Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Last week we had a very special visitor. Annette, the daughter of my dad’s first cousin Teresa, paid my folks a weekend visit from Wappingers Falls, New York: her first ever trip to Italy. Annette’s grandfather Ascenzo (a name which I’ve just learned means “descendend from“ or “son of”) was my dad’s uncle. I’m told he and my dad met which is extraordinary because although my dad’s father Clementino and uncle Ascenzo both grew up in Scanno, Abruzzo a devastating 1915 earthquake (article in Italian) had young Acsenzo decide to seek his fortune in the US, whereas Clementino remained in Italy, eventually moving to Florence with his wife Antonella and four children born years after Ascenzo had departed.
After my folks moved to New York City in the late 60’s, it wasn’t long before my dad looked up his lost uncle and cousins Teresa, Riccardo and Michael, and the two branches of the Subrizi family were reunited. I have fond memories of the cugini americani showing us the ropes of Thanksgiving turkey, the Superbowl, and the televised Yule Log (!) on Christmas eve. My dad grew close to his cousin Terry (as she came to be called), who sprinkled their conversation with phrases and exclamations in dialetto abruzzese, incomprensibile to me and vaguely reminiscent of characters in The Godfather (Ascenzo was still around for our first few gatherings). Teresa was tough and weathered enormous change and loss in her life. She was of course utterly devoted to family and especially her children Pat and Annette. But, though the idea was often floated, Teresa never visited Italy, perhaps because, like many children of immigrants fleeing the economic devastation of war or natural disaster, only to struggle for acceptance in a new land, she inherited her father‘s sentiment that Italy was best left in the rearview mirror.
Last week Annette broke with that notion. Accompanied by her niece Jerri-Lynn, she braved the 9-hour flight and 2-hour not-so-high-speed rail trip turned to 4 hours, arriving in Florence on a clear night, exhausted but excited. The first thing I did was drive Annette and Jerri-Lynn to Piazzale Michelangelo, from where the sparkling view of Florence is easily taken in on brisk autumn evenings, the crowds of summer long gone.
My dad was thrilled to be reunited with his niece Annette in his Italian home. It was his turn to play host to someone arriving from a distant land, wanting to experience unfamiliar customs with a familial guide.
Thank you Annette.