136. Cousins II

Every year on my parents’ birthdays, my cousin Anna sends me a little email message. Late September is always a bittersweet time for me, as my father’s birthday was on the 27th. Knowing that someone else remembers him gives me a lift.

My father, recently arrived from Italy, with his aunt, uncle and cousins Nancy (at right) and Anna (in front)

This year, Anna’s email came with a photo I had not seen before. When my father first came to this country in 1939, his own father was deemed unfit to take him in, so he lived with his Uncle Nick, Aunt Mary and cousins Louis, Nancy and Anna in Cohasset, outside of Boston. This photo would have been taken sometime shortly after his arrival, when he was about nineteen. Anna, who was four at the time, has fond memories of my father and her sprawled on the floor coloring together.

Cousins Anna and Nancy at my wedding, 1987
My father and cousin Nancy, whom he used to tease by calling her Annunziata, her real name

I recently came upon a letter my father wrote to me 45 years later, anticipating the arrival of Anna and Nancy on a visit to tell him about their recent trip to Gaeta, the town where my father grew up.

He wrote:

“I will especially enjoy their escapades in Gaeta. In between the fun and the humorous incidents that made their trip a real joy, I will search for events, places, churches, streets, homes that will bring me back to Gaeta in a nostalgic way. I do hope they did not forget to bring me a little pebble from my property on Via Atratina.”

At the family homestead on Via Atratina in Gaeta

Well, their visit was everything he hoped for pebble-wise and more. After they left, he went on to write:

“Anna had some goodies for me. Some Italian cheeses, some chocolate kisses, a container of sand from Serapo, and most importantly, two souvenirs from my yard. A little pebble and a shell of lumache, the now famous terrestrial snail. In the past I must have told you often about how the snail came out from their hiding places, their homes, after a heavy rain. We used to go and pick them from under the garden rocks. They look awful, worse than clams, but when cooked and mixed with spaghetti, tasted good.

My father (front) at Serapo Beach, with his mother (right), aunt and cousin Tonino.

“They did almost everything I told them to do, yet I wished they did more. They went to the convent but took pictures from the outside. They should have gone in to look at the little nuns’ rooms where I and their father and mother learned catechism for our first communion. They picked flowers from my garden and brought them to the cemetery. They were all impressed and moved by our chapel.”

The family chapel in Gaeta, where my grandmother and great grandfather rest in peace.

It is a great cousin who brings you sand from your favorite beach four thousand miles away, and a pebble from your childhood yard. Who shares your connection to people and places from your shared past, even if she didn’t experience them directly. And it is a great cousin who thinks to reach out on special birthdays when one might be feeling a little blue.

Coloring partners no longer, but still a bond.

10 thoughts on “136. Cousins II

  1. great family post. Also, I have been to Gaeta one afternoon as we headed to Sperlonga for a couple of days and they are both beautiful seaside towns.


  2. I so enjoy reading your posts, Gigi. Maybe because I feel the same way about my dad, also an immigrant (as am I). You capture so well all the little discoveries about him that are so precious…


  3. Gigi, it is lovely to read your posting about Uncle Louis’s family, & how he stayed close with his cousins & his birth country. And to see photos of your father with his cousins. You are blessed to have dear parents & cousins. I’m grateful to be one of your & Joan’s cousins. I remember how Uncle Louis liked collecting pebbles. I saved the letters he wrote me. I felt that he gave me such love, care, & support. I’m glad you have such a fine man as your father. Susan


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