Will my family’s stories be lost? That is what went through my mind as I sat amongst my Uncle’s sister, her children and grandchildren looking at photos — tones of black and grey and color, old and new. Yesterday was the first time I met her. I spent the day with my mother’s oldest sister, Nella. I accompanied her in saying her “goodbye’s” to her sister-in-law before returning to Australia.
My uncle and I have never met. They moved to Australia shortly after he married my aunt. Although they had the best intentions to move back to Sicily, fate had a different plan. My aunt and I met for the first time in 2007 in Milan. This is the second time we were in each other’s company.
So I was happy to meet my Uncle’s family. At least I could get some feeling of what he is like and how he grew up. I asked his sister if she had photos of him when he was little. Everyone gathered around the table to reminisce in the past with me.
As I sat there quietly listening to their gasps and laughs as they recalled their life, I wondered if anyone would ever ask me to share with them my family’s history. Will I have photos of my children, their children and their children’s children?
After viewing photos of weddings, baptisms, military trainings etc… my aunt and I visited my nonno’s sister. At my great aunt’s home my zia Nella told the story of how she met my uncle. She told us how she and my mother and other aunt, their littlest sister, pushed a cart of spices through the dirt road. That was one of the few times my nonna would permit her daughters to leave the house. It was at that time that my uncle first saw her.
We eagerly listened to my aunt tell the story. I asked for clarification and details trying to understand how different her life was then, how strict my grandmother was and what exactly did they do for money.
Her eyes and mouth fluttered while she poured out her love story. I thought about taking out my camera and capturing it all on digital, so someone else could know everything I know; so the past would not be lost. But stories like hers lose value when recorded. They are best told from memory, passed on from relative to relative in those few precious moments when distance is shortened.