If you’re descended from Sicilians you can be part just-about-anything, because the island was constantly invaded. You can be a dark-skinned Sicilian descended from Moors or red-haired and descended from Vikings. My mother was a redhead and we’d joke about it all the time.
I knew that my father’s father’s family came from Greece at some point, and I’ve always assumed it was pretty far back. He told us that our surname originally began with a K and not a C and that sounded reasonable to me. But there was more:
“My mother was of French descent,” my father used to say. Again, I’ve always assumed that went pretty far back, too.
And then, I visited with my last surviving uncle on my father’s side. He is now 92 years old. I can’t believe it! We sat companionably on the sofa in his small apartment in a retirement home–a far cry from the million-dollar yacht he once lived on– and chatted about family history. Yes, my dad my have been a doctor but that uncle was clearly the most “successful’ of the brothers. I never saw the yacht, but I saw magazine photographs and it was quite something. But back to that small apartment and our conversation:
“My mother was French,” my uncle said.
“How far back did that go?” I asked, as I took a sip of coffee.
“She was born in Marseille,” he told me. I practically spit out my brew.
She really was French. As in “born there.”
Now THAT was a surprise. I am actually 1/4 French. Whoa!
“She was the daughter of an ambassador,” he said, “and they moved to this little town in Sicily.”
How could that be? I wondered. Why would an ambassador get posted to a tiny village? and why would his daughter marry a stonemason whose prospects seemed slim?
Of course, a few years ago my uncle told me that their family wasn’t quite as poor as my father had made them out to be in stories that he told us. That my grandfather was fairly prosperous. My father is dead now and can’t clarify this for us, but the ambassador’s daughter born in France mystery is intriguing.
Uncle’s memory was pretty shot and there were no clear answers that day. But it’s certainly started me on a new hunt for family history.
I’ve never been to Marseille, but I learned that it is the second largest city in France.
If I were honest, I’d admit that I never liked France all that much. I’ve been to Paris maybe six times and I didn’t love it. Of course, I never went to Paris with a man I was in love with. Maybe that counts. M. has been to Paris many times and he does love it.
And another thing. My mouth doesn’t do French. Oh, it does a French kiss, just not the language. I can’t pucker in that certain Froggy way. Not that I ever took French, because I didn’t. But M has his high school French, plus he played the trumpet as a kid and has a good embouchure. So he’s got the pucker down pat.
And what is the deal with French laundry? What is it exactly?
More research is necessary, I think, and maybe some kissing practice.
I see a trip to France in my future. Maybe Marseille, you think?