We stopped at a local market to pick up some flowers to visit the tomb of Zia Maria, Mario’s sister that passed away this fall. I called her, Mani Magico or magic hands (and two day’s worth of Italian words of the day) because she was always doing something. Sewing, knitting, whatever, she could not sit still. She was the quiet one who never married. She lived in the house that she grew up in. In fact, she was the success story of Mom’s reconnection to the family.
Sidebar: When Mom retired, she wanted to research our family tree. When you come from immigrant families, it’s not easy since the records are not local. She went to my grandmother’s old address book and wrote a letter. She made 9 copies and mailed them to the last addresses she had for my great grandmother’s, Lisetta, siblings. Eventually, all but one were returned undeliverable. The last one went to Otttavio, Maria and Mario’s father and Lisetta’s younger brother. Zia Maria still lived in the house and kept the letter even though her dad was dead. She brought it to Rignano on her next visit. That’s where Patricia, the American girl from Rochester, NY, came into play. She met a guy from Rignano; fell in love; and stayed in Rignano to marry and raise her family. She translated the first letter from Mom which led to the reunion in 1996 and our reconnection to family once lost.
After Torrita, we returned to Rignano to visit the tomb of Mazio, Adrianna’s brother who passed away from a heart attack shortly after Mom and I were here for the first time back in 1996. He was a good guy who was full a life. Funny thing, his oldest son, Argante looks just like him. Argante was one of the many we spent the holiday with this year.
That brings me to Christmas Eve dinner, and the night of 1,000 fishes. Well I exaggerate a little, but the Italian tradition is to eat only fish on Christmas Eve both as a sacrifice (the catholic part) and for good luck. Adrianna did not disappoint. There was enough to feed an army, and a small army we were. Our family plus Laura, Mazio’s widow, two of her children, Argante and Sylvia, Laura’s sister and her husband rounded out the number to 11 in Mario and Adrianna’s seemingly small apartment, but there was plenty of room. Good food, a friendly game or two of Bingo, then it was off to midnight mass for some, bed for others, and as it turned out, two hours more work for Adrianna, ugh. We went off to bed, so Santa or Babbo Natale could come.