My mother went to Sicily to marry her first cousin, my father, in 1952. The marriage was arranged by her mother and his father, who were brother and sister. My father came back to the United States after the paperwork was completed in 1953. He made very few trips back to see his family. His parents and brothers and sisters had never met my brother and I. They were getting old. It was decided that “we” would all take a trip to see them in the summer of 1965.
My mother was a busy bee before the trip. She had to get us our passports and make sure we had our vaccines. She got us new clothes. All the preparations were made to coincide with the end of the school year. The big day arrived. We were all packed and ready to go to the airport. I was under the impression “we” were all going. Somehow I was led to believe this. However, when it was time to board the plane, my mother kissed us goodbye and sent us with our father. She wasn’t going with us. She was sending us away for two months to a strange land to see people we didn’t know. My brother didn’t even speak Italian, at least I had that going for me.
I can’t tell you how I felt. Whether it was like the rug was pulled out from under me or like I was punched in the gut or both. I was scared and in a state of disbelief. I got on the plane and I cried all the way to Italy. We had to take a second plane to get to Sicily. When we arrived it seemed like twenty people were there to greet us. All wanting to hug and kiss us, which was the LAST thing I wanted. I was tired and an emotional wreck. They were talking to us, but we weren’t answering. My brother because he didn’t understand and me because I didn’t want to. I just translated everything for my brother to understand.
The ride back to their city was at least two hours. I was miserable. I couldn’t believe that my mother pulled this “trick” on us. She was always the one who told us we should always tell the truth. Maybe she didn’t out right lie, but she damn sure lied by omission.
I hated the food there. I lost a lot of weight. But over time I adapted and got used to my family, played with my cousins and it was as awful as I imagined.
One day, we were out in my uncle’s car. My uncle had just gotten his license before we arrived. He made a mistake and stepped on the gas instead of the brake. The car spun out of control and rolled over into a ditch. My brother and I were sitting face to face it the back of the hatchback car. All the glass flew outside the car and we were all fine, just banged up. The adults all hurt their shoulders and my aunt broke her arm. It could have been much worse.
My father warned us not to write to my mother about the accident because she would only worry. I missed my mom, I wasn’t used to keeping anything from her, but I didn’t want her to get worried sick over us either. We kept the secret until we got home. I had forgiven her for sending us away and I couldn’t wait to get back. The two months seemed to take forever. I spent my 11th birthday there and soon it was the end of August and time to go home.
My mother was there to greet us at the airport. There were lots of hugs and kisses. She noticed my weight loss and was upset to hear about the car accident. I think I was her shadow every day until school started. She never apologized for sending us without her or telling us she wasn’t going. Even after the fact she offered no explanation. To this day I still don’t know why she did that. It was very traumatic. But that was my mother.