Sorry to be posting late today. We had a little excitement last night.
Stowed Away, (Maine Clambake #6, 2018) won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction.
I was completely amazed and unprepared. It’s the first time a cozy mystery has won and the first time a mass market paperback has won. Plus, the other finalists, fellow Maine Crime Writers Bruce Coffin and Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd, are both writers I admire, whose books are on my “buy it on release day” list. I am so incredibly honored.
But back to the post. My husband, Bill Carito, and I recently returned from a three week vacation. We took a cruise from Athens to Rome, and then we made a side trip to the small village in Calabria that Bill’s paternal grandparents emigrated from in 1921.
On Monday, I wrote about our adventures finding Bill’s second cousin in Wicked Authors post here. I promised to finish the story today.
So, if you’re all caught up, you know that one of the people in the village of Montauro (Angela!) helped us track down Bill’s second cousin, Giovanni, and his wife, Barbara, and we drove off to meet them in the town nearby where they live.
When we met up, we talked for hours, which was challenging since our combined Italian is terrible and their combined English is only slightly better. But it didn’t matter, because we all really wanted to communicate. In fact, Giovanni had something he not only wanted to communicate, he needed to communicate to Bill. The story he told us was this.
Though Bill and Giovanni are related on their paternal side, it was his maternal grandfather Giovanni wanted to tell us about. In the early 1910s, Bill’s paternal grandfather and Giovanni’s maternal grandfather worked together in the same factory, not surprising in a small mountain village. Fascism had not yet taken hold in Italy, but the ideology was creeping in. The owner of the factory decreed that any worker who organized a strike would be arrested and imprisoned.
There were rumors of a strike. The actual instigator was Giovanni’s maternal grandfather. He was married and had small children, the first three of the ten he would eventually have. When word of the strike leaked out, and suspicion fell on him, Bill’s paternal grandfather, a bachelor at the time, stepped forward and took the fall though he hadn’t been involved. He wasn’t imprisoned, but he had to flee the country, coming to the United States for the first time in 1912. Giovanni strongly believes that if Bill’s grandfather hadn’t done this, his maternal grandfather would have been imprisoned, his mother would not have been born, and he would not have been born. He needed to tell Bill that his grandfather’s heroism was legendary in his family, a critical part of their origin story.
On this side of the Atlantic, we knew of Bill’s grandfather’s earlier trip to the United States, but we had no idea about the reason behind it. We assumed he had come to America to work and perhaps to get a sense of life here, and then had returned to Italy to marry, not returning to the U.S. until 1921 with his own three small children. (Three more would be born here, including Bill’s dad.) The reason for that earlier trip had completely disappeared for us. But Giovanni’s side of the family has not forgotten. It was wonderful to reclaim this family story.
That story might have been lost, but many family traditions remain. The church the village Bill’s grandparents emigrated from is named for San Pantaleon. His saint’s day is July 27, and every year on the weekend closest to that date Bill’s extended family–the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and now great-great grandchildren of that couple who walked out of the mountains– gather to celebrate family and connection, and express their gratitude for the lives they have created in America. Every year, in Calabria, Giovanni’s family does the same. I love that my granddaughter will be with us this year, so many generations removed from that village church, but still a part of the tradition.
The Sunday after we met, we had a traditional Calabrian lunch Barbara cooked at their house. Their son’s English is excellent and the young man spent hours translating our stories so we all could enjoy them. We ate heartily and drank wine and enjoyed time together. The poor kid must have been exhausted when we finally said our good-byes.