My husband went out to take a walk and see the view form the sloping roadway outside. It wasn’t too long after he left that the came back in with Pablo and Rosie in tow. Rosie was 70, quiet and reserved. Pablo was 90 something and very quiet, annoyed perhaps because it was very difficult to converse. Rosie, after realizing we had old photographs of her was quick to have a kind heart and hug. This was the homecoming we couldn’t’ have even hoped for! She said someone else would be coming to drive us to their family home and that’s just when Maria Pia arrived.
Hi! We’re your family! She gave great hugs and when we showed her the old pictures she exclaimed Io sono, it’s me, it’s me, I was fat! To which we all exclaimed no! She was laughing and such a joyous person, then we were whisked away into two cars and probably left those few people still in the restaurant in a shock. What we found a quick five-minute drive down the mountain must have taken at least half of an hour to prepare. It was only reflecting back on how long it took us to get from A to B that I realized how quickly our family must have moved.
We were brought to the Palandrani home and when Maria Pia pulled up Gabrielle ran to greet us from beneath the open porte cochere next to his home. He shook our hands, kissed our cheeks and from that point on never stopped smiling. He was the hospitable, Italian, Uncle Bob.
So, beneath the porte cochere our family was gathered –Sivana, Luana, Paolo, Ottavio. We were flush with emotions as we went inside, through the beaded drapery and up the wide marble stairway. Later the next day, our family would lead us to the attic and they would explain how it was built, out of concrete. Once back in the states Luana and Ottavio’s son, Dominico, and I would correspond and he would say we were welcome to stay in that attic.
We came up into the entryway foyer on level two, a space at the top of the stairs that was like a sunroom, set with a white table cloth, sweet treats and cake, fanta, coke and water. All of this was awaiting us? Imagine that in half of an hour two generations of families gather with one another to host our family in a sunroom for a Saturday afternoon. Trying to speak over language barriers, we determined we were at Pietro’s home, that of Gabrielle and Luana’s home now too. Their two girls were called down from upstairs, Roberta at 16 and Eugina at 14. Roberta helped us translate, as she was taking English lessons in school. Mom and I said ‘I think’ a lot – ‘penso.’
We were excited and I was soaking it in. All of us were excited. I don’t know how long we stood and talked and tried to communicate. Maybe two hours. The house along Via Colledoro had fields of olives behind. Food and new beverages continued to be brought out. Luana and Sivana said come back into the kitchen –a large square room with a lovely view and a bank of appliances to one wall. It felt comfortable and much less pretentious than American homes. Sivana liked me, linked her arm in mine to show me the rooms of the first floor, and let me sit on her lap when we took pictures. She led me around the house on a quick tour (was it her childhood home?) and we determined that I was an architect and that excited her very much for her son, Dominico, was studying to be an architect too. He went to school in Milan and was luckily home for Easter break for a week. All of the students would go back to school on Monday and this would prove to be expensive for us who were traveling at the same time.
At a certain point we all figured we’d go somewhere into town. We couldn’t really know. Ottavio, Sivana’s husband and I talked a little. He worked for Beta Fence and would later the next day drive us by his plant. He worked in Dallas for a time and was even-mannered and fatherly. Luana and Gabrielle liked to salsa dance and probably would have done that with their two girls that night if we hadn’t shown up. Instead, they talked about having us over for lunch the next day.
We drove down the mountain and parked outside of Santuario Maria SS dello Splendore, a church that had a piazza with a colonnade to one side, and a view of the seaside down to the other side. They were showing us the sea and would, in a timely and perfect manner, be soon leading us to church. We just couldn’t understand what we were doing and it was comical. Gabrielle led the show, led us across a piazza with an arcaded side and into the lovely little church where we heard our first mass in Italian.
Throughout the service people walked casually around and in front of the alter while we were all sitting. This was different. The excitement of the day had left me and our family a little tired. At communion every Italian crowded the altar at once. It was so funny to us Americans who held back to a default. After mass we filed out in the same way. Gabrielle leading the way again. I explained the lack of lines to Roberta while we all filed out the door at once. The five us of weren’t able to understand what our Italian family was talking about, and continued to wonder and want to know what we were doing.
Gabrielle’s family was opening up secrets to the city. Behind and beneath Madonna Del Splendore was a baptismal pool, and a small tiled room for people to gather fresh water. We tasted it as did Gabrielle. We looked downward again over the landscape as it was close to sunset. Our little group was trying to communicate about what we should do tomorrow. We understood that they would take us to the mountains near San Grasso, to the famous church of San Gabrielle. I feared it was too much and finally figured out how to say ‘we do not want to disturb you’ in Italian. But they said no, no, we’ll pick you up at 9 and we will go there. I worried about it later that night, but really for no good reason. I had to trust my mother’s instincts that told me it would be fine. They bid farewell and we walked the ancient streets of Giulianova trying to bring together where our day had begun and ended.