I returned last night from a sojourn to "The Mother Land" - Italy. I am tired from the traveling but, like so many people, too excited to sleep for more than a few hours.
The trip was two years in the planning and included my cousins Valerie, George, his wife Marla, my cousin Anna and Gilles and their cousins Sonia and Claudio and his wife Susan. The primary purpose of the trip was to honor the memory of our cousins, the Bernini Boys, killed as resistance fighters in 1944.
To that end we travelled from Modesto, Sonoma and Switzerland, gathering in Parma, Italy for one reason - we are family, and our family needs to be remembered for the sacrifices they made during that great conflict 70 years ago.
The trip was a resounding success on many levels; it was fun, it was challenging and it was necessary. It allowed me to connect with family members in a deeply loving way and it also gave me greater insight into the world my beloved grandmother, Rose Bernini Crocco, left behind when she made the crossing to America. Our family name may be old and honored in the Renaissance but those people had a tough and challenging life in the mountains of Parma. Landed gentry they were not; rather they were hard working Peasants with a capital P and I have never been so proud of the stock from which I come as I was standing in that Church in Ravarano during the Mass held to honor those men.
Of course, the trip was not without its foibles. I made it on the airport bus from the hotel without a problem. George and Marla missed it, took a cab, went back again once they realized they had left ¼ of Marla's stuff in the hotel room and then got there in time to go through the metal detector laughing the entire time. I spent the first hour on the flight to Milano with a makeshift ice pack on my forehead. Bending over to tie my shoe in the bathroom of the plane meant smacking my head on the handicap guardrail. George looked at me when I came back to my seat and just shook his head.
No one can say we do not have a sense of humor.
From the Milano airport it was time to learn the train system in Italy and by golly we did a great job. I would like to brag that we did it all by ourselves - we did not. We were aided by a kind young Italian man in the Milano Centrale and made a mad dash to the train to Parma, dodging cigarette smoking Italians with leashed dogs. I had wanted my 93 year old mother to come with us but this really would have been too much for her. George had to practically push us onto the train but by golly we made it and once on, we spent the trip gazing out the window at what could have been the Central or Northern Valley of California.
Upon arrival in Parma, we discovered the incredibly civilized method the Italians have for grabbing a taxi. You stand in a designated spot and wait. If you get to the spot and there are taxis waiting, you go to the first one. If you make an error, the drivers point out who was next. Amazing. This is definitely not New York.
I will be writing more over the next few days. The trip was fun, and frantic, a spiritual awakening that I am so grateful I did not miss. I am still sorting out all the pictures and emotions and incredible things I learned.
Know only this - I am so grateful. I am grateful to the 12 Step program that lead me to sobriety. I am grateful to the Catholic Church for the powerful spirituality She has offered to me. I am grateful to my family - here and in Italy - for being so kind and loving.
I am grateful to God, without Whom I would never be able to do any of this stuff.
Thank you, Lord, for this amazing life.