107. If These Walls Could Talk

It has always been a source of amusement in our household that my father grew up in two houses just a few blocks apart. The first was in the “downtown” area of Gaeta, where people lived in cramped quarters on narrow streets.

The street where my father was born

In the summer, though, the family would move ten minutes away to the “country,” to an airy house with a front patio, a garden, and lemon trees that my father would climb with a book in hand to while away the afternoon lost in a novel.  As time passed, the whole family moved up to Rome for their careers, but their summers would always be spent in the country house in Gaeta.

At the summer house

Knowing that, realistically, he would never use the house once he moved to America, my father sold his share to his cousin Tonino, with whom he grew up like a brother. Tonino, and then his children and grandchildren, have summered there; in all, there were five generations who’ve lived there, spanning nearly 100 years. When I went to Gaeta with my own family, this is where we would all convene.

Cousin Tonino with my daughter Maria, circa 2000

In a previous post, I wrote about finding a cache of old family photos when cleaning out a closet. Imagine finding a photo of my great-grandfather, sitting on that very same front patio where I’ve sat with my own children.

My great-grandfather, a sea captain

Imagine finding a photo of my father as a teenager, with cousin Tonino, his Aunt Clara and his grandfather.

IMG_8162 (1)
My father on the right, wearing a snazzy suit for the occasion

My grandmother is not in the picture; she had passed away by then in one of the great flu pandemics.

Of course, I know that houses are not living, breathing entities, but they don’t feel inanimate, either. The special ones feel like they’ve had a leading role in the story, watching time pass, seeing loved ones come and go. When I’m at that summer house, I am mindful that I could be sitting in the exact same spot as my father did, 80 years ago. I have so many questions I would ask those walls, so many stories I would want to hear, if I only could.

4 thoughts on “107. If These Walls Could Talk

  1. I enjoy your blog, all the time my heart bleeds for what so many Italians are facing today. It is good to read these warm memories and know that Italy will always be Italy.


  2. Gigi, I’ve loved all your posts, maybe because my parents were immigrants and I have such fond memories of my grandparents’ house in England. Don’t worry, Italy will come back strong and you’ll return…



    1. I love your blogs, Gigi, the old photos, and your stories of the old country both past and present! Always a delightful trip down memory lane.


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