I've been wondering what would push me to write again. Not that I haven't been thinking about it. I have. Just had so many pressing things to handle during and after the move. The move itself was disastrous (that's another story) and the settling in took much longer than we anticipated (that's a few other stories). Yesterday was a day for the record books- we received our new residence certificates and Carta d'Identita from the Comune. Only took about a month longer than we had hoped to get those things accomplished (yes, yet another story there). I really thought that would be the push that got me to the keyboard yesterday. That's a big milestone. We were officially new Procida residents, and we were ready to celebrate.
However, at 5:29 pm yesterday, my life changed. Completely out of the blue, unexpectedly, but forever changed.
And that's what has me writing today. Trust me, this is some big stuff. I have always written most of my blog posts about my Venetian/Italian experiences so that I'd have a written record of them years later. What occurred yesterday has got to be one of the most significant- and weirdest- events ever. I must write it so I don't ever forget. And I can't wait to share it with you.
I, like many other Italian-Americans, always dreamed of researching the Italian family tree, maybe even tracking down some of the family who are still living. When my mother came to America after the war, she came as a war bride. I never had any Italian family living in America. Nor did I know any family back in Italy because my mother had been adopted when she was a very young child. I knew of the adopting family, but I didn't know anything about her biological family. It's always been a curiosity, and a bit of a mystery.
My mother has always been angry that she was put up for adoption, while an older brother was kept by her family. She felt abandoned, rejected, and very hurt. Her adoptive family was wonderful to her, but she never got over that hurt. It has haunted her for her entire life. And she has always refused to talk about her biological family.
When I moved to Italy, I sought out her adoptive family. These people opened their homes and their hearts to me. I have been welcomed and loved up like I was one of their own. But I have always wondered where the biological family might be. Was anyone still alive? Did anyone remember my mother? Did anyone know what the circumstances were around my mothers adoption. My mother certainly wasn't talking, and the adoptive family, if they knew anything, weren't sharing anything either.
On the few occasions I brought this subject up with my Italian family, they seemed hurt that I was curious about my biological family. I'd given some thought to going to the Comune in the city where my mother was born to try to search records. Not wanting to hurt them in any way, I filed those thoughts away. Until recently.
I'm always reading accounts of other Italian-Americans who have successfully tracked down family members by searching at the local city hall or even on Facebook. I still really wanted to know who this biological family was. I knew only the family last name, my nonno's (grandfather) first name, and the city where my mother was born.
Yes, I did it. I searched on FB and found a few people in the city where my mom was born with the same name. Most were young people, but one man was about my age. I thought there might be a good chance he could be a cousin. I sent him a FB message, asking if he knew anyone who might have information about my grandfather and/or his family. That was in the middle of March. I didn't get a response, and promptly forgot all about it.
Yesterday, at 5:29pm, a FB messenger window popped up on my computer screen with a message from this man. He wrote, in Italian, "You have found your family. The man you are asking about was my grandfather."
It took a few seconds for that to sink in. Holy Shit. Holy shit. Holy Shit. Can this be for real? Then he told me his name. Giuliano. He wrote, "My father named me after his sister Giuliana." That's my mother. Oh, let the waterworks begin. How weird is this?
Even though it took months for him to respond, it's bizarre it didn't take lots of searching to find the right person. One message sent, bingo! I have family!
We had a grand conversation lasting a few hours. There is a ton of family information to cover and we only just scratched the surface. His father is the older brother my mother recalled. That would make him my uncle. For the first time in my life I finally knew his name- Giorgio. And got to see a photo of him! His father never forgot his baby sister. Giuliano told me his father had wanted to find her his whole life.
Plans have been discussed for meeting face to face soon. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers, and shared lots of "Holy cow, this is unbelievable" on my end and "Non ci credo!" on his side. I think we are both still pinching ourselves. And later last night he sent a WhatsApp message telling me he'd realized his father's dream. Mine too!
Through the magic of the internet- thank you, Al Gore, and Facebook- big hugs to you too, Mark Zuckerberg, I found my real blood Italian relatives.
Life is good.
Yes, life is good. We are loving every day on this beautiful little island. Each day we feel a little bit more like we are home.
I want to send special thanks to all of you for keeping me in your thoughts. I appreciate all the messages and emails asking how the move was going and what we're up to. I needed the space to get through the transition.
Has anyone else ever tracked down long lost family members? If you have, I'd love to hear how your search went. As you can imagine, I'm still in disbelief!
Grazie mille from Procida!