Sunday, April 15, 2012

Benvenuti al Sud

I wrote my last blog in Italian so that Azzurra's family could read and appreciate the stories of our Easter weekend together, and appreciate it they did: Mamma called me to say that I had both her and her husband in tears.  Letizia told me I should put on my resume the skill of "making grown Calabrian men cry"; you never know what might make you stand out to an employer.

This being my first Easter in Calabria, I got to try all the special homemade Easter treats, including this baby with an egg baked in for a head spread with Nutella.  To add to the celebrations, Azzurra's birthday fell on Good Friday this year so we indulged on a delicious fish feast, including "spring flower" filled pasta that mamma and Azzurra made, octopus with potatoes, and cheesecake, which was a new arrival to Castrovillari and everyone just had to try.  Giuseppe, her brother, was at first skeptical of a cake made out of cheese, but expressed the most incredible joy after his first bite: he looked just like St. Teresa in Ecstasy. 

Flashback to Christmas 2010, when I told my mom that I couldn't come home for Christmas and would instead be spending the holiday with my adoptive family in Calabria.  This was all a trick of course in an attempt to surprise her when I showed up on her doorstop in December, but not knowing this she dutifully sent me a package of gifts for the family, lovingly sent all the way from California.  Well, not having had the opportunity to visit Calabria since summer 2010, I'd held on to those gifts all this time, and thus had the opportunity to play the role of Babbo Pasqua, or Father Easter.

I'd never experienced a more joyous gift-giving ceremony, with everyone being so extremely excited and gracious about the small tokens we wanted to give them.  Giuseppe smothered me with kisses, Silvia jumped around like crazy, and mamma displayed her California-themed dishtowel as a tablecloth in the kitchen, showing it off to every guest that visited over the weekend.  After things calmed down Giuseppe said, "Ohi, ma.  It's not just that it's Ralph Lauren.  It's came from California."  I want to give them everything.

We spent lots of time over the weekend hanging around the house as a family, laughing over shared meals and making fun of my accent, playing poker (perhaps the proudest moment of Giuseppe's life when he beat me), and catching up on our lives.  It's so easy to forget the wonder of these simple moments at home, and I loved being a part of theirs. 

Friday night we went out on the town for Azzurra's birthday and ran into almost everyone we know from Castrovillari.  It's such a small town and by now I know a shockingly high percentage of its inhabitants.  I felt like a townie, and considered becoming one.

We did our best to make visits to see all the families, but it was hard in such a short amount of time.  I got to meet Cristina's parents finally, and we also went with Alessandro to visit his grandparents and his dad.  His grandfather asked me what my plans were, and when I said I was soon headed back to California for good, he simply shook his head and said, "That's a shame."  It was so sincere that I foolishly teared up and got Azzurra going with me.  He's right-it is a shame!

Saturday night we went to the small hill town of Civita, to eat at Agora', one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world.  This is the place that has thus far made three appearances in my blog, as we make a point to eat there every time I visit.  Yes, it's the place with all the appetizers.   I finally succeeded in learning my lesson and ordered nothing more than the shared appetizers, and was still stuffed on my way out!  Check out all those stickers in the window of this renowned yet hidden gem of a restaurant.


Easter Sunday we went to a morning mass before heading to Lungro for lunch at the grandparent's house.  I already posted our group photo in my Italian post, but these following ones give you more of an idea of the meal and the music and the family love we shared!  Zio Roberto played the guitar and the accordion while Azzurra's parents polkaed around the room.  Lots of family members dropped in to give their best wishes for a Happy Easter to the grandparents, including the sweet twin baby cousins. 

I made quite a spectacle of myself on two occasions: one, when I had the honor of cracking open the family's chocolate egg and had to hit it several times until success, and two, when saying goodbye and leaving their house crying like a bumbling idiot.  It was nonno's fault, again.  I swear, these sweet old men really pull on my heartstrings.  

That night, just before my departure on the night bus headed back to Florence, my family called to wish me a Happy Easter.  I got mamma (adoptive, Italian) and mama (biological, Portuguese-American) talking, with me attempting to translate (I could hardly speak English anymore after my three days there), and mamma had all three of us in tears when she said, "At this point, I consider myself to have four children."  I get a little verklempt just thinking about it.

Every time I go to Calabria I don't want to leave, but somehow it gets easier and easier to do so with each visit, because each time I go it seems more and more likely that I will make it a priority to return. Their love showers me so completely when I'm there, how could I not come back for more?

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