November 29, 2016
Ciao for now California
Moving on, that is a difficult thing to do. It is time to leave California behind and I hate to say goodbye. I enjoy visiting L.A., San Diego and San Francisco every time I am here. The climate is appealing, the sightseeing is great and my family and friends are unforgettable.
Jim feels like he is almost my own son. I am his madrina, his god-mother, and I have watched him grow up and conquer every challenge put before him. I held his hand in the hospital when he was only 9 years old. I sang for his wedding to Kory, held his son J.T. when he was an infant while sharing his first Halloween. Jim and his family even met us in Rome last year for a week of wondrous experiences.
This year I chose to spend Thanksgiving with Jim and his family. It was 75 and sunny in Long Beach. The Turkey was basting and the Ravioli and Meatballs were almost ready. Yes, it is an Italian-American Thanksgiving Day. There will be more food than 20 people could eat. And there are only 6 of us.
Of Course, we have Turkey and dressing.
Are you hungry yet?
Here’s the first plateful for Maureen.
We enjoyed wine and conversation as we attempted to eat a bit of everything. We talked of holidays past and family not there. And we ate. And we laughed.
About an hour later we cleared the plates and set out desserts of pumpkin squares, coconut cream pie and banana cream pie. Sorry, no photos—we ate it all before thinking of photos.
Afterwards came the coffee. I needed some soda while still drinking my wine and coffee.
After passing through our respective food comas, J.T. wanted to play Heads Up on his dad’s cell. We were quite silly. It was a great end to our time together.
I am going to miss these people so very much.
Jim’s younger brother Rick and his wife Kelly Ann couldn’t make it for Thanksgiving dinner. We spent a few days with them laughing, eating and sharing stories. I will miss you too Rick and Kelly.
This California visit was all about family, including my Damiani relatives. Maureen and I were lucky enough to share a lunch and tall family tales with cousin Janice. When I was 5 years old, I was the flower girl for cousin Lorie’s wedding. I borrowed a dress but did not know who’s dress it was. Well, it was Janice’s dress.
She would not allow me to post her photo—so here I am in her dress.
We talked about Uncle Leo, her father Art, Auntie Fran and the entire Damiani family. She is fiercely proud of her children and family. I hope to see her again, perhaps in Italy this time.
Our other Damiani connection was the baby sister of one of my all-time favorite Aunties, Auntie Fran. Her name is Mary Ann, husband is Bill and they are just adorable. Maureen and I drove to San Marcos near San Diego and stayed overnight at their lovely home.
Bill met Mary Ann when he worked with Uncle Leo in his classical orchestra years ago. The two of them were a match made in heaven it seems.
They act like honeymooners together and it was just a joy to share time with them. Bill has just retired from his musical endeavors and is feeling the difficulties of that adjustment. I know how giving up something that is part of your soul can feel. I have done it myself. It was so refreshing to talk with him about it.
Mary Ann was always a beauty. I copied an old photo of hers. Forgive the damage but note her beauty.
Her soul is as beautiful as her smile. And boy can she prepare a great meal full of flavor and goodness.
We talked about our family connections, our Abruzzo heritage and visits to meet them, music, travel and art. We reminisced about my mother and father. Mary Ann said she always thought my father was a handsome devil and my mother was just the best. She shared stories of my grandmother and great-grandparents, living in the old St. Paul Italian neighborhood before moving up to where the “swedes lived,” she said. She recalled how different it was when they moved. Eventually, they all piled into a car and drove from St. Paul, Minnesota with Uncle Leo and moved to Burbank, California.
We even spent a few hours with their Patrice, Mary Ann and Bill’s daughter. I had never even met her. It has been so many years since I had the chance to spend time with my Damiani relatives in California. I feel blessed that we had this great opportunity.
We did manage to squeeze in one cultural experience while I visited family. Maureen took me to visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.
We spent hours at the museum, sharing the joy of experiencing our love of the arts. We discussed which pieces each of us enjoyed. Everything was there. If you are in California sometime and love art, you can visit here and enjoy it all.
For me it is a way to say goodbye to California. The emotions that the art brought out of me are similar to how I felt saying goodbye to my loved ones. I appreciate all that they possess as human beings, as family and loved ones. I wish I could take them all with me to Italy. I wish we could all experience it together. But I go alone. So it is time to say farewell to my loved ones and the state that I love.
Ciao for now, California.
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