Visit to Roseto - with not one, but three elderly ladies
Back in 2004 I got the bright idea that I should do something nice for the three "elder" ladies in my family - before it was too late. These ladies would be my mom who at the time was 84, my Aunt Mary - 86 and my Aunt Ida - age 92.
I had been involved in genealogy for a few years at that time and I had spent a considerable amount of time on a website discussing The Two Rosetos - one being the town in Italy that my maternal ancestors were from, Roseto Valfortore and the second one being Roseto, Pa - where a lot of paesani had emigrated to from the old country. Bear in mind a lot of those "paesani" had also come to Canada and to our area of Hamilton/Toronto - but Roseto, Pa was a small town that was initially back in the 40's and 50's, full of them - that's right no other nationality had yet set foot in that town, it having been basically built by the first generation of Rosetani to find their way there.
Are You Out Of Your Mind?
So as I said I got to thinking, that with the three senior ladies in our family moving on in age, was it not time that I did something nice for them! Why not take them down to New Jersey to visit their cousin Bebe, and then with Bebe we could take a day trip into Roseto - and reminisce a bit - and maybe I could tour the graveyard while I am there. You never know; my great grandfather's tombstomb may strangely enough and all of a sudden appear out of nowhere, and jump right up in front of me.
Let me digress a bit here to explain. My grandfather, his older brother and their father emigrated to Sydney, Nova Scotia when my nonno was only 14 years old to work in the Sydney mines. They went back and forth to Italy over the years, nonno finding my nonna to marry and then come back to North America. Long story short, somewhere along the way my great grandfather died in Sydney; the sons were on the move across the country and so, yes, they took him to be buried in Roseto, Pa where he would be in the good company of "paesani". Never mind that no one in our immediate family lived there, or ever lived there for that matter, but it seemed the wise thing to do. They did arrange for a tombstone, but strangely, over the years it has disappeared. But I can still hope!!
So, with all of this in mind I spoke to the three ladies, told them of my plan, and of course they jumped right on it. My cousin Mary Ann, Aunt Ida's daughter said "are you out of your mind?" This might be a slight exaggeration but with what she said, this is how it sounded to me. Indeed I began to wonder. After all mom at that point already was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease, but she was still walking on her own two feet. My Aunt Mary had been having swelling problems off and on with her ankles and legs, but she was still walking on her own two feet and Aunt Ida, the oldest of the bunch was running races. I kid you not! While maybe a slight exaggeration, I'm trying to get my point across. She is today 98 heading for 99 and still walking on her own two feet.
We're On Our Way
So this is how I found myself driving over 500 miles from Ontario to New Jersey with my mom and two aunts, all prepared to go. Yesiree - they all had their own maps and they were all assuring me that they knew exactly what to do, where to go and how to get there.
My mother had ordered a map from the CAA (Canadian Automobile Assocation). Aunt Ida had one that her son-in-law had taken off the internet and my Aunt Mary was in receipt of a map that Bebe had sent her from New Jersey and the American Automobile Association. This map had us coming out of my two aunts apartment building - into one way streets in Hamilton - going the wrong way! You get my point; of course I knew where I was going in my own city, and how to get to the Highway. I was no dummy afterall - but already we were laughing at the impossibility of the whole thing.
The drive was uneventful for the most part, stopping now and then for lunch - or a coffee and bathroom break, with everyone chattering away with the excitement of it all. It wasn't until we were approaching an area where we had to head off in a different direction and I said "O.K." ladies pay attention and let me know where I am supposed to go". A fluttering of maps ensued with each of them having a different opinion of course. One aunt said one thing and the other aunt insisted her map didn't say that and all along my mom was sitting in the front seat, by this time, disgusted with the whole thing, buttoning up her lip because she was the only one with the CAA map and she wasn't speaking. In the end we made one mistake and then we were on our way again.
We arrive to our destination in New Jersey, the ladies' cousin Bebe and Ernie's house at around 4PM in the afternoon. Just in time for Happy Hour! And this was a good thing because one of the first things Ernie said to me was "Why Canada no a help us, after everything we a do for Canada" This of course had to do with the Iraq war and I really did not want to go there. And so in the end, I felt it was better not to answer; play dumb sort of. Then Ernie poured me a glass of red wine and the day was saved - Phew!! And throughout that entire week - Ernie and I would sit and have a glass of wine together; he had decided I was OK after all.
In the meantime the four ladies were busy getting caught up - the way cousins do when they haven't seen each other for some time. Their house was big; they'd had a lot of kids, but even with everyone gone they still lived in this huge house with a huge kitchen. After all there was always a grandchild or two coming through the door; it was one big very happy family and for that week we were indeed family too.
Off to Roseto
A couple of days later we headed off to Roseto with me behind the wheel of Bebe's Cadillac. Now I had four ladies in tow. Only an hour away, we arrived in no time and with no dificulty and headed for Millie's house. Millie being the same age as my aunt Ida - and still driving, bless her soul. We congregated on Millies front porch in this sleepy little town of Roseto, waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.
Soon they came one by one, Cousins Grace, Ida, (& her hubby Pino) Mildred, Millie, and Frank to make sure that Pino didn't have all the fun with the ladies. These were the Americans - Oh well wait I forgot Bebe - but she was in our/her car - and then we Canadians, Del, Mary and Ida - and little ole me. We chatted for a bit outside on the porch; it was such a lovely day and then it was time for lunch. Off we went, down the road to Roses Cafe.
Roses Cafe was like going back in time. A small little family restaurant with black and white tiled floors and a homey atmosphere. I think this is the first place that I had Sweet Potato Fries and I loved them. We had a great time there and then after lunch we were outside once again taking pictures. We were invited to Grace and Frank's house , but first we had to go down the street to visit the DeFrancos. I don't know, but it seems that we had to visit everybody who "might be related" or at least of course they were paesani.
I took this opportunity to escape and wander down to the church - Our Lady of Mount Carmel and then into the cemetery. I browsed around, again hoping that Giuseppe Lanza's tombstone would materialize, but sadly it did not. One day I may find out what happened here, but today was not going to be the day.
Deja Vu - Sort Of
Now we were heading for Grace's house to sit around on the patio and have a glass of wine. This of course is right up my alley. And so far no one has asked me the same question Ernie did, so I'm good. But I have a story of my own that I want to share with Grace.
When I was a little girl, maybe around 6 or 7 years old my mother, aunts and grandmother and I made a trip to Roseto, Pa for a funeral. My mom, grandma and I stayed at Grace's house. She had three young sons, and for some reason these boys had taken to pinching me when no one was looking. My mother could not understand why I was glued to her at the hip, and why I refused to come out of the bedroom in the morning. All I could think of now was these three grown up sons of hers, all successful in their own right in their different fields, and all quite good looking, and how I probably wouldn't mind being pinched by them now. As the afternoon went by, and after a couple more glasses of wine, I got the nerve to tell Grace my story.
All in all it was a delightful afternoon, but soon it was time to go home, and bless her heart - nothing doing but 92 year old Millie had to get in her car and lead us out to a short cut and way to get out of this "big town" and back on the road to New Jersey.
Our Week Is Over
We finished off our week celebrating Ernie's 85th birthday the day before heading home. It was a huge affair, because of course they have a huge family. I lost count of the grandkids, but there are many. And of course the people from Roseto came too. That morning we were all doing something to help out, when all of a sudden I looked out to the garden and saw my aunt Ida digging weeds. Holy Mackeral, all I could think of was "if something hapens to her, my cousin will kill me". Out I went and dragged her back inside, setting her down to help out in the kitchen.
At the end of the day, with everyone fed and watered, we all agreed that it had been a wonderful day. In fact it had been a wonderful week. I had traveled 500 miles with three elderly ladies, and was now traveling 500 miles back home - and nothing had happened. Oh well unless you want to talk about the Fire Engine chasing me up on to the curb - and in a round-about to boot! But in the end we did well and I am so glad that I decided to take this adventure with them.
A couple of years later their cousin Bebe's husband Ernie passed away. In 2007 my Aunt Mary passed away. This week Bebe passed away. My mother is not in good shape and we are on a day to day to basis with her. Aunt Ida? Well Aunt Ida is going to be 99 in December and we are going to gather at her nursing home, where we will celebrate her birthday with an open house. She has a little problem remembering everything these days, but she is still walking on her own two feet. And when she sees you, she gets a big smile on her face and exclaims "oh my goodness, what are you doing here". All is still pretty good in her world.