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