Thursday, May 23, 2013
The Best of Days, Part III
Angela and me
"Il sangue non e acqua."
(Blood is thicker than water.)
~ Italian Saying
"What do you want to do today?" Mike asked me this morning as rain pelted the sky lights in our apartment.
"I have no idea," I sighed. (Yes, we were starting that see-saw discussion again.) "It's raining. I don't want to walk around in it."
(Let me be blunt about this: I'm sick of rain. In the two months we've been in Europe, we have not had one entire week without rain. I don't like rain — although it is better than snow. I was hoping May in Sulmona would be dry. Nope. It was raining when we went to bed last night. It was raining when we woke up this morning. Actually, it rained all night.)
"Let's drive somewhere," Mike suggested, although he didn't know where we would go. So, around 10, we headed out. "I have no idea where I'm going," he said as we headed down one street.
"I'm along for the ride." What else could I say? He was driving.
"Let's go to the florist shop that they said your cousin owns," he said as we sat at a red light. "Maybe she'll be there today." I nodded my head although I doubt he saw me. He turned down the street where the shop is and parked the car.
(Someone that we met in Pettorano told me that Angela Berarducci,the woman who owns this particular florist shop in Sulmona, is related to me. We had gone by Sunday, but she wasn't working at the time.)
I walked in head of Mike and saw a woman standing there.
"Are you Angela Berarducci?" I asked her, my voice shaking a bit.
"Si." She was a little hesitant, which one would expect if a strange woman came in asking for you.
"I'm from the United States, and my grandparents were born in Pettorano. My grandfather is Donato Berarducci, and a woman in Pettorano told me we're cousins. My name is Chris... Cristina."
"I don't know," she told me. "My father was born in Pettorano, but I was born in Venezuela. He went there after the war."
"Oh! I speak Spanish," I told her in Spanish, and we continued the conversation in Spanish (mostly) from that point. I was quite relieved since I still struggle to understand when they speak quickly, and I could finally talk in more than just the present tense which is all I really know in Italian. (I imagine it's quite confusing when I talk about my grandfather in present tense when he's been dead over 50 years.)
Angela told me that her father was at home with her older brother. Vittorio, who is 92, had fallen recently and was not feeling well.
"Do you want to meet them?" she invited us.
"Of course." I was very excited. "When?"
"Right now." She closed the shop, and we followed her to her house to meet Cesidio, her brother, and Vittorio.
Vittorio is doing great for his age, and he kept telling me that he didn't remember much because he was so old and things happened so long ago.
"Please excuse me for asking so many questions," I told him and Cesidio (Angela had gone back to her shop.). "I am so interested to know about family and to know you. And I am so sorry I am mixing Spanish and Italian." Being so excited and nervous aggravates my tendency to mix the words and the pronunciations. It drives me crazy when that happens.
"Cristina, do not worry," Cesidio assured me. "We understood everything you said."
Later in the day, Angela drove us to Pettorano to see another Berarducci who supposedly knows the whole history of the family. I'll skip that discussion because she was not quite as friendly and open and insisted that she was not related to me. Angela and I were both taken aback by her attitude, and even though Mike couldn't understand what we were saying, he felt the negative vibes, too.
"Somewhere along the lines, we are cousins," Angela told me as we drove back to Sulmona. "The way to tell is to look at city hall records to see where the connection is. At some point, there was one Berarducci who started it all. Our great-grandfathers or great-great-grandfathers could have been brothers."
"Exactly," I replied. "If you look at the photos Mike took of us this morning, you can see the resemblance."
"I wonder," I said to Mike after we left, "why that woman was so negative about being related. My feelings were hurt at her reaction."
"You never know," he said. "She could have had a bad day, or she might have thought we wanted something more than information." He was right, but I still felt a bit hurt at the rejection.
Cesidio, Vittorio & me.... I think I look a little too stiff, but I was excited.
On the most positive side, I have found Vittorio, Angela and Cesidio. Mike and I are going to see Angela tomorrow morning at the flower shop, and I'm going to write what I know about family history for her. We'll go from there.
And I can tell you this: I have found more than a cousin. I have a friend in Angela. We had an immediate connection, and I've been so excited all day.