My story began over 100 years ago when my grandfather Sebastiano decided to leave his small town in Buscemi, Sicily, and venture to Switzerland to find work in 1905. On the way he stopped in Naples and wound up switching tickets with a man who had a ticket for America.
I have been to Buscemi before to search my roots, but this time was very special. My nephew Scot joined me and it became the journey to retrace his great-grandfather’s steps. Luckily the town recorder helped us find his street address which I had forgotten, but quickly confirmed after finding an old photo of his cousin who was standing with the key to his house, which infact I had entered many years ago with her.
We also saw the macaroni shop where he worked with his mother and was the basis for him leaving Sicily over arguing with her to have his own shop. The second leg of the journey was for Scot to see his great-grandmother’s house in another mountain town, called Buccheri, literally down the road from Buscemi where my grandfather came back to marry my grandmother Grazia on April 30, 1913. We were especially happy to find that data as no one had ever seen a wedding photo or knew when she left Sicily. Her niece Concetta, now 83, still lives in my grandmother’s house, and it was very special for Scot to see Grazia’s bedroom and embrace Concetta who was able to repeat the words “Bisnonna, bisnonna” (great grandmother) to him over and over.
Home for us was seeing cows and sheep in the streets. Home for us was eating soup, pasta and rabbit with Concetta. Yes, rabbit, coniglio, which we never once questioned. Home for us was having eggs tossed in sauce with pasta in Buscemi. Home for us mainly was the blood that called us. “Il sangue ti chiama” , Rossella, our cousin, told Scot. “Your blood is calling you!”
Our little towns have dwindled a lot from when Sebastiano and Grazia were born in 1885 and 1884 respectively. In the last 40 years alone Buscemi has gone from over 5,000 inhabitants to little over 1,000 and Buccheri just two times more than that.
I felt when I left my home to rediscover my roots in the middle 60’s, I was the pioneer of my generation. I remember vividly the women dressed in black who couldn’t figure out who this foreigner was in her short brightly- colored pink skirt until a relative told my grandfather’s sister that I was his grand-daughter and she peeked through a window and finally ran out embracing me in her lap (I was 21) and, bouncing me up and down like a ragdoll, repeated “La figlia della figlia di mio fratello!”
“The daughter of the daughter of my brother!”
It was also wonderful to feel that same feeling through Scot’s eyes now. My Aunt Nancy, a great fan of his, reminded him that he was a pioneer when he left home in Rhode Island to move to California, confirming his decision that it was his time to plant roots. I was fortunate to have arranged for his son, Chris, to visit these towns when he was studying in Switzerland this past semester. He said the trip was the most significant of his life. He was hosted by our cousins, the Pinnisi family in Buscemi: Angelo, Rossella and their daughter Samantha, all of whom will be visiting us in the States in July and August!
Buscemi cousins Angelo, Rossella and Samantha:
So this is where my story begins. A young girl on an adventure to find where her mother’s story began. The home I was living in then is now the same home which I was able to purchase by a fluke more than 30 years later. So for me, my story has come full circle.
On another note let me say how happy I am to be back at my Thasc home and family and to begin sharing the wonderful stories of the precious people who are THASC. I will also show you more of our trip in the blogs to come. I told Scot that hopefully one day his grandchildren will talk about his journey, wondering where their grandfather Scot went oh so many years ago with his aunt, Zia Maria.
See you with more stories and travels on Thursday!
PS. Thanks to my dear friend Ruth for the birthday gift sign which led me to write this story.