For years when I was growing up my mother would talk about the family she left back in Italy. We've heard names, and know a few sparse details, but really that side of the family has always been a blank page. A big mystery. I never thought in a million years that I would ever get to meet these strangers across the Atlantic ocean.
In 2007, the year before we moved here, I got the chance to briefly meet a few of my mother's relatives for the very first time, face to face. My two sisters and I had brought my mother over to Italy to celebrate her 80th birthday, which included stops in both Caserta, where my mother's mother grew up and had family, and also in the La Spezia/Cinque Terre area, home of my mother's father.
Since I moved, I've made many trips to La Spezia and Cinque Terre. I've gotten to know my Italian grandfather's side of the family who still live in that area fairly well. Finding my Italian family has been one of life's great surprises for me. I think all Italian-Americans wonder about their relatives back in Italy and have a huge desire to find them, meet them, become part of the family. I'm one of the lucky ones who has done that.
While I've spent lots of time with my Nonno's (grandfather) family, I have not gotten to know my Nonna's (grandmother) people. That will change this weekend. My husband Mike and I are going to Sorrento to attend a meeting. Sorrento is only about 2 hours from where my family is in Caserta. Too close to not go visit. I had a phone number and email address of Cousin Enzo, so I wrote a little email explaining I'd be nearby and would like to see as many family members as possible while I was there. Enzo jumped on it and organized a family dinner for Monday, January 24.
Enzo isn't actually my cousin. Technically, he is my mother's second cousin. So what is he to me? Second cousin once removed? I think that's it. Darned if I know. Doesn't matter. It's his generation that is left, and I'm so excited to have the opportunity to get to know them. I have met Enzo before, briefly as I said. The last time we saw each other, he and his mother, Zia Maria, ran into the Caserta train station to say hello to my mother, sisters and I as we were changing trains there. He handed us a plastic bag filled with mozzarella nd tomato sandwiches he had made us for lunch, which we ate on the train headed to Rome. I'm thinking I should ask him to bring me a few more this weekend!
This side of the family speaks almost no English, so it's going to be alot of fun trying to communicate.