Friday, May 31, 2013
And yet we find another young man lost at sea in a foreign land, or just off the coast of one. Stanton - who enlisted in the Navy shortly before the Spanish-American War as "William Fuller" (I'm not sure why - too young? fake name?) - served on the USS Brooklyn, and later the USS Rhode Island, which, incidentally, was built in the nearby Fore River Shipyard in Quincy.
The Gunner's Mate died either on October 13 or 14, 1908, depending on what you choose to believe, official documents, or the marker in the St. Paul's Cemetery: "Drowned in the Sea of Japan, Oct. 14, 1908." The marker was "Erected by the Crew of the U.S.S. Rhode Island," which in itself is pretty impressive. Sadly, military men die all the time, in combat, in training, etc. It's certainly a hazard of the job. But his crewmates obviously thought highly of him. As if the eight-to-ten foot tall spire wasn't enough to clue you in to that fact, the words left behind by his comrades should be: "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."
Stanton was participating in a historic moment when he died, the showing off of the "Great White Fleet" of President Theodore Roosevelt, the global chest flex of the United States asserting itself as a world power for the first time. By the date of his death, we can trace the places Stanton had been and where he would have gone had he lived. But alas, that latter exercise would be in vain.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
I guess for some people there is no problem. We think about them in the days after they leave us, and we imnmediately know what it is that should go on their stones, what should stand to represent them forever and ever.
Marie, interred at St. Paul's in Hingham, was evidently a good hostess, or, if she wasn't when she was alive, she's making up for it now. "Would you like a cup of tea?" she asks as we walk by.
Now, I've seen dozens of granite benches in place of traditional tombstones and inevitably they have one message: "Come and sit for a while." Marie is the first person who has ever offered me a beverage while I've visited a cemetery.
See? Manners cost nothing, but are worth their weight in gold.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
I'm a ridiculously goal-driven person. I take on a dozen projects at once and drive toward the finish line with each of them. Life gets in the way, for sure, and sometimes I miss important waymarks and deadlines. We're all human.
I tend to believe in keeping a low-key approach to everything. In the end, the goal will be met, despite the obstacles. Yes, time will be burgled or sucked up in unexpected ways. Computers will melt down. Weather will happen. At one point this year, I loist four family members in five weeks. But as long as you understand that "sh%# happens" going in, frustration can be kept to a minimum.
Sharon exemplifies that mindset, if we can read into the words on her tombstone, which are sweetly optimistic in the one moment when pessimism should be allowed to reign. "Just a bump in the road," she tells us. Perhaps she was on the way to her goal and got derailed by her premature passing, but maybe her final goal was something that could be obtained in the afterlife in which she believed. If that's the case, rock on, Sharon!
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
So where do we go from here? My initial pondering was Member of the Order of the British Empire, but for the life of me (crap! there I go again), I couldn't figure out why a guy buried under a modest stone in a tiny grove of a cemetery in Norwell, Massachusetts, would have received the royal designation. Of course, I could have him backwards. He could have been King Thomas.
So, perhaps "M.B.E." stands for his degree, Master of Bioethics. Or Master of Business Engineering. Or Master of Business Economics. Maybe he worked at Mail Boxes, Etc. Maybe he passed the multistate bar examination. Perhaps he was the editor of Molecular Biology and Evolution magazine. Maybe he invented the multibeam echosounder, and spent his life mapping seafloors. Then again he may just have been a fan of the Mid-Brunhes Event, a climactic change moment from 430,000 years ago that can be read in some deep core samples. I mean, come on: Bruins, Red Sox, Patriots, Mid-Brunhes!
I could go on, but I'll let Thomas rest with his M.B.E. But he does have me thinking (freely). Perhaps initials are the way to go. I mean, we should all be a little enigmatic. But for all eternity? With my luck I'll end up doing smomething really significant that is abbreviated LOL or ROFLMAO.
I know, TMI.
Monday, May 27, 2013
By pure chance I spotted a few tombstones atop a tree-studded hill as I was driving down River Street in Norwell, and took myself up on the whim. The cemetery is spread upon the site of the St. Andrew's Church, which stood from 1731 to 1811, and is one of the most idyllic little spots I've ever visited.
I met a handful of new long-lost and dearly-departed friends as I walked. I'd like to count Bruce Hunter among them.
At least I think I would, and that in itself is the gist. Bruce is remembered by two words: "Free Thinker." It's sad to think that in some societies the desire to exercise one's mind is frowned upon, or even punishable by death. And let's face it, America is no great shakes these days. Republican or Democrat, black or white, what do you choose? There are only two ways to think in American politics, and that is just insane. There has to be more to life than that.
But, before I get too deep, it must be noted that it could be that Bruce was just an atheist, that he chose to go his own way religiously, in which case, I'm right there with him. Either way, I like the sentiment the words suggest: there's always another option.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Looks here like we got ourselves someone of Polish descent. Heck, we probably have a Pole.
"Tu Spoczywa Michal Jlka," or "Here lies Michal Jlka," is how it begins, but after that, my Polish is rusty. Okay, it;s not rusty, it has turned to dust and fallen into pieces that have flowed down into the sewer with my ability to cook gourmet seafood dishes and my understanding of the finer points of Jeet Kune Do. I have enough trouble with Germanic and Romantic languages, without embroiling myself in a mess of cyrillic letters and phrases.
But next follow the birth and death dates, 1886 and 1923 (far too short!). Beyond that, I am utterly lost. There is a story told here, and I can't read it, for the life of me! (I gotta be careful with that phrase in cemeteries.) I think "Pamionta Swoeimu" means something like "memorial to him," but I can't even get a single other word properly translated.
Argh! Must...get...instant gratification!
Saturday, May 25, 2013
"Are We Having Fun Yet?" I have no idea whether or not he was a Zippy the Pinhead fan (the comic strip character who came popularized the quote), but it's one of those lines that doesn't need an association.
I'll bet you John Hailey had a ton of fun in life.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Wow, I didn't even know he was sick.
(For those who don't get the joke, Nolan Ryan was a megastar professional baseball player in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and is currently the CEO of the Texas Rangers. This stone, in the Holy Family Cemetery in Rockland, is for two families - the Nolans and the Ryans.)
Thursday, May 23, 2013
This is just a simple stone, from some simple kids. It says, in its entirety, "In memory of Willard, from the Damon School Children." Willard was Willard Beal, I believe an old principal.
Of course, it could have been the school's pet rabbit, for all I know.
But wouldn't that be nice, to be remembered and honored by a group of friends or peers? I think it's pretty cool, what the Damon School kids (and I was one, briefly) did for Willard, be he man or bunny.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Hull has eight streets named for World War II casulaties, and Meade Avenue is one of them.
The town sent its fair share to the fight, of course, but because of the miniscule size of the population comparative to most other towns in the Commonwealth, that share was small. Still, to lose eight is too much. To lose one is too much.
How did Meade go? The history books could tell us, as the Hull-Nantasket Times from the era certainly still exists, as do the town reports. But his tombstone shares enough information: "311th Inf 78th Lightning Div, Killed in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany, March 11, 1945."
With the Axis Powers on its heels, the Allies were pressing the fight. In one last desperate attempt, the Germans went on the offensive, forcing the "bulge" into Allied-held territory. It would be futile, but it would take some lives, like that of Hull's Richard Meade.
I wonder if he had survived the war, what he would have done with life life? I wonder if I would have met him. There would have been a damn good chance.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Good ol' Osh. So many stories to tell.
Now here's a guy who could drive a steamboat. He, in fact, drove the first steamboat through the Cape Cod Canal when it opened in 1914, the Rose Standish. But what would you expect from the son of Joshua James?
Probably not the name Osceola, but that came about for a special reason. When Joshua was a little boy, at the time he lost his mother, Osceola the Creek Indian was dying of hunger in a prison, held by federal troops after a chase through the Florida swamps. He became a tragic figure to people in the northeast especially, who took pity on this noble character, just fighting for his people's survival against overwhelming odds. The story apparently stuck with Joshua, and in 1865 Osceola was born.
So Osceola was the next generation, the next great hope for lifesaving in Hull. And he excelled. While his father took over the federal Life-Saving Servcie job in town, Osceola grabbed the reins of the local volunteer lifesaving team, leading it well into the 1900s. In 1927 he led the final dramatic wooden lifeboat rescue off Hull, aiding the crew of the five-masted schooner Nancy.
Man, I gotta get that steamboat operator's license. Seems like the key to life success to me.
Monday, May 20, 2013
While Captain Galiano represented all that was good about a local politician - at least superficially - John Smith glistened as the shining example of the political machine era boss. And don't let the good Captain fool you; he ran right alongside Smith in what was known as the "Old Ring."
I've been counting Smiths along the way. I'm not prepared to tell you how many I've run into so far, but it's dozens, and not a single one of them has had a word to say on their tombstones. It's been disheartening, actually. And the same holds true for this edition of John Smith.
But this one? Fixed elections, closed door town meetings, misappropriated funds, bribery, you name it - it's all been linked to him. But why was he able to stay in power so long, from 1893 til 1926? Lots of times he gave the people what they wanted: jobs for themselves or their kids, in exchange for votes.
Smith was the ultimate big fish in the small pond, but he made his fortune, even if it meant squashing a lot of people along the way. Under him there was always another scheme, another plan to pocket public funds. But once you were drummed out, watch out. Life could be a living hell.
Maybe I can learn something from Boss Smith. Maybe I'm too nice. Maybe I should be finding new ways to make money. Maybe I should run for selectman and learn to drive that steamboat...
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Captain Galiano was a lot of things, and they're all on his tombstone. What's more, his face is, too, in relief. Maybe this is the way to go.
"Chairman, Board of Selectmen. His love for Hull was unsurpassable;" - love that word; not only was it unsurpassed, it wasn't possible to surpass it at all! - "Pure, sincere, and unselfish his tireless energy toward civic improvement. During his 30 years of loyal service commended esteem and admiration from every fellow citizen. His eloquence and sterling qualities distinguished him among men."
But wait, it doesn't tell the whole story, does it? He was a steamboat captain (where he got his title) and when ships ran aground off Hull, he was a volunteer lifesaver as well.
And weirdly enough, he looked like my grandfather, kind of spookily so. The Galluzzos, and apparently the Galianos, have a sort of droop to the outer edges of the eyes in old age. I already see it starting in me, and remember it well in my dad. So, is this generally the face of my future? I'll have to come back in 30 years and find out. I can't guarantee that by then I'll be a selectman, lifesaver or steamboat captain, though. But one never knows.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
This one always gets me. Wilhelmina may have been one of the Esther Dill-William James offspring. I just don't know, because I can't find the connection. But a 19th century James buried in Hull with a Dutch first name, well, let's just say there are dots to connect.
But that's not what gets me. Poor Wilhelmina had a terrible life, from what I can see. She is buried next to four babies with headstones of the same design, and on her own stone are the words, "At Rest." She was only 28.
Are you with me now?
Friday, May 17, 2013
So, picture little Hull. In 1850, barely 250 people lived in town, finally rebounding to its American Revolution era population after nearly three quarters of a century. Joshua James was born at the low point, in 1826, when the town numbered just about 125 souls.
Yet he grew up to be the greatest, or at least the most prolific, lifesaver in American history.
Fast foward a while. The town is growing again, mostly because the seashore has been discovered as a popular summer resort. Lots of things at play - Industrial Revolution, the separation of classes, the start of the "week-end" getaway, more. Still, Hull had fewer than 500 year-round residents, even until 1890.
One of those residents, though, had a voice, and a damn good one, She grew up at 30 Main Street, the niece of Joshua James (and who wasn't?), and went on to follow her calling: "Renowned coloratura soprano, noted both in Europe and America for her marvelous voice, her wonderful art, and charming personality." Bernice James De Pasquali hit it big time, performing with Enrico Caruso at the Metropolitan Opera House. She sang professionally until she could no longer, wearing herself out and dying while on a tour in 1925.
Her remains were brought back to Hull, where on Christmas Eve, she was known to sing "Silent Night" at Elm Park, just for the locals. She was buried in the "old cemetery," with so many of her ancestors, with the words "With deepest sorrow we mourn and cry, 'until we meet again' goodby, dear heart, goodby."
Not bad, for a local gal.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
It's good to be the progenitor. And it's also good to be in the eastern half of the United States.
Not that there's anything wrong with the western half,. Some of my best friends are westerners. But there's something we have here in the east that the west can't claim so much: deep roots. By reason of proximity to Europe, the eastern half of the North American continent was "settled" - a stupid word, I know; were Native American communities considered "unsettled" just because of their nomadic nature? - first.
So the east has the lion's share of the progenitors, the men who brought their surnames first to the New World. John Prince was one such man, and his descendants, years, decades, centuries later, erected a memorial stone in his honor. And on it he gets a good telling:
"John Prince, Eldest son of Rev. John Prince, B.A., Rector of Little Shefford Berks, England, Came to New England 1633. One of the Original Planters of Hull, First Ruling Elder of its Church, remaining so until his death 'August 16th, 1676, in the 66th year of his age.' His remains with those of his first wife Alice Honor who died 1668 the mother of all his children rest near this spot.Erected A.D. 1900 by their descendants."
It's good to be the first one into the pool.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
And we come to the grand-daddy of them all.
Joshua James' tombstone was one of the first that I ever took notice of. He's my hometown's hero, one who happens to be one of the country's most well-known, most revered Coast Guard heroes. Much of the service's history starts with him.
Joshua saved somewhere between 500 and 1000 people from shipwrecks and drowning off the Hull shore during his career, which spanned from 1841 to 1902. The list of stories is endless, the storms, the dashed lifeboats, the twisted bodies of the victims, the viciously pounding surf, and on. He died with his boots on, as they say in cowboy parlance, stepping out of his lifeboat on a cold day in March 1902.
His stone has an epitaph I've known for years, a Biblical passage: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." We've seen it before, on the grave of a Vietnam War soldier from Hanover, and for him it made great sense, as he was humping the Asian landscape with comrades, and as a medic, was watching over them closely. In the end, he did exactly as the passage states. But Joshua?
Well, it was a different story. Joshua did not know the men and women he saved. Did he lay down his life for his friends? Not quite. But one could argue that laying his life on the line for complete strangers is an even nobler calling. He did it for all the right reasons, risking his own life so others might live. When storms whipped the winter seas into a frenzy, Joshua and his surfmen boarded small wooden boats and rowed into the gales driving larger ships ashore.
The sadness of it all is that Joshua's family couldn't afford the tombstone, so he sat in an unmarked grave for seven years. Finally, the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts made a collection for its design and erection, commemorating the life of one of the state's greatest heroes. Today, it looks out over the Atlantic, much like Joshua did for so many years.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
His stone says that he was a "Private, Hospital Corps," but I can tell you that he was much more than that.
Aubrey Kenerson served in the Spanish-American War, more specifically the Phillipine Insurrection. He returned from the conflict in the Pacific with disease riddling his body, illness which would take him just a few years later. By then a teacher in Maine, his loss led one schoolgirl to pen a poem about him to be read at a public memorial.
Aubrey has been mistreated by history. His name elsewhere in town, like on the town war memorial monument, is misspelled as "Orbrie" and "Kennison." But it's Aubrey Kenerson. Trust me. I know some of the Hull Kenersons. They're wonderful people.
And so, according to the poem, was Aubrey.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Remember that Samuel James of whom we just spoke? This was his mom, the grandmother that Wash James never met.
There is not a more tragic story in Hull's cemetery than that of Esther. She was a hero - just consider trying to raise 12 kids in the 1800s - who once saved her own baby after he fell down a well. That was her son Reinier. And it was on his boat that she was sailing when she died years later. Had she not saved that baby, would she have died the way she did?
She lost control of the boat while caring for two infants, sailing home from Boston. Her son Joshua was on the shore, all of 11 years old, awaiting her return. He watched in horror as the boat went down, as she was "Drowned at Hull Cut," what we now know as Hull Gut, on April 3, 1837. And that day a legend was born. Joshua went on to save many lives - we'll get to him soon - pledging never to let the ocean take another near his shores.
I know some things are unavoidable, but I'm hoping this is something I can avert. I'd rather not have "Drowned at Hull Gut" on my tombstone, but che sera, sera. This search is getting harder and harder, not to mention spookier.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Remember Wash James, back in Hingham at St. Paul's? This was his dad.
There's plenty to tell about the life of Samuel James, but I'll just give you some high points. He was one of twelve kids born to Esther Dill James and William Jaames (he later dropped the second "a" in a move toward Americanization), the latter of Dokkum, Holland. Sam, like his brothers, Reinier, Albertus, William and Joshua, went on to become famous lifesavers.
Samuel, though, took the notion of lifesaving to a great degree. He designed a lifeboat that is still on display in Hull, the Nantasket, used in a series of rescues during the Great Storm of 1888. He also single-handedly accomplished a major rescue in 1861, of the Maritana off Shag Rocks, and participated in many, many more team efforts.
Samuel was also one of the longest lasting James', living into his tenth decade, earning the old Boston Post senior citizen cane, a newspaper publicity stunt for the ages. His family was mostly gone by then, but the James family still had a rescue or two left, that would take place after Sam was gone.
Oh, and one thing to note - Sam was a volunteer lifesaver. He toiled on behalf of the Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts just because it was the right thing to do. There's a whole book to write right there. Hmm, somebody should do that...
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Hull was also a place where people jumped ship, a hideaway, or, as the people of Hingham called it, the "moon village at the end of the earth." That's what makes studying its historic people so fun.
Joseph F. Carbone was Messina-born (one of my ancestral European homes), entering the world at the target of the tip of the boot that is the Italian peninsula. There was no Italy then, but a collection of city-states. But unification was on its way, led by Giuseppe Garibaldi. The revolt started in the south among the working classes on Sicily, and rolled up the peninsula. Joseph, "One of Garibaldi's Soldiers," was in the midst of the action.
As I remember it, when his hot water moment came along, he got creative, escaping capture by masquerading as a woman. Eventually, he offloaded in America, settled in Hull and made a home. A generation later his relative Philip Carbone became quite a successful florist in Boston.
But wow, what four words can tell you about a person. Sadly, he died at 52, far too early, but to be a revolutionary that brought permanent change to the world, that's saying something.
Friday, May 10, 2013
I took my own bait. I visited Hull, my hometown, and began touring a cemetery of which I give tours from time to time. Usually to kids. Usually on Halloween. Usually in the dark. It's freakier that way.
So I know the folks here well, or at least many of them. There are some of whom I know nothing at all, because it's impossible to do so. Hull was a town of shipwrecks, an incongruous stretch of sand jutting menacingly into Massachusetts Bay, forming a southern boundary against approaching ships - be they friendly or enemy - and causing many of them to wreck; or, at least, offering them a convenient place to do so. Hull's lifesavers became nationally famous in the 1800s, because they had so many lives to save.
Oftentimes, when ships wrecked they left behind entire crews with naught but their skin and clothes to identify them. A tattoo here, a seawater-soaked letter stuck in a pocket there, might be all there was to make an identification. Many, like here at Strangers Corner, never had such luck: "Interred herein are approximately 100 men, women and children known only to god. Victims of shipwrecks on our shores, nearby islands and shoals, from 1860 to 1898." Thank the Hull Historical Society for its placement.
I could go on about this stone and the stories connected with it, of nude Swedes, of vampires, of premature burial, but do yourself a favor: catch my tour.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Well, if it isn't my old friend Wash James. Oh, the stories I could tell you about him.
Here are a few. His grandmother, Esther Dill James, kept her children from reading any fiction while they were young. Wash's dad Samuel, though, apparently broke the trend, going his own way. He felt so strongly about it that he named one daughter Lalla Rookh after the heroine of a famous Chinese poem, and one son for a famous author of the age. And that's how Washington Irving James got his name.
Wash was a lifesaver, a member of the famous lifesaving James family of Hull. (Hmm, I should visit them sometime). He also became the security superintendent of Hull's early Paragon Park and moved to Hingham to join the police force, of which he became the first chief. Here's a remembrance from the Hingham Police Department's website:
Yup, that was Wash James. Imagine - all those tales, yet not a word of them on his stone. We have to find a better way...
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Good lord! What a memorial.
The Reverend Hugh J. Mulligan apparently served his flock well until his death in 1907. And apparently that flock covered an extended territory of the town of Hingham and the twin settlements of Hull and Nantasket. Hull was, and is, the proper name of the community, but Hull also stood for the small village at the end of the peninsula, while Nantasket remains the first mile or so of the southern end of that land mass.
Anyway, Reverend Mulligan's spire - and it is impressive, I must say - is topped with a Celtic cross easily reaching fifteen times the height of all the surrounding stones. I can't imagine the cost, having just gone through the process of gravestone shopping, and I also can't imagine what it was then comparatively. There is a certain hierarchy in death, usually determined along capitalistic lines. But the Reverend was revered, and his flock took care of him in the end. Even if he is forgotten through time, folks finding his stone will know he was somebody worth knowing.
As elsewhere, I find that a holy man is remembered with that quick Latin phrase, "Requiescat in pace." Rest in peace, indeed.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
A pitiable little sentence, this one. I could get into theories about it, but I won't. Okay, maybe just one. I see someone undergoing a long illness, resigned to fate: "If I don't see you to morrow, I'll see you in heaven."
It's not original, of course, as there are stories all over the internet of people saying it, both in shows of faith and premonition, and it may even be Biblical. But I think if nothing else it shows a strength of spirit and an understanding that mortal life truly does end. It's that leap of faith that I'm not yet willing to take that Gregory believed in, that something better, something else, waits for us on the other side of that moment when we power down for good.
Science Fiction writer Douglas Adams covered the topic deftly in one of his non-Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, about a detective named Dirk Gently. He said the beauty of death and belief is that if there is nothing on the other side, and if you have predetermined notions about heavens and nirvanas, that's what your last thought may be, about finally reaching that place. And if it is the last place your mind goes, that's where you end up. In that sense, you get your wish.
Ah, the great mystery of it all...
Monday, May 6, 2013
It's amazing the way our lives evolve. At one point in time, certain things are very important to us. We move in specific circles (in this case, I mean that literally) and think those cycles will never break. Then, we look in our rearview mirrors and wonder where the people who were following us went, and how we ended up where we are.
I "knew" Roland Indrisano. He has nothing of interest on his stone for this study, but seeing his name brought back a flood of memories that I want to wade through.
When I started landscaping with my dad, he already had a pretty healthy list of clients. We visited them every week in spring, summer and fall, same time, same day, with the same bat lawnmowers, walking in the same patterns on the lawns, in the gardens, on the driveways. Mr. Indrisano was stop two on an eight-lawn day, right across the street from Mrs. Kennedy. His lawn wasn't my favorite to cut, as it could be rocky at times, but it was really a quickie so I never minded getting it done.
Now, I say I "knew" him in quotations only because I was just the grunt, the guy lugging the weedwacker, and never had "official" communications with him. But once in a while he'd peek out through a window, or come out in the yard and we'd share a wave over the sound of the leafblower.
I left that job for a career in nonprofits, and Mr. Indrisano faded from my life - like so many of the people I saw on a weekly basis working with my dad. Seeing his name here now has opened up a whole list of people I'm wondering about. Most of our customers were elderly, "way back" when I was a young man twenty years ago. Where are they now?
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Whenever I see another Italian family name in Hingham, I wonder if my family knew them.
As I looked down at Joe Cantara's gravemarker, I was taken by the words written thereon: "Love is the fragrance of life." What a beautiful notion.
I found the sentence in a poem in the book The Despoilers by Edmund Mitchell in 1904:
"Love is the sunshine of life,
Gilding the way we are wending,
Bringing to maiden or wife
Brightness and joy never ending,
Drying the tear in the eye,
Stilling the thought of resentment,
Changing the sob to a sigh
Of blissful and perfect contentment.
"Love is the music of life,
Filling the groves with sweet singing,
Setting for maiden or wife,
Silver toned joy bells a ringing,
Attuning the hum of the bees,
The bleating of flocks on the mountains,
The rustle of wind through the trees,
The splashing of water in fountains.
"Love is the fragrance of life,
Wafted from lilacs and roses,
Breathing for maiden or wife,
Delicate perfume of posies,
Scenting the breezes that sweep,
With pleasant aroma of spices,
Lulling the senses to sleep,
When languorous slumber entices."
Are Italians romantics or what?
Saturday, May 4, 2013
There's a saying that historians use. Thanks to the hard work of the practicers of our trade who came before us, we're "standing on the shoulders of giants." They built the base of the tower of collected knowledge, we're adding the upper floors. I like to think that someday future generations will see me as part of that continuum.
But think about it. We all start from nothing. Our moms and dads and other caregivers help us to do, well, everything, from our earliest days. From the moment we're born they're educators, teaching us everything from brushing our teeth to household finances. Needless to say, strong, dedicated parents are important to our development.
So it's a beautiful thing when a family remembers its parents in the way that the Schmitts did, with the words "We are everything we are because of you."
The Schmitts had their own personal giants.
Friday, May 3, 2013
I've always been told that there's a sort of logjam in my family tree, a clustering of Galluzzos, Bravos, Collettes and more. I know that one of the branches reaches out to the Macauta family.
Is this one of the twigs I should be grasping at? Salvatore, "Nato a Perzolo, Messina." I've always been told that my grandmother's family came from Messina, the first town across the Straits of Messina on Sicily. I actually passed through it by train while an exchange student in 1985. Is this my great-grandfather and his family? Since he "Morto a Hingham" in 1936, I never had the chance to meet him. Perhaps I can find an obituary?
Boy, would I like to know who I am.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
And nearby lies my grandmother, or as we knew her, Nona.
Yes, my grandparents are not buried together. Yes, they were divorced. It happens.
I'll always have very fond memories of Nona. While she always had an determined edge about her, as many Italian women do at that age, being in complete command of all things domestic, she also was constantly on the bake. Be it pizzelles or anisette cookies, there always seemed to be something cooking with her.
Toward that end, I can link some of the recipes I use today back to her. She taught my mother how to cook certain meals (my dad practically demanded it, insulting my mom's cooking and telling her it was nothing like his mother's), and my mother taught me. The next time you taste my pasta e fagioli, you'll be eating my grandmother's recipe.
But the family went farther than that, gathering recipes from her and all the other women in the family tree, putting them together in a book called Everybody and their Mother's Cookbook. Every member of the family received one as a gift. I cherish mine.
And did I mention that when I was a kid I thought she looked like Mama Celeste, from the frozen pizza-for-one packages?
So my paternal grandparents left me a lot of things, but not a word of advice as to what I should put on my tombstone. Oh well.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Finally! A dead Galluzzo I know.
Dominic J. was my grandfather, my dad's dad. He did some great things, some things poorly. The family - the seven kids of grampy and Nona - have had their splits and make-ups, their ups and downs. My dad was right in the middle of it. My grandfather's personality made homelife uncomfortable from time to time. I'll leave it at that.
But I am proud of my grandfather for a few things. He carried his shipyard worker ID card from World War II in his wallet for his entire life. He was 31 when the war broke out and took a job on the homefront in Quincy. He helped found the Hingham Bathing Beach and the Hingham Skating Club. The early home movies of my uncles and aunts skating there are just priceless. And he carried Galluzzo Landscape Services into the 1980s. He was a legend around town. He passed his skills and talents down to my father, thence onto my brother and I. I still won't finish work on a landscape project around my yard until it looks perfect - Dominic Galluzzo perfect.
He and my dad had a falling out, and that led to a long period in which I didn't see my grandfather. It had been about 15 years by the time I finally saw him on his deathbed, me at 25, him in his mid-80s.
So I missed some important years. I don't know if my grandfather would have told me about his parents - he could be pretty gruff with me for reasons I never fully understood. Considering he's listed on the back of the stone of Vittoria Dominella and Gisuseppe Galluzzo (and that he had his own Vicky and Joe, my aunt and uncle), I'm assuming that was them. All I can really do is wonder what they were like.