Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ghosts of Italy

Today is my grandfather's Birthday.

Both my grandparents were born in November. Angelamaria on November 21 and Nicola on November 12. In Italy birthday rituals are reversed. That is, on the day, family and friends receive gifts from the honoree. It's usually a simple affair. In Calitri they bring the cake for the family for dessert or offer their friends a drink or a coffee and a pastry at the bar.

From my first discovery of Calitri a decade ago, up to this week when I finally made residency in the town, I have received a hell of a line up of gifts from the ghosts of my grandparents. I call them centennial gifts and here is why:

In November 2000 I made my first foray into the village of Calitri and discover V.C. 1900 - my greatgrandfather's initials - carved into the keystone of via Fontana, 21. Turns out it was the birthplace of my grandmother Angelamaria Cicoira.

It's November 2005 and the 110th anniversary of Angelamaria's birth. Nearly one hundred years to the day I am offered her childhood home on via Fontana - field stones set by hand by her grandfather, kept in the family for generations.

November 2007. The centennial anniversary of Nicola Paolantonio's maiden voyage to the new world. Age 17. He lands in NY harbor on July 4th 1907. Nearly one hundred years to the month on November 22, the New York Times publishes 'The Journey Home, Making a New Life in the Old Country' about my reverse journey to live in Calitri. The story focuses on my lost and found grandmother. I'll make a guess that the paper goes to press the evening of Nov 21, her birthday.

On November 11th, the eve of his 30th birthday, Nicola signs a Declaration of Intention from the Department of Labor renouncing his allegiance to King Victor Emmanuel of Italy. This year in the same week in November, not without some classic Italian twists & turns and then some extra personal effort ( or was it a gift? ) I achieved residency.

So. Here I always felt it was I who was honoring the ghosts of my grandparents for making the reverse journey to Calitri but seems it was Nicola and Angelamaria all along honoring and guiding me....Happy Birthday Pops.