carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

March 1, 1878 March 1, 2019

This is an updated version that some of you might have read before.  We were able to  ‘live the dream of Italy’ full time because of my grandparents. On my grandfather’s birthday, I like to remind others of him and all the folks, who either by choice or not, immigrated to America and helped to make it into a strong country.  If you are interested in more than my story I urge you to watch the series on PBS  http://video.pbs.org/program/italian-americans/.  While I don’t think that my grandparents had the same type of experience that happened in big American cities I think they had some of those experiences.

Friday, March 1, 2019 is the anniversary of my grandfather (nonno), Antonio Iaccarino’s birth. He was born in mille otto cento settantotto or 1878 so he would be 141 years old. His parents were Ferdinando and Maria D’Esposito Iaccarino. Besides my grandfather, I know they also had 2 daughters, one, Concetta, (my Zia or aunt) who was 4 years younger than my nonno and another that I never met, Josephine who lived in Connecticut.

In 2003 I began researching my grandparents’ lives so that I could apply to become an Italian citizen. In the process of this research I have learned some things which have brought me closer to my nonno who I never met. He died before I was born. I always think of him when I hear the Simon and Garfunkle song that starts “I left my home and my family when I was no more than a boy, in the company of strangers…” My nonno was only 12 when he joined the merchant marines (Marina Mercantile Italiana). Whether he joined willing or unwilling I don’t know. I do know that at that time he and his family were living in a room or rooms in this house in Meta, Italy.

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I have found this house because very dear friends, Tonino and Carmella Romano spent hours researching old town zoning records. It seems as if the town fathers in Meta like to rename and renumber streets all the time.  Only the Romano’s  tenacity helped me to find this place.

So my nonno went to sea. He signed on as a mozzo (a cabin boy). Fortunately, his seaman’s book is still in our family. The entries are handwritten in script that I can’t always read and understand. (Someday perhaps…) So far, I know he was promoted, learned great skills that he would use later in life and four languages besides his native Italian. From the log I can tell that he returned to and left Italy a good bit. Stamps in his book show that some of the places he went to were Greece, Liverpool, England, Marseilles, France, and Odessa, on the Black Sea. Can you imagine sending off your 12 year old son and for the next 19 years only seeing him periodically? And he comes back with stories of places he has been to and things he has seen. This is the view leaving the port of Naples that I am guessing is relatively unchanged even today.

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He did not always leave from Naples. Meta, the town south of Naples, where he lived was at the time a fairly large port and had a ship building facility. Today it is not. It is a small town with a nice sandy beach and a bedroom community for surrounding towns like Sorrento.

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Even though Sorrento and Positano have been popular tourist destinations since the late 1800s prosperity did not arrive until after World War II. Before that, a large number of people of all age groups emigrated from the area to the United States and South America. But our family name, a very common one still remains in the area.

From my nonno I think I have inherited my interest in other languages besides my native tongue. I do hold it against him that he did not allow Italian to be spoken in their house in America. My cousins have told me that he would scold my grandmother (nonna) if he caught her chatting with her friends in Italian (after they moved to America). He would say “We are Americans now, we will speak American”. (Italian men do so love to declare, dictate and proclaim, don’t they?) So my father never really spoke Italian. He never passed that on to me.

I also know, that from my nonno, the spirit of travel and adventure passed directly to my father and then to me. My passport is never locked up in a safety deposit box. I like to have it near me so if the opportunity to travel arises I can just go. And I have a very cooperative and loving husband. After I finally got my Italian citizenship he didn’t mind when I packed us up and moved us to Italy.

(Who is that Lady in the distance?)

Recently, I was part of a conversation about ‘how many folks knew the name of a cousin of one of the their grandparents.’  On my mother’s side of the family I could say that I knew the name and I have a picture of the woman, sitting with my great grandmother (and her chickens!).  On my father’s side, I don’t even know the names of all his brothers and sisters.  And as his children die that information will be lost or much harder to find.  The point that I took from this discussion was that in a very short period of time this knowledge of family is lost.

Now I am climbing on my soapbox.  The story of my grandparents’ migration is because of choices that they made, a story of a fairly easy journey with a very happy outcome.  Everyday, in Europe, we see stories of families being forced to flee because of war.  Their journey is not easy.  Their greeting is not with open arms.  Time will tell how their migrations will end.  Time will tell how many of them will remember or know the name of their own cousin, much less the names of previous generations.  I urge everyone of you reading this to examine your attitudes and thoughts about the current migrant crisis.  Do some research and remember how America was built on the backs of immigrants.  Immigrants who just might have been your relatives.  Remember the ‘Golden Rule’ that many of us learned as a child.  Wonder that if your ancestor had not have made a migration you might be not be enjoying the freedoms and comforts that you have now.

I’m off my soapbox now.  Little by little, with research, the help of friends and the memories of my family I learn about my grandparents. On Friday or when ever you think about it, please raise a glass of wine or a mug of coffee to my nonno and nonna who had the spirit and sense of adventure to try something different and create a new life for themselves. Most Americans have ancestors that emigrated. I have been lucky enough to be able to trace mine and fill in some of the blanks. If you have any interest in your own background you should try it.  You learn about the past and look what it led to for us.

Buon Compleanno Nonno!  And thank you from all of my heart!

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The Grandparents in the late 1940s.

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Hmmm, getting excited

Well excitment is building…..

Hiring has started for Wegmans. The excitment is building. Our Harris-Teeter is going to be remodeled. I guess they think they might have some serious competition. I’m telling you, Raleigh will soon be a great place to grocery shop. Now, if we could just get decent wine at a decent price….

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OVERALLS!!!!!

Wow! Target had overalls that fit and did not cost over $50.

I had to order my size online. So I went crazy and ordered two pairs. I’m so excited. And I can hear those eye rolls…..

Ohhhh, I will be so ready for the ACC Tournament and of course Tour d’Coup.

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My Uncle John

I had two Uncle Johns. One on my father’s side and one on my mother’s side. The one on my father’s side lived in New Jersey and died over 10 years ago. My mother’s brother, the youngest of the group and the last one of that generation on that side of my family died in late January. He was 98 years old.

This was taken the last time I visited with him in 2014 (maybe?)


He was born and spent a large part of his life in Louisville. He fought in WWII. Stationed in England as an Army Air Corps intelligence officer. He married a Welsh woman and brought her to America, where she gave birth to twin girls. Something must have happened… she and the twins moved back to Great Britan. And nothing was ever said about them again. I only know because they are recorded on our extensive family tree and because I have this newspaper clipping.

The twin daughters waiting to board a plane to go back to England.

Anyway, my Uncle John married again when I was about 9 or 10. He married Thelma, who I thought was very glamorous because she worked (!!!!) and they lived in an apartment (!!!!!!) (very shocking when you grow up in the US suburbs in the 60s). They did not have children. I can remember that Thelma (and maybe John) brought me a lunch box on my first day of elementary school. I also went to see The Nutcracker with them. And they had me down for dinner. Of all my many Aunts and Uncles I did the most with them. They were a very special couple.

But Uncle John was special too. He was always a happy person. He sang little bits of songs and whistled. I know that is why I do that too. Because of him.

He and ‘Thel’ moved to Florida. On a trip back to Kentucky, John and Thelma came to visit me when I lived in Wilmington. None of my many other Aunts and Uncles ever stopped by. Aunt Thelma died in Florida a number of years ago. Uncle John lived near her relatives and was getting along okay until he more or less got ‘lost’ driving somewhere. My mother was still alive when that happened. One of my cousins (possibly the oldest one) Bob and his wife, Cheri, moved Uncle John up to Indianapolis where they were living and got him an apartment at facility there. That was 2003. For all this time they have been responsible for him. Even though he was not in their house they still visited and had to be ‘on call’ for him. How fortunate Uncle John was to have them. And how caring and loving it was of them.

So a number of years ago, when I was living in Italy, I started to search for Uncle John’s twin girls. With the help of my British friend, Jules, I found them. Through an intermediary I contacted them and asked if they would like to to know about their father, if they would like to come visit me in Italy or just anything….. One of them had died as a young adult and the other wanted nothing to do with me and no further contact with me. (Okay, who in England doesn’t want a cousin in Italy?) Anyway, I have respected that. And I will not try to contact her about her father’s death. But I will tag him in this post so that maybe if she ever searches for him it will show up.

John Harvey Gudgel Jr was a kind, gentle, sweet man who always had gum in his pocket to share, a smile on his face, a joke to tell and a laugh that was infectious. I will miss him.

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Valentines, Letters, Keeping in Touch

This is the Valentine that we sent to Ben’s grand daughter

You can’t really see it, but that is the Effiel Tower behind the kissing couple. Ben and I honeymooned in Paris. The grand daughter is in a French Immersion Charter School in New Orleans. Her French is so good. And Ben and I were the first set of grandparents to take her to France. I like to remind her of that, subtly, of course. Side note: The grand daughter has a FULL set of grand parents, 8, yes that is correct 8. Each parent of the child (aka Ma and Pa) has divorced and remarried)

On to the letters. I recently updated my traveling address book.

My traveling address book used to be little bits of paper that were stapled together. I realized that a number of folks on the list are no longer with us. So a new address book was in order.

Our mailman loves us. Every 2 or 3 weeks I send notes or cards to a number of folks. I started this when we first moved to Italy. I wanted to keep in touch with my aunts and uncles and some friends. This is also when I started my blog. Sending mail from Italy was expensive. I cut my card and letter writing back some and sent them links to my blog entries. Anyway, I still write about 10 notes every two weeks.

And just the other day there was a notice at the city park center for ACTIVE ADULTS that we go to. They were looking for someone to respond to letters from 5th graders who are working on the art of letter writing and cursive writing. What’s a few more letters….

One was beautiful. The handwriting was easy to read. The child wrote about her interests and asked about mine. No problem. She got a 2 page response. The next….well, I had to take my highlighter to it. I couldn’t read some of it. He/she got a response. I was nice. Suggested that more work was needed. Try again. We’ll see what happens….

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Happy Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year was the first full week of February this year. The year of the pig. We celebrated on the first Sunday of February by having friends over for lunch.

For Christmas my Uncle John had sent us a check so I decided to use that money to replace a few pieces of my Chinese fish china that were broken during storage or the move. I thought that would be easy to do. It is a very common pattern. Or was a very common pattern. I had to order it from Pearl River Trading Company in New York City. I was very pleased when I received all the pieces, so I was excited to be able to set a nice table.

The recumbent Dragon Fruit and the pineapple became dessert.
Also used the Asian beer glasses that came from Nice, France.

I never got around to printing up menus. But we had Hot and Sour Soup, Thai Chicken Larb on a bed of noodles, Vietnamese Eggplant Salad, Gingered Yard Long Beans, Pork Tenderloin with Chinese BBQ Sauce on a bed of Roasted Butternut Squash and Roasted Baby Bok Choy. I am lucky to have at least two well stocked Asian grocery stores.

Besides fruit for dessert, there were egg custard tarts, almond cookies and ….

There were 3 kinds of Asian beers. And of course some wine. How can you go wrong spending a Sunday with friends eating and drinking?

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