This letter continues the series of postings about reflections on my Great Grandmother which started in posting 12b. In the second letter I consider the kindness shown to me by Great Aunt Italia.
Emilia Pappalardo Serrapede was the wife of Gennaro Serrapede. She was my maternal Great Grandmother.
Great Aunt Italia: Daughter of Emilia and Gennaro. Mother of Cousin Italia. Sister of Grandpa Sam.
Cousin Italia: Daughter of Great Aunt Italia. Niece of Grandpa Sam. Wife of Antonio. Mother of Stefania. She is my First Cousin 1X Removed.
Great Aunt Filomena: Emilia’s oldest child and the favorite sister of Grandpa Sam.
Grandpa Sam (Sabato): Son of Emilia and Gennaro. Brother of Great Aunts Filomena and Italia. My maternal Grandfather.
Grandma Josie: My maternal Grandmother.
Uncle Sammy (Sabbatino): Son of Grandpa Sam and Grandma Josie. My maternal Uncle.
January 8, 2015
Dearest Great Grandmother Emilia:
I love to look at the photos of the vacation in Agropoli so long ago. They bring back memories of the sunlight shimmering over the sea while we walked to Great Aunt Italia’s in the freshness of early morning. Grandpa Sam stayed behind on the day Cousin Italia, Grandma Josie and I went to visit members of the Scotti family in the Old Town. It was on that morning I saw the house where Grandma Josie was born.
When we returned to Great Aunt Italia’s apartment we were glad to leave the heat of late morning behind. In America we would have iced tea, salads and sandwiches on such a hot day. Yet Great Aunt Italia was doing her very best to care for her guests by preparing a cooked meal that included fish caught fresh that day. She also prepared various side dishes.
I did not realize the extra work I put her through until later in the afternoon. The morning before I asked Grandma Josie if any restaurants nearby prepared an Italian style meatloaf or roast beef. I was feeling homesick for the meals I had back home even though when I was home I was not very enthusiastic about them. I did not think my words in passing would be transmitted by Grandpa Sam to Great Aunt Italia. On the next morning she went to the market and bought a very lean cut of beef that she prepared for me in addition to all the other food she planned for lunch. By this time I was learning to enjoy the seafood. I especially liked breaded and fried sepia, a kind of cuttlefish. When Great Aunt Italia put the plate out for me with the beef I enjoyed it, too. After that I refrained from talking about American food and took more interest in the food and wine we were having. Great Aunt Italia’s thoughtfulness made me more realize how thoughtless I had been.
Great Aunt Italia’s apartment, cutlery, tableware and furniture were old but well cared for. Her presence and generosity filled those afternoon meals with a feeling that we were at a feast. And we were! It was the sight of the curtains on the window filtering the sunlight into the room that called my attention to the roses outside. It was one of those moments where suddenly everything and everyone lights up and is beautiful. A sense of joy filled my heart. We were all together as a family. A connection to the past awoke within me that was never there before. I had always considered the years before Grandma Josie and Grandpa Sam came to America as belonging to such a distant past. At that moment the connection was made. It was because I had seen the places where they lived and met some of the people they loved that made it come to life.
Now when I see that photo of the roses, I think of you. When Great Grandfather Gennaro was working in America, how many times did you look out the window of your home in the Old Town, gaze at the sea below and wonder when a letter from America would arrive?
The United States Federal Census records state that your daughter Filomena and son Sabato went to school up to 4th grade. They were both old enough to read any letters sent back from Wilmerding when Great Grandfather Gennaro went there in 1913. I picture you turning away from your window and back to the kitchen where you have set the table for meal time with an extra place setting or two for your relatives. After dinner you ask Filomena or Sabato to read one of the letters from Gennaro. How I wish you were here to talk to in person. Since you are not, I am sending this letter to you in spirit along with prayers of thanksgiving for the sacrifices you made for the family and the support you gave Gennaro while he went abroad to work.
Your Great Grandaughter in Brooklyn,
EmilyAnn Frances May
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