Giorno dopo giorno. Day by day. It has become my motto. Each day bringing new encounters, struggles, and beauty. But isn’t it that way for each of us, if we take the time to pay attention? Being offered new experiences, moments with strangers and with those we love. The trick is, what do we take away from those moments, what do we learn from it?
Ever since I was a girl, I have had the vision that if I simply placed myself in Italy for some time, I would automatically or even magically find the book or the building that led to my family. But here is the thing I am learning. It’s not easy to find one set of ancestors with very little information in the proverbial large hay stack. This concept may be elementary to some of you, however, to an optimistic dreamer it has been somewhat of a wake up call.
In Palermo, I was delivered a lengthy speech on how we should not have great expectations. That we merely set ourselves up for a great fall. In the midst of disappointment it felt on point in some ways. But then I thought about my life. I thought about all of the happenstances even on this journey. And the path that is being led.
Is it safer to not have hope or expectation of any goodness? To not expect that dreams can come true? Yes, absolutely.
But do I want my life to tell a safe story? Or rather, perhaps one that is rich in dreams and hopes and expectations as well as failures and pitfalls and struggles. On the way to Palermo I stared out the bus window dreaming about the city I thought I was destined for. I saw some women in the fields starting piles of brush fire. I asked someone later what they were doing that for. “Sometimes they set fire to the field in order to create fertile ground for future crops.”
That is how I look at failures. Sometimes, you must have some fire in your life in order to grow the richest and most flavorful crops. As one author put it, “When something doesn’t go how I expected, I’ve learned to cherish the longing it creates. The longing will make the provision even sweeter.”
So, the last two days I have been sitting at my computer most of the day. Doing my research. Meeting minds with a dream. And I have learned some things. It seems my great grandpa Michele Maiuzzo was born in Catania, not Palermo (though he may have lived in Palermo at some point). And when I learned this, take a wonderful guess what town I was sitting in. Yes, that’s right. Catania. A place that I fell in love with on a moonlit walk through the rain. Only to find out the next day that it was another part of my history.
I learned that my bisnonno Michele left from Naples at the age of 25 (the city with dirty feet that I learned to love) on a three mast vessel bound for NYC in 1898. He met and married his wife, another Sicilian immigrant, within two years of his arrival. 19 years later he signed a WWI draft card in New York. On the card they described him as 5ft 5 of medium slender build. He had black hair and brown eyes. He lived on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. A year later at the young age of 45 he died from a battle wound.
Almost one century later, I arrived in New York. And now full circle back to Naples, then Palermo, then Catania. As I learn and find out each new detail, it is like unwrapping sweet gifts. It is a process.
Sometimes that’s what life is, a process. And sometimes it is a burning. But in each day that we are offered, we must find the story that our life is destined to tell.