Early last summer, I followed up on a phone call that my mother was unable to receive. It was from her cousin, Rosemarie. I updated her on the gravity of my mother's illness and promised to keep her posted as events unfolded. It was within hours of her passing that I called Rosie and gave her the sad news.
My mother's cousin Marie Rossi, was born Marie Porco and her mother, Aunt Tessie, was not only a cousin of my grandmother's through marriage, but one of her closest friends. My own childhood was peppered with frequent visits to Zie Zie Tessie's home as it was within walking distance of my grandmother's.
Cousin Marie Haywood also was born Marie Porco and she, too, was a cousin of my mother. In fact, while she is my same age, she was a first cousin to Mom, the daughter of one of the youngest of my grandfather Luigi Porco's brothers. Her father, a favorite uncle, was born Vincenzo but his adorable wife, Aunt Tina, always called him "Jimmy" and so he was Uncle Jimmy for most of our lives. She had been christened "Sistina" after the Sistine Chapel and it as so many new Americans did at the time, their names became American. Luigi, Louie..... Aunt Tina followed Uncle "Vincent" in death several years later, a few short months before my own mother.
It was Rosemarie's phone calls that cast out the nets that have allowed us to capture and recreate our own place in the family history. We're four women, very different from each other in many ways yet so very much alike in so many. Rosie is in her early eighties, Marie Rossi, her early seventies, neither look anywhere near their ages. Both, beautiful and sweet. Lovers of all things cultural. Dynamic, outspoken and correct at all times.
I'm slowly beginning to realize that there is such a thing as one's "tribe". Something that goes way beyond the relationship shared by friends. Something that has roots that go deep, wind their way around our hearts and come up the other side. I'm proud of the roots from which I sprang and take comfort in knowing that I have a band of women who have come from that same source. It's a kind of thrill for me, being in their company, one that I intend to repeat over and over as much as I can in the years ahead. I know they will always be there, a phone call or email away. I know that they will always be willing to support me as I will them, and that they will always understand. How happy my mother and her parents would have been in knowing that I was not left alone on this earth, that I am still enjoying the benefits of being one of them. They can rest in peace.