Friday, August 26, 2011

Sicily - Island in the Sun

Photo above ... Aboard the train ferry, crossing the Strait of Messina (circa 1985).

Once upon a time long, long ago a little girl was born in a land of warm yellow sunshine, Mediterranean breezes, lush groves of citrus trees,  olive orchards and grape vines.  She was a fair child with dancing blue eyes and blond hair that curled like Shirley Temple's famous locks and, surrounded by her grandparents and the doting attentions of her 4 aunts, she was undoubtedly spoiled.   I was that little girl and the place was Messina, popular sea port and capital of Sicily, the large island just off the toe of the Italian mainland.  As I grew up my blue eyes turned a gray-green and my hair darken to brown.  Oh well we can't all be blue-eyed blonds.

I'm considering using this photo as my new avatar.  Even though it's very old and I no longer look like this fresh faced 40 year old, the photo holds a lot of lovely, warm memories of my first and only trip back to the land of my birth. Please let me know if you think it is a bad idea to use an ancient photo or not.

Why my mother, Antonietta,  didn't stay on that idyllic island is a long story and I probably don't really know the true reason she left.  Perhaps, as she claimed,  she wanted to join my father in the United States, even though he had met another woman and he, along with his adulteress, were hounding her to grant him a divorce.  Or maybe Antonietta  just wanted to get away from her parents, whom she felt had forsaken her, or from her younger sister, Rosa, who had betrayed her.  Perhaps she wanted to be someplace where she would never look upon the face of Nino, her ex-fiancee who had broken her heart.   Several years earlier she and Nino had been engaged but then he fell in love with and wanted to marry her younger sister Rosa.  Perhaps that's the reason Antonietta, jumped into a marriage with a dashing young, foriegn soldier from the United States of America ... unfortunately it would be just another heart breaking relationship.  Gives meaning to the explanation; "It's complicated", doesn't it ?

Together my mother and I left Europe and crossed the vast Atlantic Ocean by steamship.  I was only 2 at the time.  During all the years that passed I've only visited the land of my birth once.

July was not a good time to visit Italy, the summer was gruellingly hot and humid.  Air conditioning, back in 1985 , was limited, many did not have it and most cars were not equipped with it.  Our Roman hotel promptly turned off the central AC at 10 P.M.  It was a cost saving and energy saving gesture.  However once the unit was shut off  guests abruptly awoke to a stifling hot, and stuffy room.  I recalled having to open the window for ventilation.  There was a wedding reception going on in the gardens below and the singer began to sing Stevie Wonder's; "I just called to say I love you".  Considering the circumstances it was and is still a pleasant memory.

We did the typical tourist jaunts around Rome and then boarded a train to Sicily.  Upon reaching the toe of the mainland we disembarked the train while it was put aboard a ferry ... yes passengers, train and all went via ferry to the Port of Messina.  There was also a surprise awaiting us as we boarded the ferry, my Sicilian family was there to greet us.   Naturally my mother chatted away in fluent Italian while John and I wondered; "Who ARE these people?" 
My mother, at times, tended to be oblivious of such small matters such as the fact that she never taught me to speak the language.  Matter of fact she made a point that Italian would not be spoken in her home ... unless she was on the phone speaking to her parents or sisters via transatlantic telephone (that was before the days of satellites and man had not gone into space, let alone walked on the surface of the Moon). 
Truthfully I am resentful that she deprived me of this heritage but what's done is done. 
On the Ferry from Villa San Giovanni, Italy across the Strait of Messina to Messina, Sicily. The 3 boys in front are my cousins. My mother is the lady holding a camera (uses film - not digital), my uncle Franco stands beside her with his hand on her shoulder. I am behind and next to my mother (with the short, dark brown hair) and directly behind me is my uncle Pippo


  1. Lovely and interesting post!! I really like that photo of you...and what's important is that you like it. Sometimes I find the pictures that I like best about myself aren't so much how I look in the photo, but the memory that goes along with it.

    It is a shame that you didn't speak Italian, it is a beautiful language. We went to Italy for my 40th BD last year and I loved it!! I used the Rosetta Stone program (the whole 1st level) and it was very effective and a lot of fun to learn. It really enhanced my experience of being there...I was able to ask simple questions in Italian and "felt" like a local, even though I'm sure my Italian was anything but perfect!

    My grandparents spoke Dutch to each other growing up and my Mom spoke it with them, but they never did teach it to me. I'm sorry that I didn't learn it. I've had the opportunity to learn French and some Italian and languages are so interesting to me...but especially when there is a strong connection to a heritage.

    Have a fantastic weekend!

  2. WOW! I love your stories! Hey I posted about your tutorial! Go check it out and Thanks again so much!!!!

  3. Meeling - I've been very tempted to try the Rosetta Stone program. I looked into it once a couple of years ago but will check it out again, especially since I've seen TV ads that they now have a newer, better version.

    Kristen - Thanks a ton for the nice mention on your wonderful blog. I really appreciate it.
    Thanks, thanks and thanks again. :)

  4. Wow, what a wonderful photo, to be treasured. My neighbor is from Japan and never taught her boys to speak the language. When their grandparents came to visit they could not speak to their grandchildren. Truly sad and it's a big regret for my neighbor to have deprived the kids and her parents of this.

  5. WONDERFUL photographs !

    Have a super week.

  6. Wow, what a story. I love your new avatar it's a beautiful picture.

  7. Amazing story written in the best seller style :-)Nice writing manner

  8. I spotted that avatar over on my blog and had to find out if you wrote about it and I was not disappointed! It is a beautiful photo and the memories are so special. I knew the lady with the camera was your mother before reading as you do look like her!

  9. oh that looks like a very fun trip. i loved Italy and i can't what to go back!


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