166. Family

There’s something about blood relations.

Five Simeone cousins, plus three husbands

So when I knew we’d be spending time in Rome, I knew I had to reach out and try to connect with my family there, which consists of three first cousins, three second cousins and their children and grandchildren. I’m the youngest of our generation; they think of me as “Little Gigi.”

Two Angela Maria Simeones. We are both named for our paternal grandmother, per Italian custom, and share a birthday.

I contacted my cousin Clara, whose English (remarkably good, given that she studied it in college sixty years ago) combined with my Italian (remarkably bad, given that I’ve been working on it since 1970), and we arranged to meet for lunch at an outdoor restaurant, to minimize the COVID risk.

Cousin Clara

While we waited for them to arrive, Ben made a quick internet search to figure out what side one starts with in the Italian double-cheek kiss. The internet said you go to the left; I insisted it’s to the right. Turns out, I was correct.

Going in for the kiss

Not knowing which side to kiss first was the least of our problems, navigating a meaningful social interaction in a culture with which we are basically unfamiliar, without even much shared language to rely on. Let’s face it, there are literally thousands of people on the planet with whom I’ve logged more hours.

Annalisa, Clara and Angela
With Annalisa, Clara and Angela

But no matter. Being in each other’s company was a joy. We shared phone photos of children and grandchildren. My cousin Angela spoke Italian slowly and distinctly enough for me to understand every word; I learned that she especially loved Brooklyn when she visited New York years ago. She saves my photo Christmas cards, and remembered that my dog Rocco must have passed away because he’s no longer pictured. Up until her nineties, my mother used to travel with us, and they recalled her fondly and how they had all communicated using their high school French. (My mother was clearly better at languages than I am.)

Throughout the day, I kept thinking about how pleased my father would have been to see us all together. We were all a little weepy when we met; he would have been beside himself. So above all else, I do this for him.

My father with Angela and Annalisa

3 thoughts on “166. Family

  1. You couldn’t have celebrated your birthday any better, you still look like a young “chickie” I’m sure you’re Dad was looking down smiling, loved the photo at the end, really tugged at my heart.———Happy thanksgiving, love anna


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