Category Archives: Language and vocabulary

A Funny Way With Words

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As in all languages, Italian has some pretty funny way with words – idioms that are difficult to understand unless you have a pretty good command of the language! I was even stumped once with an American idiom -probably because I grew up in an Italian house and, unless I heard them at school or in a social setting, I wouldn’t have ever been exposed to them. The one that got me was “bake a file in a cake“….am I the only one that has never heard that one?

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I wanted to share some quirky Italian idioms and try to explain their meaning.

1. “Avere le braccia corte” – having short arms!

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This is used when someone is stingy and never offers to pay for anything!

2. “Hai volute la bicicletta…adesso pedala!” – you wanted a bicycle, now pedal it.

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Kind of like “you made your bed – now sleep in it!”.

3. “Quando il fieno e vicono al fuoco, bruccia” – when hay is near fire, it will burn!

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In other words, when a girl and a boy are close, sparks will fly!

4. “Hai capito Roma per toma” – you understood “roma” for “toma. As far as I know, there isn’t a translation for “toma” – it just rhymes with “roma”. It’s used when someone misunderstands something.

5. “Le piu grand l’uch del buch” – this is Lombardian dialect which translated means “the eye is bigger than the hole“. My grandmother used to tell me this every time I took down a lot of food on my plate and then left half of it uneaten. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.

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Do you have any others to add? I think these are always so funny and descriptive!

 

La Befana Vien’di Notte….Trullalla!

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I posted this a few years ago….and wanted to share it again for a nice Holiday tradition!

Tonight’s the night….are your stockings hung?  All over Italy, children are awaiting the loot they will find when The Befana comes to visit.  And all women are getting ready for their day….or are they?  There’s always the question if being wished “Auguri” tomorrow is a good thing or not, since La Befana is an ugly old witch….and does it mean that whoever is wishing us cheer is thinking we are like La Befana?  Quite a dilemma, huh?  The story of La Befana is a cute one, and you can read about it on my post here:  La Befana by Tesoro Treasures.

But today, I wanted to share a fun little song from 1978, sung by the great Gianni Morandi, about La Befana.

Enjoy!

Trullalla, Trullalla!

The Befana comes at night

With shoes all broken

With a sock

Around her neck

With carbon, with iron, with brass.

On her broom

To fly

She comes from the sea, She comes from the sea.

And the snow shall fall

On the deserts of Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

She’ll need to leave

And she’ll sing while she leaves.

She’ll dress like a woman from the South

And with the sock she’ll arrive.

The storm will win,

And she’ll sing “Trullalla”

The Befana will arrive…

Trullalla…Trullalla!

A child,

The size of a little mouse,

Inserted himself in the chimney

To see her closeup.

When she arrives,

The Befana,

Without teeth,

Jumps and dances for some wime.

Then, hiding, she backs away

With the night stuck to her skirt.

And a warm wind will blow

on the deserts of the Maharaja

From Alaska to Canada.

Only one star will shine,

and she’ll have to follow it

to fly towards the North..

and the road is long, but

the storm will win.

And singing Trullalla

The Befana will go.

Corporate Citizen – A Book Review

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This is #5 of the Roma Series, in which we keep up with Alibaster Black (aka Bianca Nerini) and her super-sleuthing adventures. In this episode, the characters are back in Boston and dealing with some gruesome murders of controversial and influential individuals (to whom we were introduced to in previous books of the Roma series), a new strain of heroin called Krockodil, some military drug experiments, as well as meeting some new characters: Nick and the Magician. Nick is a veteran with a mysterious past, who has a knack of showing up after every murder…and the Magician is an online presence who seems to know how to hack into every computer and who knows LOTS of secrets!

As with the other books in the series, the story is basically exciting but I found it hard to keep all the many characters straight! There is a lot of action going on and I felt confused a lot of the time as to who was doing what. The online presences of Loki and now the Magician are mysterious because they seem to know stuff about everything! But, I have to say, I did find the descriptions of Loki’s avatars very entertaining! The descriptions were so vivid that I could easily picture them dancing across the screen morphing and expressing themselves with so many different expressions.

Here is an interview with Gabriel Valjan, the author:

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What advice would you give budding writers?

Read as widely as you can and form your own relationship to language. Each writer has one whether she is aware of it or not. Be true to the story that you want to deliver and set aside ego. Write. Revise. Get feedback from those you trust. Realize that the physical book in your hands is the result of your work, that of an editor and of a publisher. Be grateful for that and once you are done: release it so that the story can live its own life with readers and you can return to writing. Make the next story better.

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

Silvio was the hardest. He is my homage to Andrea Camilleri’s character Catarella in the Inspector Montalbano series. I say that he was the hardest because I wanted to tip my hat, while at the same time do something different with my Silvio. For those readers unfamiliar with Catarella, he is a bumbling cop who, in trying to sound bureaucratic and formal, does hilarious things with language.

Easiest character? I would say Bianca. She is a composite of three people: a famous hacker I knew, a friend with a genius level IQ, and myself when I was younger. I’m not saying that I am brilliant, but I was extremely distant and analytical (and moody, as Bianca is).

Do you write every day?

I do and I am very ritualistic about my writing habit. Coffee. Exercise. More coffee. I’ll write for three to four hours, or more on a good day. My output averages to about a page an hour, although I have done more, or sometimes less. Write this way, with consistency, and you’ll have a novel in no time. I write from beginning to end and then set aside the story for revisions. I wrote Corporate Citizen in forty-three days in 2012.  The release date for the book is October 5, 2016, so that should give you some idea of the time spent editing and revising it.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. I can’t read my own handwriting at times. I will, however, walk about with a small notebook to jot down notes about dialog, an idea, or an image. I have found that to be conducive to my process.

Favorite dessert?

A Spanish plantain split which consists of deep fried plantains, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and toasted nuts.

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Need I say more? It is the perfect combination of crunchy texture, creaminess, sweetness, and chocolate goodness. I dare you to disagree. I’d like to try it with coconut ice cream.

If there is any one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

For readers to say that I created characters they cared about and that my stories ventured beneath the surface.

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Digging up the Past – and Discovering Treasures

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The purpose of my trip to Italy this year was to do some research into my mother’s side of the family – particularly her father’s family. I became interested in finding out about them because, unlike the other places in Italy where I have roots, the province of Padova has online records available through http://www.familysearch.org and I was able to do some research before the trip. The records available date from 1879 – 1910. This part of Italy is also where you find Cittadella – my “home town” and where all my civil records are located! My mom was born there and when I became an Italian citizen, I had the opportunity to choose either the town of my mom’s birth or my dad’s as my “home”. I chose Cittadella because it’s a beautiful medieval walled town which I’d be proud to call my Italian home!

Through my online research, I discovered that both my grandfather’s parents died in 1910 within months of each other. He was only 11 years old and was one of the oldest of 8 children. So my first thoughts were: who raised them? Were they kept together? What did his parents die of? My mother didn’t know any of this and I wasn’t sure how I was going to find out since those kinds of details aren’t readily available in civil records. Determined to figure it out, I did a search for my grandfather’s last name in the White Pages for the town where I knew they lived (in my case, Campo San Martino). I came up with 3 names and addresses, and so I wrote them a snail-mail letter! In this letter, I spelled out exactly who I was and asked if perhaps we were related. Lo and behold, I received a response from 2 of them. One response was from a man who had the same last name but was not part of my direct line of ancestors but nonetheless, he was excited to know another person with the same last name and offered to help me find my family. The other response was from the son of my mom’s first cousin! This was a direct hit! His response included pages from a manuscript which told the story of my grandfather’s family and what happened to them. It turned out that my great grandparents died during a cholera epidemic, leaving all their children behind. An adopted uncle raised the children along with his own children. In 1916, he was responsible for 21 people! This manuscript was beautifully written, but I only had parts of it and I wanted to find out who wrote it and how I could get a full copy! All of these things, plus the desire to meet these newfound cousins, sparked my desire to make this genealogical research trip to the Padova area. Here is my story of discovery and amazement – how all the pieces came together, even more so than I had ever expected!

Our first stop on this journey was Busiago, within the city limits of Campo San Martino. This is the town where my mom’s mother’s family grew up and so I thought that this might be where my grandparents had gotten married. We tried to go to Mass but got the time wrong and so ended up at the church after Communion. We hung around after Mass to see if we could meet the priest and ask some questions about locating my grandparent’s marriage records. We didn’t get to speak to him but we learned that the church had been rebuilt in the 1950’s and therefore the original edifice was no longer there.

We wandered around Busiago a bit – there were prosecco grapes growing all around!  That was all the research we had time for that day, but we had plans to return.

The next day, Monday, we headed back out to the Campo San Martino area and made a visit to the archive office. I was able to locate my grandparent’s marriage certificate as well as my aunt’s birth certificate. Another mystery opened up to me – my grandparents didn’t legally register their marriage until 1927, even though my aunt was born in 1925! Their marriage certificate indicated that they were registering their marriage to legitimize the birth of their daughter. My aunt’s birth certificate showed only my grandfather’s name and no mention of her mother. Did they perhaps get married in church years before and didn’t legally register their marriage civilly? As I found out, only beginning in 1929, did the priest have the authority to legally marry a couple. Before that, a church wedding did not constitute a legal one. I am currently awaiting news from the priest from to see if he can locate the church records of my grandparents’ wedding to see when it really took place.

A trip to the cemeteries of Busiago and Marsango was next. Sadly, most of my ancestors’ graves have been dug up – evidently, the graves are dug up from the ground after 30 years. The only old ones remaining are those that have a crypt. Wandering around Marsango’s cemetery, though, I found two graves which were of interest. I took pictures to remind me of the details.

The next day, we visited the archive office of San Giorgio delle Pertiche which comprises the town of Arsego. Arsego is where my mom lived when she was born and before moving to Lago Maggiore. We didn’t find any real info at the archive office, but decided to visit the church in Arsego to see if maybe my mom’s baptismal records were there. When we met with the priest, he informed us that he had a gentleman who was responsible for the research for these types of records and for me to give him a call in the afternoon to set up an appointment. When we met him in the afternoon, he welcomed us into the rectory. I explained my research and when I gave him my mom’s name, he reacted with a surprised stare. When I confirmed the name, he sat back and said that that was a name that meant a lot to him since he was the grandson of the man who had been adopted by my great-great grandparents and who raised my grandfather after his parents had died! This was a huge surprise and totally unexpected. I told him about the pages of a manuscript that had been sent me and he informed me that he was the author of that manuscript!

He had been a professor of history and therefore very knowledgeable about the historical details of the time period in question. He promised me that he would make me a copy of the entire manuscript to have for my records. He and I were so excited about this coincidence that we had to celebrate! So he took us to the children’s afterschool snack shack at the church where we ordered prosecco! Ha! Ha! Only in Italy! We made plans to see each other the following afternoon, when he would give me the manuscript.

The next morning, Wednesday, I had made plans to visit with my mom’s cousin. When we arrived at their house, we were greeted by a whole group of people. They were so warm and welcoming and invited us into their home…and fed us some delicious pastries! They pulled out a lot of old family photos and were explaining to me who everyone was. They were all so excited to meet us and promised to show us around the Veneto the next time we go! Such a warm welcome from everyone!

That afternoon we went to pick up the manuscript. It was given it to me with so much enthusiasm! He was so excited to be able to share his story (and the story of my ancestors) with me! It’s a great memory which I will always treasure. I plan on translating it into English so that I can pass it down to my children! Once more, to celebrate, he took us to the local bar for another toast (Prosecco)! They sure like to celebrate in Italy every chance they get!

Our last day of family research took us to the church in Marsango. This may actually be the church where my grandparents were married, even though I’m still waiting for the results of that search.

Also, with all the excitement, we realized that we never located my mom’s baptismal certificate in Arsego. But then, after talking to the priest, he mentioned that she was probably baptized at the hospital in Cittadella immediately after her birth, and that those records are probably there. Getting these additional records and maybe some others that are missing from my research will be for a future project. For now, I am so excited about the discoveries that I made – this trip exceeded all my expectations!

Buon Natale Se Vuoi

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As we approach the Christmas holiday, I’m inspired to post a beautiful song sung by one of my favorite Italian artists, Eros Ramazzotti! His songs always have beautiful lyrics as well as moving music. This one speaks of the peace that Christmas should bring, but that is sadly missing in our world today. The official music video (which you can see here and which I could not embed into this post) was filmed under the gorgeous porticos of Bologna and shows Eros dressed up as a homeless man, meanwhile another famous Italian artist, Biaggio Antonacci, poses as a taxi driver. This song about Christmas is from his latest album Perfetto!

LA NOTTE VISTA DA QUI
SEMBRA BELLISSIMA
STELLE CHE ACCENDONO IL BLU
QUANTA LUCE C’E’
ECHI DI UN ALLELUJA
CHE NON SI SPENGONO MAI
OGGI E’ UN GIORNO SPECIALE, E’ NATALE ED E’ SEMPRE COSI’

DIMMI PERCHE’
E’ NATALE MA PACE NON C’E’
“BUON NATALE” MA IL SENSO QUAL E’ ?
UN SALUTO FORMALE NON E’
COME AMARE, QUANTI SOGNI FANNO GLI UOMINI
CHE IN UN GIORNO VANNO VIA
“BUON NATALE” SE VUOI, QUELLO VERO CHE E’ DENTRO DI NOI
DENTRO DI NOI

LA NEVE CHE CADE QUI
MI SEMBRA CANDIDA
MA NEL SILENZIO CHE FA
C’E’ UNA GUERRA
IN OGNI TERRA A META’
CHE NESSUNO MAI SALVERA’
ANCHE UN GIORNO SPECIALE FA MALE E TREGUA NON HA

DIMMI PERCHE’
E’ NATALE MA PACE NON C’E’
“BUON NATALE” MA IL SENSO QUAL E’ ?
UNA FRASE FORMALE NON E’
UN PENSIERO CHE VALE PERCHE’
C’E’ UN NATALE SE VUOI
MA PUO’ NASCERE SOLO DA NOI
DENTRO DI NOI

STELLA COMETA SARAI
STELLA PURISSIMA
SE DALL’ALTO DEI CIELI UN BEL GIORNO LA PACE VEDRAI

DIMMI PERCHE’
E’ NATALE MA PACE NON C’E’
“BUON NATALE” MA IL SENSO QUAL E’ ?
DUE PAROLE DA DIRE PERCHE’
E’ NORMALE
CRESCERA’ UN ENORME ALBERO
QUANDO FINIRA’ QUESTA FOLLIA
UN NATALE VERRA’ E PER SEMPRE CI CAMBIERA’
CI CAMBIERA’… CI CAMBIERA’

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The night seen from here

Seems beautiful.

Stars that light up the blue.

How much light there is.

Echoes of an alleluia

That never turn off.

Today is a special day, it’s Christmas and it’s always like this.

 

Tell me why

It’s Christmas but there’s no peace

“Merry Christmas”, but what does it mean?

A formal greeting, it is not

Like loving, how many dreams do men make

That disappear every day.

“Merry Christmas”, if you want, that which is real inside of us

Inside of us.

 

The snow that falls here

Seems like a cure

But in the silence it makes

There’s a war

In every country divided

That no one can ever save

Even a special day is bad and there is no truce.

 

Tell me why

It’s Christmas, but there is no peace

“Merry Christmas”, but what does it mean?

A formal phrase it’s not

A thought that means something because

It’s Christmas, if you want

But it can only be born from us

Inside of us.

 

Comet star, you’ll be

Pure star

If, from high in the heavens, a beautiful day of peace you’ll see.

 

Tell me why

It’s Christmas, but there is no peace.

“Merry Christmas”, but what does it mean?

Two words to say why

It’s normal

To grow a huge tree.

When will this folly be over

A Christmas will come and it will forever change us

It will change us…It will change us.

 

 

There’s Something to be Said for a Simpler Life

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Like my mom always says, “life was better when I was young!”…at times I really think she is right! With all that we have, we are also missing a more simple life where we can appreciate the treasures of nature and the people around us.

I’m not sure who wrote this story, but it was taken from a post by Cinzia Rocchi. It really made me think about our lives and made me wonder how I, personally, would do moving to the country and living a simpler life. In my present-day life, I do try to incorporate a more genuine way of life into my daily routine as best I can, mostly by cooking fresh food with fresh ingredients. I guess that’s the Italian in me!  But I dream to do more – I’d love to be able to walk or ride my bike to buy my groceries, and chat with my neighbors on a regular basis. Sadly, these are almost non-existent for me. The first is almost impossible since I don’t live within walking distance of any stores and if I were to ride my bike, it would take too much time – time I don’t have. And the second is hard, too, since everyone around me is so busy working that no one is ever outside (me included!). This is sadly typical of life in the Silicon Valley. But am I just having romantic notions of life in the country? Is it really so idyllic?

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(The English translation follows at the bottom of this story)

Un padre ricco, volendo che suo figlio sapesse che significa essere povero, gli fece passare una giornata con una famiglia di contadini.Il bambino passò 3 giorni e 3 notti nei campi.

Di ritorno in città, ancora in macchina, il padre gli chiese:

– Che mi dici della tua esperienza ?

– Bene – rispose il bambino

Hai appreso qualcosa ? Insistette il padre

1 – Che abbiamo un cane e loro ne hanno quattro.

2 – Che abbiamo una piscina con acqua trattata, che arriva in fondo al giardino. Loro hanno un fiume, con acqua cristallina, pesci e altre belle cose.

3- Che abbiamo la luce elettrica nel nostro giardino ma loro hanno le stelle e la luna per illuminarli.

4 – Che il nostro giardino arriva fino al muro. Il loro, fino all’orizzonte.

5 – Che noi compriamo il nostro cibo; loro lo coltivano, lo raccolgono e lo cucinano.

6 – Che noi ascoltiamo CD… Loro ascoltano una sinfonia continua di pappagalli, grilli e altri animali…

…tutto ciò, qualche volta accompagnato dal canto di un vicino che lavora la terra.

7 – Che noi utilizziamo il microonde. Ciò che cucinano loro, ha il sapore del fuoco lento

8 – Che noi per proteggerci viviamo circondati da recinti con allarme… Loro vivono con le porte aperte, protetti dall’amicizia dei loro vicini.

9 – Che noi viviamo collegati al cellulare, al computer, alla televisione. Loro sono collegati alla vita, al cielo, al sole, all’acqua, ai campi, agli animali, alle loro ombre e alle loro famiglie.

Il padre rimane molto impressionato dai sentimenti del figlio. Alla fine il figlio conclude

– Grazie per avermi insegnato quanto siamo poveri !

Ogni giorno, diventiamo sempre più poveri perché non osserviamo più la natura!!!

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A rich father, wanting his son to learn the significance of being poor, made him spend time with a family of farmers.

The boy spent 3 days and 3 nights in the fields.

Upon returning to the city, while in the car, the father asked “how was your experience?”

“Good”, the boy responded.

“What did you learn?” asked the father.

  1. We have one dog and they have four.
  2. We have a swimming pool with treated water that sits at the back of our garden. They have a river with crystal clear water, fish and other beautiful things.
  3. We have electric lights in our garden, but they have the stars and the moon for light.
  4. Our garden finishes at a wall, whereas theirs goes all the way to the horizon.
  5. We buy our food. They grow it, reap it, and cook it.
  6. We listen to CD’s. They listen to a symphony of parrots, crickets, and other animals.
  7. We use the microwave. What they cook has the flavor of a slow fire.
  8. To protect ourselves, we have fences and alarms. They live with their doors open, protected by the friendship of their neighbors.
  9. We live connected to our cell phones, computers and televisions. They are connected to life by the sky, the water, the fields, the animals, their shadows and their families.

The father was very impressed with the sentiments of his son. At the end, the son says,

“Thank you for teaching me how poor we are!”

Every day, we become poorer and poorer because we no long observe nature!!

 

 

 

Finding my Family’s Roots

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I have always been interested in finding out about my Italian family, but the roadblocks were almost impossible to maneuver unless I were to make a special trip to Italy and spend lots of time in the churches or city halls.  But Familysearch.org changed all that by making some Italian civil records available online (and they keep adding more)!

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Lo and behold, when I looked up what was available, I found that the province of Padova, in the Veneto region, had online records!

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My mother’s family “immigrated” from there to Lago Maggiore in Lombardy back in 1936, so I knew that I might have some luck in locating information about them while they lived in Padova.  I began by finding out where my mother and her sisters were born – that gave me the name of the town in the province. People didn’t move around as much back then, so once you have the name of the town, you can usually find loads of family members’ statistics. And I was right!  The records I found contained a lot of information – among them parents’ names, locations of birth, and whether the parents were alive or deceased at the time of whatever event you are researching. The records available online are from 1871 – 1910, and they contain birth, marriage, and death records, and therefore I knew that I should be able to find information about my grandparents within those years, as well as their parents (and maybe grandparents). With just a few simple word clues, you can decipher a lot of information from those documents (of course, it helps immensely if you can read Italian).  For instance, if the words “fu” or “furano” preceeded the names of the parents, that means that they were deceased.  If it said “di”, then chances were they were still alive.  It was tedious going through all the records, but fortunately there were yearly indexes to help with the search.  The hardest part was keeping all the clues straight!  I had to make a spreadsheet and cross reference all the information I found to see if they really were part of my family’s branch of the tree.  I was successful in tracing my grandfather’s part of the family tree back 4 generations!  I also unearthed a mystery which I was determined to figure out!

My mom’s mother died when she was 9 years old, so she really hadn’t ever spoken to her about her family back in the Padova Province.  But her father lived into his late 60’s so I thought she’d have more information on his family.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.  He never really talked about them, other than to say that he had lots of brothers and sisters. Well, from doing the research, I realized why he never spoke of them – when he was just 11 years old, he lost both his mother and father (and baby brother) within one year of each other, leaving him and his 7 younger siblings orphaned.  But who took care of them?  Who raised them?  These are the kinds of questions that genealogy research leads to – these human interest stories that make you want to find out more.  I was like a dog with a bone and needed to find out what happened.  I decided to try something the old fashioned way and did a white pages search (online) for my grandfather’s last name in the vicinity of where they had lived. I found three people with the same last name and decided to write them a letter.  Yes, a real letter! In that letter, I described who I was and mentioned the names of my grandfather’s siblings, in the hopes that one of them had descendants still living in the area. In this letter, I did give my email address so that communication would be easier!  A couple of weeks after my letter went out, I received an email response from one of them.  I found out that they weren’t direct relatives but shared the same last name. She told me that she would be glad to help me find my relatives!  She was so nice and I feel like I made a friend – these are definitely the benefits of putting yourself out there and asking for help.  People are more than willing to help you!

My second response came about a month later and it was the answer to all my questions.  The author of the letter was my mother’s first cousin, whom she never met because she never went back after she moved to Lago Maggiore. Back then, if you moved even only a couple of hundred miles away, you may have well moved to the moon!

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Communication, many times, sadly was lost. Not because of family feuds but simply because it was just too hard. Anyway, this letter contained photo copies of pages from a typed manuscript which detailed what happened to my grandfather’s family. Turns out that his parents and baby brother had died of cholera, during the outbreak of 1910 in the Veneto. When they had fallen ill, they had sent the other children (my grandfather included) to live with the grandparents and an adoptive uncle.  This adoptive uncle had, at one moment in time, more than 21 people in his household to take care of!  Amazing that families cared for each other so closely! This manuscript was written like a story with heartfelt words.  But who wrote these beautiful words? How can I get a copy of the entire manuscript, which I’m sure has lots more family treasures? These are questions that I posed to the author of the kind letter after I profusely thanked them for sending me these treasures. I am currently anxiously awaiting their response!  I can’t wait to find out more, and I’m so thankful that my curiosity paid off!

The next part of my search:  my maternal grandmother’s family!  Hopefully I’ll unearth more lovely stories about my ancestors.