my mom, my aunt and my uncle. She had such a great memory and did well with English for having only lived in America for three years. She even remembered my mom’s little dog Pedro. There is something so amazing about sitting around the table with this family, understanding without speaking and feeling connected without ever knowing each other.
I practiced saying “I loved seeing you” in Italian over and over before it was my turn to hug her goodbye. Everyone left but me and my cousin and as she embraced me again, she said something I could not understand. She told her granddaughter to translate but she was obviously reluctant. Finally, she said “You should get married!”
Dio Mio, sempre in famiglia Italiana (my mother, sitting at home reading this, just said THANK YOU ELVIRA!).
On the way home, my cousin Lucia told me about my great grandparents. Dominico moved from Palmoli to America in 1902 and stayed for about four years. He returned to Italy to find a wife around 1912. He met Giovina and was married in Italy but he returned to America to find them a home. However, before Giovina could join him, the First World War broke out and no one could travel. For 10 years, she remained in Italy without her husband because of the war and the chaos that ensued. She lived miserably but was finally able to return to America and join her husband. By that time, she was late-30’s, but had three children (including my Grandfather, my great Uncle Anthony and my great Aunt Betty).
She is described as being very independent. Although she was illiterate, she worked and supported the family. For most of their children’s lives, their father was disabled so Giovina worked in an asbestos factory. She was driven and free spirited and had no fear. I feel so completely connected to my great Grandmother Giovina from these stories because it sounds like I take after her.
Conoscere la mia famiglia è incredibile. Grazie a Lucia per aiutare!
Pictures included: Domenico, Aunt Betty and Elvira when they were young, a picture of my mom’s generation when they were younger (mom- top left) and of course Elvira and I lighting the candle.