Over the last few days, there have been an opportunities to take a few walks through Messina and discover what’s around the next corner. One goal was to see the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Montalto, a church high on the hill. My understanding of the story is that an apparition of Mary appeared and asked a priest to build a church on the hill and to watch for a white dove to show where to build it. The dove appeared and circled an area for the church and the church was built. It seems a simple story but it has great meaning and it felt special to be able to see this church during this visit. There are so many churches in Messina. To me they represent a pride and a way of life and they are big and beautiful and old. I also saw the King Neptune fountain and a sculpture depicting the 1908 Earthquake. As I’ve heard, this town was destroyed during that earthquake in 1908 and again in 1943 with Allied bombings. Yet, walking through town, it seems so much of the old character and charm has survived.
For many years, it’s been a dream to follow in the steps of people in my family that came before me. To know a little of what their lives were like, if only to be in the geographical location many lived in at the turn of the 20th century. I’ve imagined my life as a video storyteller being able to share this experience. With Sunny Wonder Media my job and goal has been to tell everyday stories of varied life experiences that would disappear without being captured, edited, created and shared. I feel the same about family stories.
As a professional working in PBS for too many years to count and a Middle School Teacher for 5+ years, guiding this young and enthusiastic age group toward technical skills and helping them find their creative abilities to tell their own stories with media, I decided to try to live this life for one year. Live in Sicily, Italy and tell the story of what it is like to be in this beautiful and rich-in-history location that my ancestors immigrated from in the early 1900’s.
My great, great Grandmother and Grandfather and their 3 young daughters and one son immigrated to the US between 1907 and 1912. Their son is my great grandfather. His son is my grandfather, and his son is my dad. They raised their family in the United States on the East Coast. My family (dad, mom, siblings) living on the West Coast, lost touch with them though we visited from time to time. At some point, it seems, as they’ve all passed away, we’ve lost touch altogether with this gift of our family Italian connection.
My cousin and I have worked over the last 30 years to create a family tree that shows many of these connections. Time and language barriers leave us with no true family ties, just a sense of location that people we share lineage to once occupied in this space. Yet, there is a comfort and eerie familiarity to being here and an excitement to see what I may discover.