I am half Italian. With grandparents named Giulia and Giuseppe and a father named Graziano, it would be hard not to be. The other half is 98.5% Irish and 1.5% German I guess. It is something along those lines I think, but in truth we just go by the Irish so the German must be small.
It is not a strange combination now, but when my parents got married I guess it was almost a no no. Italians and Irish didn’t mix. You’re an Italian boy you bring home an Italian girl to meet your Mama, and Italians were probably not too welcome in an Irish household. Dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes, quite the contrast with the light-skinned, light hair, freckled face Irish. And yet here they were.
Growing up I remember a little about my father’s side of the family. It was big, 7 aunts, 3 uncles, and my father. It was loud, and the hands were always going. Everybody hugged and kissed a lot. The men sat together in one room and the women, well from what I can recall, were always in the kitchen. Kids were everywhere.
My mother’s side was not so different. It too was a respectable size. Three aunts, my mother, and one uncle. OK so it was like half the size of my father’s but it was good. They were not quite as loud, and they didn’t greet everyone by throwing their arms around them. I don’t remember hugging being a big part of get togethers. They were more reserved. But, there were always what seemed like a million of us cousins running around.
I saw my mother’s side more often. They tell me it’s because the mother naturally goes more to her family. What it did in my case was almost make me feel like an outsider at my father’s family functions. The daughter’s of my aunts all grew up together. They grew up Italian. I did not.
In part age did have something to do with things too. When the family is that big, first-born daughter’s, are married and having babies while mother’s are still having the last babies. My Auntie Nancy died before I was born. Seven years before I was born. Her oldest children, my first cousins, have children that are older than me. I grew up calling some of my first cousin Auntie and Uncle, because they are around the same age as my youngest aunts. It happens now in American society, but more so when one parent re-marries and has another whole family. This was all one big family. The same two parents married for life. I never thought it was strange to call my cousins auntie. It was a sign of respect. Even though they fall along the same branches of the family tree, they were older and you better respect them. To this day I still pay my respects by going to them with a hug and kiss. My hugging I definitely got from that side of the family.
The Giaquinto family tree continues to grow with each generation. Children grow up and have babies who grow up to have babies, who are a mixture of many ethnicities. This is not wrong, but with each generation they know less about each other and it is no longer the Italian side of the family. It kind of makes me sad.
The reason my thoughts are dwelling here is because this past week I lost another aunt. It was hard to let another one go. There are only two sisters left. My first generation American family members are dwindling. The Italian generation will soon be gone.
One of my cousins is working on a family tree. She laughed and said well it’s not really in tree form because we would need a very big wall to write it on, but it is a record of family members. It’s a huge project that I hope someone can keep up with.
A reunion is being planned for spring. We really need to pull it off this time. It will be nice to get together for something fun instead of a funeral. To sit as an older member of the family and watch as all the millions of little cousins run around like we used to do.
Life and Family goes on