02 November 2010

Finding Family In Italy: One Cousin's Story

Carrufo, Abruzzi July 1984

It seems the "Finding Family In Italy" video submitted by John D. sparked some great memories for cugina Carole C. of Boston... who has graciously agreed to share them with us.

I am fortunate to be a Ciccone/Celli descendent via my dad (further blessed to be rooted in Avellino, Campania [editor's note: Dello Iaconos and Ragnos] on my mother's side) ... and my favorite Italian memory has very little to do with food ... unless you count the fantastic homemade wine and cheese served to us by "strangers" while visiting Carrufo nearly 30 years ago ...

My grandparents had left those rugged mountains more than 60 years prior, and yet in the early 1980s, we experienced the most hospitable of welcomes ...

a generous town official worked overtime to copy original documents  (and sent more by mail later) ... we were directed to a fallen-down house (thought to be my grandparents' place) where you could literally walk up stairs and look out over the fallen-in roof ...

and then, that lovely invitation from a downtown family, who refreshed us with wine from the cellar and cheese from the shelf ... and joined what became a spontaneous community-wide search to find living connections ...

We were brought to the cemetery with photos on the graves... unfortunately, finding only most-distant relations there, but it was a tremendously moving experience to see my family names (relatively rare in my childhood) multiply memorialized under amazing blue skies.

But, surely the high point among many was an escorted tour to a nursing home in a nearby town, where I met my father's first cousin, a spritely lady of 80-plus (Maria Domenica Ciccone Purificati 1902-1989) who spoke almost no English.

I, of course, knew very little Italian, but we began a conversation (illustrated from a box of photographs under her bed) about people we knew in common in Massachusetts. For some reason, I had remembered her husband visiting at my aunt's (a cousin she had grown up with) when I was about 6. Maria Domenica's kids and grandkids I had never met by the 1980s lived in greater-Boston.

Even the interpreter couldn't keep up with us, but we didn't need him anyhow.

Before we left, this sweet soul escorted us (via a tiny elevator) to the miniscule nursing home chapel to say a prayer for all the family ... the past AND the future. And gave me a tiny circle of hand-made lace I still treasure.

All these years later, the memories bring tears to my eyes; I just now took out the photos to happily ... (and sadly!) ... relive a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

All best to cugini, everywhere,

Regarding photo above:

In July 1984 are from left: my first cousin once removed Maria Domenica Ciccone Purificati; Gino, our interpreter and guide; myself (Carole Dello Iacono) and an unidentified resident of the Casa di Riposa, who wanted very much to be part of our reunion. We wrote a couple of letters back and forth after that day ... and I was saddened to hear of Maria Domenica's death about five years later. MANY years subsequent, I gratefully received a photo of her grave marker by way of Cousin B. Ciccone (a family researcher and part-time Carrufo resident) who grew up in Calgary, BC.


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