And now you know . . . the rest of the story.

I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt to the Philippines yesterday. Now back to Italy. We had decided to move to Italy by October 2007, which at the time was one year away. Now all we needed to do was to collect birth, death, and marriage certificates for Tony and all his ancestors in a direct line back to Domenico. It came to a grand total of 32 certificates, plus the Naturalization papers for Domenico. The documents had to be requested from the vital records offices of five different states and two different towns in Italy, and then most of them had to be sent to the Governor’s office of the various states for an Apostille. The basic function of an Apostille is to make an official-looking certified document look twice as official and certified. The way the Apostille looks varies from state to state, but the most important ingredient is usually a gigantic gold seal.

Because Domenico and Henriette were born so long ago, civil record-keeping had not yet begun in Italy (yes, it came in with our old friend Napoleon). So I mustered my almost nonexistent Italian to write letters to the churches in the two little towns where they were born, asking for copies of their birth certificates. Amusingly enough, Domenico’s birth certificate came back in Latin because it was from the Catholic Church. And Henriette’s came back in French, because it was from the Waldensian Church. But they were really both Italian, I promise.

The Naturalization document posed a bit more of a problem. Because the naturalization process had not yet been standardized in Domenico’s time, there were six possible State, Federal, and District courts in which he could have naturalized. I duly sent off letters and emails to several different sets of archives. In the end, we never did find a naturalization record for Domenico. Everyone told me over the phone or email that no record existed. Luckily, a certificate of non-existence of records is also acceptable to the Italian government. Only the Utah Federal Court archives actually replied formally, but the letter was sent by a very precise and conscientious clerk who put it on nice, official-looking letterhead (complete with a shiny gold seal) and even bolded the fact that no record had been found. I could have kissed him. I needed something official-looking to present to the Italian government.

However, the worst problems were the marriage record of Domenico and Henriette and the birth certificates of their son Louis and his wife Elva, which were apparently all lost somewhere (or never written down?) before Utah became a state. I decided if the churches in Italy could stand in for civil registers, there was no reason my church in Utah couldn’t. So I asked the L.D.S. Church Archives for certified copies of Domenico and Harriet’s sealing (eternal marriage) in the Temple, and the blessing certificates of Louis and Elva. No dice. They don’t certify anything, they told me. They did consent to send me regular letters, but I knew there was no way the Italian government was going to go for something with no seal. (And not even a purple stamp or embossed letterhead either!) This called for a personal visit, and some creative maneuvering. You can read about it here.

And what do you know, as soon as I had gathered all the documents, the opportunity suddenly arose to make the big move some seven months before we had planned. We jumped at the chance, and by the end of March, we had touched down in Italy. We had our first adventure right at the airport, where our car caught fire, and things didn’t really slow down for . . . oh, I don’t know. They haven’t really ever slowed down since then.

In Italy, we explored the Waldensian Valleys and finally met our long lost relatives, the Bodreros, in Domenico’s hometown. Then we settled down to the serious business of convincing the Italian government to make Tony a citizen. The rest of that story is already told in rollicking and excruciating detail on this blog, but I advise you to have some gelato or at least some chocolate on hand for when things get dicey. We sure did. To read it, click here and scroll down to “Fun at the Comune.” Then just be sure to read from the bottom up, or you’ll get the story backwards. If you make it through all that, the story continues here (again, scroll to the bottom and read the last post first).

For those of you who are still dying of suspense, we did finally attain Italian citizenship. After seven months of visiting the comune (as well as begging, pleading, baking cookies, and calling in various reinforcements), we had to go back to the United States indefinitely because our business was about to fall apart in the 2008 economic downturn. The week after we left Italy, we received an email from the comune informing Tony that his application had been approved, and the paperwork was ready to sign. We came back to Italy for a couple of weeks in April 2009, for Tony to become officially Italian. It was another long, long year before we made it back here to live. But all’s well that ends well, and here we are, safe and sound in Italy. Maybe I’ll write a book some day. Promise you’ll all read it?

Another Angle

If you’ve missed the beginning of this story, I’m telling about how we moved to Italy. The rest of the story can be found here:

Since Grandma Familia had been a good source of information about her side of the family, Tony decided to call his mother and see if she knew anything about whether and when Domenico was naturalized. As fate would have it, she had recently paid a visit to her uncle Blaine (Domenico’s grandson and the genealogy guru of the family). With her sisters, she had been able to see his store of genealogical documents. They had copied an entire file box full of family papers from the Bodreros. Actually, they weren’t Bodreros. They were Boudreros. Since Domenico spent his young manhood in France, He adopted the French spelling of both his first and last name. For the rest of his life he went by Dominique Boudrero. Domenico also had a couple of brothers who immigrated to Utah but kept their original Italian surname. So in Logan there are two branches of the family: the Bodreros and the Boudreros.

Tony’s mother flipped through the pages in the box as she talked to him on the phone. There were a lot of fascinating stories, but no naturalization record. Finally, she came across a story of Domenico being excommunicated from the L.D.S. Church for having voted for the “wrong” candidate in an election, and then eventually being reinstated (evidently this was not uncommon in those days). We could definitely picture Domenico voting his own mind, whatever the consequences. But we were crushed by the news. If he was voting years before Louis was born, then he MUST have been naturalized previously. After all, non-citizens can’t vote. And anyway, what were the chances it would really have worked . . . ?

We sadly put the idea of getting citizenship and going to Italy on the shelf. Oh, well. Maybe when we were old and grey we could retire to Italy. Somehow, the thought failed to excite us. Instead, we moved to Washington state and watched the rain roll down our windows for a year. But we had not quite forgotten Italy. When our son came along, we named him Dominique. A few months later, almost magically, we were back in San Diego, down the street from the beautiful L.D.S. Temple there, which we began to attend weekly. Somehow, going to the Temple so often made us think about family history. On another breezy and beautiful San Diego day, this time in late November, we decided to go over the family lines again, in case we had missed something.

I emailed the Utah state archives to have them check several different county registers and find out if Domenico ever did become a United States citizen. Utah was only a territory back then, and the Mormons were not always on wonderful terms with the Federal Government. Besides, Tony’s mother said that her own mother had told her stories of being teased and called WOP’s when she was a child in Logan (a nasty nickname for Italian immigrants, who had a reputation for never getting around to being naturalized as Americans, and thus remaining With Out Papers. Not entirely undeserved, as evidenced by the Famiglia side of the family. The incredible thing to me is that they were still suffering under this epithet after three generations. Small town, I guess). But who knew? Maybe it was true. Perhaps they really never did have papers.

I checked the census record for Cache Valley. In 1870, three years before his youngest son Louis (Tony’s great-grandfather) was born, Domenico had indicated that he was not a U.S. citizen. Who knew if it was true or not, considering our previous disappointment with the creative inventions we’d discovered in the New York census. Unfortunately, the 1880 census contained no naturalization data, and the 1890 census for Utah had been completely destroyed by fire. That left the 1900 census, on which Domenico did claim U.S. citizenship. So sometime within that 30 year period, perhaps a naturalization record for him existed.

At this point, I realized we had another set of problems. Domenico was born in 1826, 34 years before Italy became a country. Nobody I could find had ever claimed Italian citizenship from an ancestor this many generations removed. And all of their Italian ancestors had been born after 1861, when Italy was united as a country. Domenico was not only born before the unification of Italy, he had already left Italy his country forever in the 1850’s. It was entirely possible that the Italian consulate would refuse to even entertain our case. And even if Domenico had been naturalized after Louis’ birth, there was still some question as to whether children born to parents who naturalized before the 1912 Italian citizenship law were able to inherit Italian citizenship. In any case, it was quite a long shot. IF Domenico had never naturalized, or had naturalized after the birth of his youngest son, we might, if we were very lucky, be able to convince our consulate to give us Italian citizenship.

But we had to move to Italy. By this time, we both felt it. There was some reason we needed to be there, and somehow we felt that Domenico and Henriette were the ones to help us. Sure enough, something timely had just occurred. Rumors on internet message boards were rife that there were desperate people who had bypassed the consulate entirely and just gone straight to Italy to claim their citizenship. Most of those rumors were in Spanish, since the collapse of the Argentine economy in the early 2000’s had sent a wave of Argentines of Italian descent back to their ancestral homeland. Only a year before, Italy had created a new type of Permesso (permission to stay in the country) specifically for people coming to claim citizenship jure sanguinis.

This was our answer. We would gather the documents, fly to Italy, and find Lagnasco, the tiny town where Domenico was born. Tony would walk into the city hall clutching his great-great-grandfather’s birth certificate and say, “Good morning. I am Italian. My grandfather’s grandfather was born in Italy.” Hopefully, the fact that we were moving our family to Italy, learning Italian, and wanting to live forever in the valleys of Piedmont like our ancestors would move someone there to approve our application, in spite of the sketchy points.

An airtight plan? Well, no. But for us it was a dream, a destiny, and a possibility too amazing to pass up, even if there was only a fool’s hope that it would all actually work out the way we planned. Even so, first we needed a few miracles on our own side of the Atlantic . . .

Welcome to the Famiglia

Lately we’ve been talking about the new Rome L.D.S. Temple and why it is important to my family. If you missed the first two posts in this series, here they are:

Rome Temple Groundbreaking
The Story Begins . . .

When Tony and I got married, one of his aunts gave me a set of pasta dishes, along with Tony’s grandmother’s recipe for Chicken Parmagiana. “Welcome to the Famiglia,” began the recipe. I didn’t really understand back then everything it meant to become part of this family.

After our wedding, Tony and I went back to Utah and B.Y.U., where he busied himself finishing a business degree and I went to work at an immigration law office. A few more years brought the birth of our daughter, Tony’s graduation, and our decision to start a business in Southern California. We looked forward to a life of uninterrupted sunshine together on a long sandy beach.

On one of those eternally spring days in San Diego, I was sitting at my laptop with the windows open and a breeze blowing in, surfing the internet and daydreaming about taking a trip to Europe. All of a sudden, I found myself reading the story of a young American who had gone to the Italian consulate with his Italian great-grandfather’s birth certificate, and gotten Italian citizenship. I had to read it again. The Italian government had actually granted him citizenship, just because his great-grandfather was born in Italy. It was one of those moments where you suddenly see your life opening before you in a way you’d never considered before. Tony and I had always loved traveling, but I’d never thought we could live abroad. And in Italy! With citizenship, we could stay there forever.

I had to find out more. I knew that Tony had Italian blood on both sides of his family. What if we could become Italian too? I spent the next three days working fourteen hours a day on my laptop, researching Tony’s family tree. Tony spent the next three days watching our baby daughter and bemusedly bringing me Panda Express to eat at the computer. I needed to learn how far back his ancestors had emigrated from Italy to the United States, and when they were naturalized as Americans. If the Italian ancestor who immigrated had been naturalized in the U.S. after the birth of his children, he would have passed on his Italian citizenship to them at birth, and all his descendants would be recognized as long-lost citizens by the Italian government. If not, this was all a wild goose chase.

The story unfolded in pieces, on genealogical websites and through phone calls to family members and government offices. I started on Tony’s paternal side. They are the ones who look Italian, with dark hair, olive skin, and plenty of garlic in every meal. Tony tells me that family vacations and reunions on that side of the family always revolved around food. And their original last name, Famiglia, means “family” in Italian, although they dropped the “g” when they went through Ellis Island to make it easier to pronounce in English.

Anthony Joseph Familia came to America from Sicily in the late 19th century. His first-born son, Joseph Anthony, is Tony’s paternal great-grandfather. The family tradition is to pass the name down, flipping the first and middle names every generation. For some reason, even though my husband Tony is the third son in his family, he received the historic family name. His full name, like that of his great-great-grandfather, is Anthony Joseph Familia. Now I had to settle the all-important question of whether Anthony was naturalized before or after his eldest son was born. The census record for New York listed him and his wife Winifred as naturalized American citizens, and their children as born in New York. This looked promising. All I would need to do would be to track down the naturalization document to make sure.

Tony called his grandmother to confirm, but she said that Joseph Anthony had been born in Sicily, not New York, and had been brought over the sea as a baby. And Anthony Joseph had never been naturalized at all. In fact, she said he had never even learned English. It seems that he had just embroidered some details on the census to avoid any inconvenient questions. That meant we needed to find out when Joseph Anthony had been naturalized. And in fact, I did manage to find evidence online that he had done the first half of the two-part naturalization process a few years before his son William (Tony’s grandfather) was born. How we hoped he had not had time to complete it before the birth of his son. By this time it was evening, but I determined to call the National Archives the next morning to find out if they had a completed naturalization record for Joseph Anthony.

Since they opened at 9:00 on the East Coast, I was up and ready to call at 6:00 a.m. California time. I communicated my request to the woman on the other end of the phone, and she went to shuffle through records. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, heart pounding. Finally, she returned and read me the naturalization document. Joseph Anthony completed the naturalization process just nine months before William’s birth. His two older children inherited Italian citizenship, as did all their descendants. But we were out of luck.

With a little less hope, I turned to the other side of the family. Henriette and Domenico’s side. They had immigrated to the United States some forty years earlier, and immediately traveled over the plains with the pioneers to Utah. How would I even find a naturalization document from the 1800’s on the wild frontier of a place that wasn’t even a state? And even if we did find it, were we just crazy to think we could ride off together into some endless Italian sunset? Tomorrow you’ll find out . . .

In Memoriam

We found out when we arrived that Gianfranco, the man who worked at the Comune and helped Tony to get his citizenship two years ago, passed away three weeks ago. We were saddened to hear of his passing and wish peace and consolation for his family.


I had intended to celebrate the 100th post on this blog by taking it public. It has been private for several months, ever since we were in difficulties with Teresa in Saluzzo. My hope was that we could celebrate the 100th post by having Tony’s Italian citizenship officially recognized. No dice. But I’m making it public anyway. I’m tired of feeling like if people knew my thoughts they wouldn’t like me. They would. And it doesn’t matter anyway. My blog is a true story.

This has not been the best week as far as citizenship is concerned. Mainly, we have been getting more and more apprehensive that it would not happen before we left for our trip to the U.S in a week and a half. We were afraid that my long-expired tourist visa would be a problem at the border. Tony went with Carla to remind the Mayor to speak with Gianfranco on Wednesday, but it didn’t happen.

After Manila’s response came in last week, we concentrated all our efforts on San Francisco. Josie received an email last week from Ms. Stone, confirming that the consulate’s response had been sent to the mail room. However, Gianfranco had not received it by Wednesday of this week. Tony was finally able to speak with Ms. Stone yesterday. She said she remembered the fax, because it was accompanied by a thick stack of attachments. She had responded, but the response would take a few weeks to get to Chiusa Pesio, as it had been mailed, not faxed. And no, she couldn’t fax it. Hopefully, she didn’t mail a letter about how Gianfranco should not give us citizenship. The San Francisco consulate is not known for liberal interpretations of anything.

We tried calling the Honorary Vice Consul in San Diego, but were unable to reach him, so we did as his cell phone message suggested, and sent an email to his hotmail account. He wrote back very cordially that he could only really help in matters pertaining to the Los Angeles Consulate, and suggesting that we explain our problem in writing to the Consul General in San Francisco. We got to bed at 11:00.

In the morning, we determined to visit Gianfranco and find out why he had sent such a long fax to San Francisco that the response had to be mailed instead of faxed. He did not look thrilled to see us when we showed up. He just looked over and said, “there is not anything.” Tony just started talking, and eventually he came over to the window.

We explained our whole problem, mainly that we were afraid that if I left Italy to go to my brother’s wedding I would not be able to re-enter. He remarked (rightly) that he had told us it would be a problem in the first place. He said the consulates can respond in any way they please (Manila had emailed!), and that it had only been three months, after all. Three months! Gianfranco doesn’t live in our world. Three months is an eternity!

Eventually, he suggested that I leave the country for three months, and then return. What a very Italian solution to the problem. But actually, it would probably work. And when he said it, that which we had not considered suddenly sounded like the best way out of a difficult situation.

We already have plane tickets to be outside of Italy for exactly three months. From October 7 through January 7. Come to think of it, my passport doesn’t look so terribly bad, since we did leave Schengen territory in June to go to the Temple in London. I’m only a few weeks past three months. Bad, yes. But not inexplicable, especially with Tony’s receipt and the fact that we’re American and don’t really fit the profile for international criminals or dangerous drug runners. Also indispensible is the fact that our flight stops only in Chicago, not Munich or Frankfurt, as is typical for flights from Northern Italy. We might be able to explain our visa difficulties to an Italian border guard, since they are largely caused by Italian red tape. But I shudder at trying to explain them to a German border guard. We also know some Italians we can call if we get in difficulty (and all Italians have connections that can help them in case of the inevitable bad encounter with some branch of the government).

It just might work. And as we left Gianfranco’s office, we both felt as if a burden had been lifted. We just don’t need to worry about it right now. Things will work out.

The whole experience has given me some food for thought. Might we not learn from Gianfranco and his compatriots? Pacienza. Patience is a virtue, one not much cultivated in the culture from which we come. The Italian capacity for patience makes possible some of the beautiful things we love about Italy. Slow food. Emphasis on family time and relationships. Good balance between work and the rest of life. The amazing, indefatigable ability of Italians to not become upset if they were not able to accomplish the errand they just drove 30 kilometers and spent three hours trying to do.

Is it possible that we really do need to let go a little of our impatient American ways? Is it possible that efficiency is not the highest of the virtues? Is it possible that eventually everything will resolve itself, and our lives will not be ruined if we just have a little patience? Gianfranco and our other Italian friends have been very patient with us.

Patience, I think, is a component of faith. The Lord said to Moses when he was about to open the Red Sea, “Stand still, and see the Salvation of the Lord.” Stand still. Have patience. “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Our anxiety and impatience may be traceable to lack of faith. Why, after all, must it all happen the way we envision it, and at the time we say?

Mission Impossible

Last time we checked with Gianfranco, he had still not received faxed responses from either Manila or San Francisco. As our time ticks away, we decided it was time to call out the international troops.

Amusingly, enough, Tony got up at 1 a.m. Thursday to call Manila. After several dozen tries, he succeeded in getting past the busy signal to an unhelpful secretary, who put him on hold and then hung up on him. He called back immediately, and when the same secretary realized it was he again, he transferred him without speaking to him.

However, the person to whom he was transferred was Italian and didn’t really speak English. He just kept saying, “hello? hello?” to interrupt Tony whenever he tried to talk. (At that hour of the night, Tony was unable to recall any helpful Italian words.) Finally, Tony did get it across that he was calling regarding a fax, but the Consular employee hung up on him shortly thereafter. Tony realized later that he had mixed up the times, and called Manila at 7:00 in the morning. He was lucky they answered at all.

Yesterday morning, Tony woke up to an email from Claire, our dear Filipina friend whom we asked to visit the consulate for us. When she went, it was closed, so she faxed the document to them again the following morning. Who knows? Maybe the man he called will put together the strange American calling about the fax and the forwarded fax he received from Chiusa Pesio by way of Manila. She tried to go into the consulate later that day, but the security guard wouldn’t even let her in the door without an appointment. Bleh.

On the San Francisco front, the first time Tony called the consulate, he was told that his fax would be answered in the order of arrival. When he called again last week, they informed him that the person in charge of citizenship was on vacation until next week. So yesterday, Tony asked his mom to go to the San Francisco Consulate and ask, beg, cry, do whatever it took to get them to respond to a fax that is now nearly three months old. Here, from foreign correspondent Josie, is the story, in her own words:

“As I arrived at the Consulate there was a parking place right in front of the building.

I went in and the room was fairly small with about 3 or 4 booths, like at the movie theatre for people to stand in line in front of. There were a couple of people in the waiting room, but no one was in line. I saw a sign to turn off your cell phones when it was your turn, so as I was doing that a man behind the window motioned me to come forward. I took the paper to be faxed out of my day planner and handed him one of the copies that I had made.

He asked, “how can I help you?”

I smiled and said to him, “This is a going to be a very long story, but I’ll just begin. My son and his family are living Italy and they are getting ready to come back, but they need this paper faxed back before they can leave. They have been e-mailing this office and calling for 3 months now but haven’t received any response. They’ve already bought their tickets and are meeting with the mayor of their city this week, but they can’t leave Italy to come back home until this paper is faxed back to them. This San Francisco consulate is the only one who hasn’t responded yet and they need it to be able to come home. I live in Bakersfield and my son just emailed me and asked if I could just come here as quickly as I could to see if I could get this taken care of so they could leave. I’m not sure who I need to talk to, or just who it is can help me. Can you help me find who I need to talk to about this?”

He took the paper that I handed to him, looked at it and said, “Just a minute and I’ll be right back.”

By then a little lady came over to the window next to me on my side and asked me if she should ding the bell to get someone to help her. I told her that the person helping would be right back, but in the meantime a lady came out form the back to help her. About that same time he came back to the window and another lady came with him. She had grey hair and looked like she was probably in her 50’s or so. She had the paper in her hand and began talking very fast. She said, “First of all, your son can leave Italy. There is no problem with his being able to leave the country. He doesn’t need anything to in order to leave. She was saying some more things similar to that, but the microphone on the other side wasn’t working so I could just see her mouth moving. When she stopped for a minute I said, “I’m sorry, but the microphone isn’t working and I couldn’t really hear all of the things that you just told me. Would you mind repeating that and talking a little closer to the microphone?”

She repeated the things that she had just said, but the microphone still kept going out because of the angle of which she was talking. She was telling me that she had never seen this paper before, and that she had just returned from vacation and many, many papers on her desk to take care of and that she had looked through the papers and never saw this paper come in.

I said, “I bet she really did have a lot to do if she just got back, and I’m so sorry, but could you speak just a little bit louder?”

As she was still explaining to me how no one could hold me son there because he was a US citizen, I interjected, “Well, what if his time had expired there?”

She said, “Even if his time had expired there that would be even more reason to send him out of the country.”

I was just watching her still looking perplexed and then I said, “Well, maybe I’m misunderstood what they needed this fax for, but all I knew is that it was very important that it be sent this week as my son is meeting with the mayor of the city and San Francisco is the only place that they haven’t received it back from”.

The she looked at the paper in her hand again and said, “This paper is from this city in Italy and must be sent directly back to them.”

I said happily, “I know, that’s where they live, and that’s where the mayor is that he’s meeting with.” Then she continued, “and besides, this paper says that it as 2 pages and I have only one here.” I know, I have the other page right here. That first page is the e-mail that my son sent to me asking that I come here to San Francisco and see you.” “Oh, well this is a very complicated process that takes a long time to take care of.

I said crestfallenly, “Oh, it takes a really long time to get it done? But what about his meeting with the Mayor? He’s meeting with him this week.”

“Well, I think I could get it done faster maybe. I know that I never received this. It says here that it was sent in June.”

“I know it was sent a long time ago. They’ve been working on this for a very long time. Do you think you could really do it for him? I would appreciate that so much. That would be so wonderful of you to do that. So, then could I wait here while today until it gets faxed? “

“No, you cannot wait here until it gets faxed. I have many things to do on it. I need to send it out to make sure each of these people have never given up their citizenship and then it has to be sent…….” (I wasn’t following her very well at that point again)

I said, “Well, maybe what they need is just a formality then?”

“No it is not just a formality. I do these all the time and it is not just a formality. I must go through each name and they must all be in order.” “I’m sure that I just don’t understand all the things that are required that you do.”

“I will have this done and faxed this week.”

“So you’re saying that you can have it finished and faxed to them this week? Oh, thank you so much. That makes me feel so relieved. This week, right?”

“Yes, this week.” At that point she had the paper in her hand, and she turned and began walking away. I turned to the first guy who was helping me and said, “So, do I need to do anything else?” He didn’t answer and so I just stood there for a second. I hadn’t said any of the things that I had thought of this morning, but I had a peaceful, happy feeling as I turned and walked out. All of this had taken place in less than 10 minutes (it was probably more like 3 minutes). Also when I came out of the building I noticed that there weren’t any parking places to be found at all. I felt really happy that I was in such a great one!

A Meeting with the Mayor

Today was the fateful meeting with the Mayor. We all dressed up, but in the end, there was too much delighted squealing echoing through the corridors of the Municipio for our comfort, so I took the two little squealers downstairs, and we went to the optician to get my glasses fixed and then sang “Five Little Ducks,” and several other counting-down songs as we waited in the piazza outside.

Meanwhile, Tony and Carla waited for the Mayor. We had arrived nice and early, since last time Carla went to speak to him (about us, before we moved here) he had scheduled five people to meet with him at 11:00 a.m., and he didn’t arrive until 11:30.

Tony waited with Carla in the Mayor’s office, which was decorated with paintings of people who had been influential long ago in Chiusa Pesio. One had donated 4000 lira, which a few years ago (before the conversion to euro) wouldn’t even buy a loaf of bread. There was an ancient-looking flag of Chiusa Pesio, hand embroidered and beautifully restored. (beautiful). While they were waiting, Carla reenacted her last interview with the Mayor, which happened to have been the famous one with Gianfranco.

Eventually, the Mayor arrived. In between small talk, Tony tried to get in his memorized Italian phrases complimenting the wedding, the Mayor’s daughter, and her command of English. After exchanging pleasantries, Tony explained the situation more or less like this:

“Gianfranco has been great. He’s been very responsive, prompt, and efficient. In fact, he’s almost ready to put the paperwork on your desk for your signature. However, he has run into two potential concerns. The first is that three of the documents are from the Church, because they predate the civil registries. The first is from the Church in Lagnasco, and the next two are from the Church in the United States. Also, Domenico was born before the unification of Italy, so there’s some concern about whether or not he was born in Italy. But Gianfranco says of course we know Lagnasco is Italy. It is Piemonte. But he doesn’t feel like he has the authority to make a final decision. So he’s thinking about sending it to the Ministry of the Interior.” (scary suspenseful music) “Gianfranco thinks the Ministry might lose it! Or at least it will sit on someone’s desk for years and years.”

The Mayor did not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. “Va bene,” he remarked, “very good. He can just send photocopies.” Tony tried again. While it sits on someone’s desk for years and years, Sarah can’t go to her brother’s wedding. And I can’t go on any business trips to Turkey, or India, or Mexico.” That caught the Mayor’s attention (he is a businessman). He acknowledged that it wasn’t good for Tony to not be able to take business trips. Tony forged ahead. “I asked Gianfranco if it would be helpful to him for me to talk to you. He said, ‘buonissimo!’ because you have the authority to decide.”

The Mayor became fully engaged. “If all I need to do is say yes, then I will say yes,” he said. “Call in Gianfranco!” Gianfranco was called, but was unaccountably missing again. The Mayor said he would discuss it with him later, and that everything would be fine. Tony thanked him and said, “There is one more reason I need to get citizenship resolved quickly.” The Mayor listened gravely. “This year, began Tony, I will to vote for Obama. But next year, I want to vote for Mucciarelli!” The Mayor laughed heartily at the reference to the upcoming mayoral election in Chiusa Pesio.

In the meantime, the Mayor had an agenda of his own. He wanted to talk about Tony opening a store in Chiusa Pesio to sell sports apparel. He had an empty store in town and wanted to fill it. “Besides,” he added, “it would be good for the image of Chiusa Pesio.” He spent quite a while discussing the possibility, and even began negotiating terms with Tony. “But first,” he remarked, as they were leaving, “your passport!”

Don’t Know Much About History

This question of history is one I’ve been puzzling over for the past few months. It is more than an academic question for me. In fact, it turns out to be both personal and practical. Who am I, after all? What are my roots? Where are my loyalties? To whom and to what are my duties? For the less peripatetic, perhaps these questions are easily answered. Indeed, probably there is something pathetically lost about asking them at all. But I cannot help asking, because I possess, as yet, no clear answer.

My husband and children will soon officially possess both American and Italian citizenship. They will owe a sobering civic duty not to one country, but to two. These duties exist separately, each without regard for the other. One can only hope that the two duties never conflict, and responsibly take on the moral challenge if they do.

Next year sometime, when we find that little farm that Axa talks about every day, we will be long-term residents in different country, to which we have no national ties. And we are no pining exiles. This is the life we’ve chosen. We love it, and must admit that we prefer it. To all other known alternatives, including residence in our native country.

Italian citizenship also brings with it entry into the European Union, an entity that politically, socially, economically, becomes larger and more concrete with every passing year. Here, it is a clearly felt community with roots in a shared (if conflicted) history and world-view.

We, however, are left strangely conflicted, not only for ourselves but for our children. What do we teach them about who they are? If history is the framework upon which we must build, from whose perspective should it come?

Initially, we presumed that we would take an eclectic approach — a little from here, a little from there. Now from an American perspective, now from an Arab one, next from a Chinese point of view. We wanted them to feel, like Aristotle, that they were citizens of the world.

This is all well and good, and a little of it is wholesome. But an entire world-view composed of it becomes fragmented, superficial, or both. Are we to become a sort of Betty Crocker; such a perfect composite that we have lost the charm of being individual and human, with roots and heritage, and an irreplaceable place we belong and can build on? We can read about and understand the Arabs and the Chinese without pretending that we are Arab and Chinese.

Alternatively, we might start, logically, with our country of nativity. It has shaped many of our thoughts and ideas. We feel considerable allegiance to it, as to an alma mater. But we feel incomplete ascribing our deepest heredities to a place whose beginning for us is so recent and so traceable. We want to look backward into forgotten memories; ancient villages, fairy-tales, battles, runes, broken pottery. Somehow, we want to find ourselves there: melt into the countryside of a place that feels inexplicably, unbelievably familiar.

Again, there is Italian history, since that’s our other half. We run into problems there again. It became a united country in 1861, not so long ago. Last time that happened was the Roman Empire. In between, it was an unaffiliated group of petty kingdoms and city states, not even really yet a “geographical expression.” Italian nationalism is a fairly recent invention. More deep-rooted are the ancient ties to one’s village. We didn’t make it back to Lagnasco, and we’ve never even been to Sicily. We have no particular historical ties to the village where we live.

We might take another logical course by teaching them French history, since that’s where we will be living, and what they would learn if we sent them to school. But we’re not French, not even by blood (with a few possible exceptions), and after all we’re teaching them at home partly to avoid just doing it the way it’s done by everyone around.

We have a majority of ancestors from the British Isles, so we might do something with that history. Being an island, they have a history more coherent and self-contained than most. And much of what we know as American culture and mores was gifted to us from our British ancestors.

In the end, the jury is still out on which history books we’ll end up reading (not text books, of course!). We’ll probably follow the classical model of claiming the great Classical civilisations as our own, and then narrowing to European and British history, with the United States added in when it appears, complementing without eclipsing (are we Americans capable of that?). Religious history adds in the near East and early Americas. And we’ll be like Marco Polo and read up on the Chinese and the Arabs and the rest of the world too.

Never Expect it the Same Way Twice

Productivity for us here in Italy seems to be more a product of serendipity than careful planning. It’s not that we don’t plan exhaustively. But sometimes things turn out better when we just go with the flow. Our internet has been grinding to a halt fairly often lately. We can get reliable dial-up, which us O.K. for email and other more basic tasks. But we cannot send large attachments, and forget about Skype calls (we don’t have a home phone, and we’ve been trying to set up quite a lot of things for our trip to the U.S.)., or web-conferencing.

We had a web-conference scheduled for Thursday evening, which we were forced to cancel. However, just as we were finishing up on the internet around 8:30, when we would normally have been out on our walk, we received an email from Julio. He’s our translator, and was letting us know that he could meet us at the Tribunale in the morning to certify the translations of Raj’s, Axa’s and my birth certificates and our corrected marriage certificate.

We had already been planning a trip to Cuneo to buy all the oats, wheat, and spelt we would need for the rest of the time we are here before our trip. So we took an earlier bus this morning. I discovered halfway here that Raj’s birth certificate had only been half translated. So the rest of the translation is courtesy of babelfish.

When we did the translations in Saluzzo, there was some confusion over whether we would need the 14 euro marca da bollo or the the 1.55 one. In the end, it was quite a coup that the very kind lady at the Tribunale let us use the cheap ones, saving us nearly 200 euros. So today we thought we’d be smart and just buy the cheap marca da bollos beforehand. We had our old translation with the cheap marca da bollo on it, and we figured they would just assume that was the right one and let us do it.

No such luck. We briefly considered taking the bus up to Saluzzo to have them done there (at least Tony considered it), but ultimately decided that we’d just bite the bullet and buy four 14.62 marca da bollos. That was ten times what we’d planned on spending (and we’re already skipping gelato days and not buying cheese so our money will last till we leave for the States in a month. Read our Hong Kong travelogue for how close we’re willing to get to running out of money in foreign countries).

We already had Julio print out the translations at home, since our printer is out of ink and we can’t afford an ink cartridge. While we were waiting for him, we bought our grains. We had an extra half-hour, so we dropped in on the Questura to innocently ask if we could do my Carta di Soggiorno there instead of through the postal system. We walked through three waiting rooms full of people. The man at the desk was polite, but I think he must have been laughing underneath his serious response that no, I couldn’t do that (or anything by just waltzing into the Questura). These sorts of bureaucratic procedures must be paid for by endless hours in waiting rooms (on top of the literal payment in the special currency of marca da bollos).

The Prefettura, where I will apply for citizenship once Tony gets his, was across the street. I thought I would pop in there and maybe pick up the proper forms so I could get started on my application (which includes obtaining a criminal record from every country in which I have resided after the age of 18. Luckily for me that’s only the U.S. and Chile). However, I didn’t even make it past the waiting rooms in there. It was obvious that everyone in them had set aside at least the entire morning, and probably the whole day to accomplish their object. Ah, Italy!

We did make it home finally with our certified translations, grains, and three crates of peaches.

Chiusa Aperta

We were part of the action last night. Chiusa Aperta is the traditional annual village festival in Chiusa Pesio. We arrived 45 minutes late because we had been eating pizza at our favorite little pizzeria in town. Tony and I like the vegetarian pizza, which changes with the seasons. It still had zucchini and eggplant, but the red peppers had been replaced since last month with green beans. Green beans on a pizza? Yes! It was excellent. Axa’s favorite pizza is margherita, which is just tomato sauce, mozzarella, and oregano. She tried some of ours, but in the end she just picked off all the vegetables, so her piece ended up margherita too.

Forty-five minutes late was perfect timing for Italy. There were still plenty of seats up front (we sat by Carla and Giorgio on the third row), and the program started about ten minutes after we arrived. The festival lasts several days, and last night was the inauguration. The MC went over the whole program in great detail, including calling up someone else to explain the nine-course tasting buffet that was to be set up all over town (this second person went into a lengthy justification of why they were using a dish that was more famous in a different area of Italy some seventy kilometers away, but was also traditional here).

Next they called up the volunteers, who were all wearing yellow shirts and each got a chance to say their names. Once the traditional photo had been taken of the volunteers, the important dignitaries were called up for speeches. The speeches were mostly short, informal, humorous, and full of compliments for each other and the town.

I was especially impressed with the speech given by the priest (who is the most important person in town, after the Mayor). He started out saying that the next President of the United States, Barak Obama, has a dream, and invoking Martin Luther King’s famous speech. Then he made a passionate appeal to the citizens of Chiusa Pesio to smile and say hello to everyone, regardless of their origin, to accept each other, and to be one. Obviously, this struck a chord with me, although our welcome here has been overwhelmingly positive. But I have noticed that the two worlds of Chiusa Pesio (the natives who have lived here for generations and the newcomers, mostly from Africa and Albania or Romania) have an obvious disconnect. And I’ve heard quite a few disparaging comments from Italians that in my pluralistic California mind sounded like they came out of some deep dark racist past.

The Mayor also made appropriate mayorly remarks. We went up to talk to him afterwards. Tony made all the compliments he knew in Italian, and asked if we could come speak to him this week. The Mayor was very cordial, and said that of course we could. So we were pleased and elated at having talked to him successfully. We heard later from Carla that he was just as pleased and elated that “the two Californians” had come up to talk to him. Definitely a symbiotic relationship.

Giorgio and Carla are gone this week, visiting the Temple in Switzerland. So we’ll go in to talk to him next week. In the meantime, we’ll send translations of Raj’s, Axa’s and my birth certificates to Julio (and our corrected marriage certificate), get the translations officially stamped in Cuneo, and contact those last two consulates. Gianfranco has promised not to send anything to the Ministry until we speak with the Mayor.