I had no real intention of writing about my trip to Europe. With me working my contract gigs there’s enough computer time without writing blog posts here. And yet what happened these last two days can’t go without mention. Magic needs to be recorded.
That said I’ve not slept much for days so forgive any misspellings, grammatical errors and just general bizarreness… it was a very weird day that may not lend itself to a strict straight telling. Like many things in Italy including virtually all roads, the story is twisty and sometimes circular.
Yesterday I went to a restaurant to have dinner. It had great reviews on trip advisor and looked to have delicious steaks so it seemed like a great place. Sadly, like most places it didn’t open until 8pm and since I’d missed the noon lunch I’d missed any food for quite some time. I contemplated skipping the restaurant and just getting pizza since I could get that at 6pm and I was starving. But I’d spent so many days eating snack food I really wanted something delicious. I looked at another place and planned to go there as it stated that it opened at 7pm, an entire hour earlier. When I walked past it wasn’t actually opening until 8. So I decided to go to the original restaurant and I’m very glad I did. The brief synopsis is here as I’m too tired to record it again (from a facebook post so excuse the random writing style):
So you know how you go to some restaurant because it got good reviews on TripAdvisor and it has delicious steaks and then you mention to the owners that you’re in town because you’re heading to a town nearby because your grandfather was born there and then he calls some guy who is from that town and then he calls some gals with the same last name as your grandfather and some other guys stick aroun
d to translate for you because the owner doesn’t speak English and you don’t speak Italian? Yeah, well that was my night too. Tomorrow I meet up with some other Tommaso’s in Marrone because that’s just how things fly here in Italy.
Well today was no different but somehow even more amazing. I was supposed to meet up with my possible relatives in Morrone or in Termoli and caravan to Marrone but they weren’t leaving until very late and I wanted to have a look around the town before it got dark. I stopped by the restaurant again, getting the owners information in hopes that I can help him find his family that came to the US. We’ll see. Considering that there is very little English spoken it’s hard to know if I got the story straight and unfortunately you have to get pretty accurate with the whole ancestry thing.
I then took off for Marrone. The town is said to be one of spies, not because it actually is but because it sits high atop a hill and on a clear day you can see more than 20 different surrounding towns, keeping an eye on all of them.
I arrived in the town and stopped for coffee. I mentioned in my only Italian sentence on the subject that Mio nonno e nato qui. My grandfather was born here. The coffee guy wasn’t too interested but then this is a workman’s bar and it seemed a bit like very few women come to the place.
I decided to walk around the small town, climbing incredible hills to get to the top. I couldn’t believe how many elderly people I saw making their way up and down these hills. While they struggled (anyone would) it was obvious this was their regular life. No lifts for them. A basic trip to a friend’s a block away required climbing a mountain and they do it slowly but steadily, even with broken bodies.
As I walked I came across some very elderly people. My ego told me not to talk with them. “They won’t speak English and you don’t speak enough Italian to make anything clear” it said. “Plus you’ll just look like a fool.”
I sent the ego off a cliff and again ventured that my grandfather was born in Morrone. I pulled out a the family picture I had of the family and commenced to have a perfectly unintelligible conversation with the three elderly people, laughing hard with the oldest toothless woman at my lack of comprehension. There’s a lot that can be shared without any words.
Eventually it became clear that they didn’t know of my grandfather or his family (no surprise as they left Morrone over 100 years ago). “Grazie! Ciao!” I kept walking.
I found myself back at the coffee shop intersection of town and sat on a bench in the shade, completely sweaty from hiking the hills in the hot sun.
Not far away some ladies were talking on another bench and a little girl whose mother was deep in conversation came over to me. I said hello, smiled and eventually she squeezed next to me to sit down. We tried to talk but I don’t think she understood my tiny Italian with it’s American accent. She smiled and I did too and we just sat together for a bit.
A minute later an older woman with a walker called to her and then came over. Again with the “Mio nonno e nato qui.” and again I pulled out the picture. Another woman came over and eventually I was pulled over to the group of women who were talking on the other bench. We talked about my grandfather and how he’d left for New York… and by talk I mean a word here and there, mostly not understanding but sometimes breaking through the language barrier. Again, they didn’t know of any family related to my grandfather from what I understood.
A friendly woman who had been watching me walk around came over as well. She kept running off and telling me to stay. When this kind of thing happens do as your told… life is too full of hurry. Eventually I used an app on my phone to ask if someone in the village spoke English. Yes, the friendly curious woman said, but she was not home now. So we sat and talked. Mainly they talked and I listened, not understanding anything but the game of tickle that one of the ladies was playing with the little girl… that one was obvious.
Ah! Here comes the English speaker. The friendly watcher woman took me to her. The English speaker was actually a woman from Canada which meant I could speak full English sentences and really know that I was getting the whole idea across. The friendly Italian woman, the Canadian and I conversed about my grandfather. No one knew of his family but this was definitely the correct town from the Ellis Island documents. The Canadian woman told me that she would ask around. There are a few more people who might know, especially since my grandfather had returned to Italy in 1972 and had to deal with some house drama of squatters in the old family home that he apparently still owned. He had signed it over to the rest of the family. It’s possible that this story lives on since it’s unlikely anyone would remember his family having left long before any of them were born.
The Canadian offered freely to ask about it, curious as she was and take a picture if she could find any more information.
Finally the friendly Italian woman (they were all friendly but she was particularly inquisitive about me) invited me into her home for coffee and biscotti. We sat and talked about her family, my family and other general things using one word sentences in English and Italian. She spoke slowly enough for me to figure out many things and with a translation app I was able to look up words that were worthy of saying.
Unfortunately I was silly and took no pictures of these beautiful people. I think most of them will be burned into my mind and I suspect I will return again not too long from now anyway.
While I don’t want to get too philosophical I can’t help but think what would happen if someone came to my town, speaking only a foreign language and asked about a long lost relative. Would we gather the town looking for resources and asking everyone we know? Or would we instead think how foolish that they come here not speaking the language, brush them off because we’re too busy to be bothered?
There is incredible beauty in the world and when we open ourselves it flows right in.