Tuesday, January 23, 2007
This is a picture of my Great Grandma Calamia with Joan of Arc looking over her. My mom gave me GGC's prayer book filled with pictures (including this one of her) and prayer cards, including the one where I got Joan - printed in Italian. I never knew my mother's grandmother, but always felt a connection to her. Her birthday was Valentine's Day and though I was due that day, I was born on the 17th.
Like so many people of her generation, my Great Grandma Calamia had a hard life. She lived in an Italian convent where she was educated until she was almost thirty. She married Vito Calamia to get to the US and, hopefully, a better life. She buried several children during the cholera epidemic in Chicago in the 1920's. My Grandma Lena, one of her surviving children, used to take us by her siblings' graves at Mount Carmel. She talked about her sister Viola a lot. I think she remembered her best.
Grandma Lena told me that her mother, pictured here, would shell pistachios and get paid pennies on the pound to buy insurance on the children. She did this just to have enough money to bury them should they die. When I see her smiling in this picture I realize what hope and faith she must have had to smile and laugh and still find even a little happiness in this life.