The Journey South

“Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”

― John O’Donohue

There’s a trip I’ve been meaning to take for some time. Both of my parents are deceased. The youngest of seven children, my mom was 42 years old when she had me. I was living far away from them when they each passed away. Pursuing a life of independence and adventure in my early 30’s. While I do have lots of memories of my parents, they are beginning to fade from me. Their images moving farther and farther away as I get older. As much as I miss my parents and work to hold onto their memories I realize what I never knew is who they were as individuals. When they were young and growing up, and specifically when they first met.

There are a lot of old stories. Tidbits strewn here and there over the years told at weddings and funerals by older siblings and cousins. But when I reach for specifics, when I try to attach something solid, a specific date on the calendar, a faded photo, it all seems to blend into black. There’s simply no hard evidence from my parents’ past. As if they never existed before, save their children and our patchwork memories. I want specifics, the real story, something to hold onto, – the real story of who my parents were as young adults. Right up until the moment they met.

I know very little from when they first met, it was around 1950 and my mother was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. She met my father at a dance. He was studying as an engineer at a local school. Some say my mother was engaged to be married back in the states. My father introduced himself with a fake name, took her dance card from around her wrist, tossed it aside and said to her in broken English, ‘You will only be dancing with me for the rest of the night.’

If these tidbits are all true, wonderful. If there’s more, even better. My goal is to find out. My goal is to put together the fragments and solve the mystery that is their story.

My mother is one of 11, three of her siblings are still alive. Two brothers, and one younger sister. Two Uncles and One Aunt. They each live along the eastern seaboard, from CT to VA. Growing up I absolutely adored and respected my Aunts and Uncles, they were such a huge part of our family’s day to day. While my dad was an only child, my mother was one of 11. I myself am the 47th grandchild, and there are 10 or so after me. Thanksgiving was a house knee deep with cousins, Uncles smoking cigars and watching football, moms gathered in the kitchen and aprons stained with gravy. As a child you would not speak to an adult unless spoken to, and would never address one by their first name. There was an unspoken code of being polite, patient, yet feeling abundantly loved, warm, and well fed. An inherent joy in everyone being together.

On Friday, August 16, I’ll begin my journey south to visit my Aunts and Uncles. First, Aunt Hope, in CT. Then onto Aunt Lucy, the widow of one of my mom’s older brothers, Uncle Henry. Then Uncle John in VA, with my last stop to visit Uncle Jerry. I’ll be chronicling the visits and tape recording our conversations if they are comfortable with the idea. I’ve written to each and explained my goal – to sit and talk with them if they have the time, to better understand how it was they grew up, what life was like, what my mom was like, and how it was that she came to meet and marry a man from another country that did not speak English in a time before many, many things including the internet or even cell phones.

I’ll be chronicling the journey here.

Where does this fit in with CrossFit? It is through CrossFit that I’ve gained the confidence, the descipline, the gumption to focus and zero in on the work that needs to be done.

This journey is a job whose work is long overdue. It is directive from my soul.

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