Monday, April 4, 2011
Renewing Italian families ties
Saturday, April 2
We have cut back on the Italian lessons to one per week. I am supposed to use the extra time to get to know people here, to research family history and to write, but I have spent the morning doing nothing much. Lucy is shopping in Lucca, and I get antsy to get back to my agenda. It is a gorgeous spring day with weather approaching 75 degrees F, so I decide to go see some cousins on the Spadoni side, sisters Grazia and Marta Michelotti and Marta’s husband Gianfranco. I have procrastinated a bit because I know they don’t have e-mail accounts, so I can’t write them to warn that I am coming. I could phone them, but I really, really hate talking on the phone in Italian. It makes me nervous and I usually do a poor job. Inevitably there comes this dead space when the person I am talking to is probably wondering if I am still there, since something has popped into my mind to say, but I don’t know how to say it in Italian.
So I decide to drop by unannounced, which is probably fine at 1 p.m. on a sunny Saturday. I have last seen Grazia and Marta nine years ago, when Lucy and I lived in Padova. They are my second cousins and don’t speak any English, although Gianfranco does and often serves as translator when American cousins visit. As I pull up to the gate of their house, I see both Marta and Grazia outside, and Grazia walks toward the gate to see who is this stranger who has pulled up on a bicycle and is talking to her with a strange accent. After a few seconds of puzzlement, she realizes who I am and we do the Italian hug and kiss greeting, and then I do the same with Marta.
I am treated to some pasta, carrots, water and wine, and we catch up a little on what everyone has been doing. They are all a few years older than I and are retired, though Grazia does some custom tailoring work out of her home. I talk to Gianfranco mostly in Italian now, and he goes back and forth between English and Italian, but we try to do mostly Italian so Marta and Grazia can keep up. This is the kind of conversation I excel in, because it mostly amounts to the same things I tell people here over and over again—what I am doing here, what are my children doing, am I still working, where do I live and all that.
Lucy is missing out on this opportunity to get to know my cousins, and besides she is a big help in keeping the conversation going, so I decide to invite them all to our house for lunch next Tuesday, and after some extra encouragement on my part, they accept. Lucy is a great cook of both American and Italian cooking, though I know she feels intimidated at the thought of cooking Italian food for Italians. We will try to think of something American to cook, if we can, but it is hard to get some ingredients here. I ask them to bring some photos for me to scan for my family history research, and in this way I am keeping to my agenda—practicing my Italian, getting to know people here and doing family history research.