Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Story of Familija (Family)

Frank, Roger, Marlene, Mary Rose, Mom, Me, Noel

For the full story on how I found my extended relatives in Malta in 2006, please refer to posts from October 13-23, 2006.

This time around, I wanted my Mom to come with me and meet her cousin and her extended family in Malta and that is what we did.
After arriving on Friday, October 2nd we took the weekend to relax, rest and get caught up with the time there and on Monday I called my second cousin Noel and my Mom's cousin's husband Frank to let them both know we had arrived safely and would like to get together soon. We had written and emailed prior so they knew when we were coming, etc. The plan was to meet them at 4:30 PM on the next day and we would go to their house for dinner.

The next day we spent the day around Sliema, walked to the post office and I went for a swim and then we got ready for our night with the family. I had met them before so I was not nervous and knew how relaxed of an environment it would be, but couldn't get a read on my Mom and how she was feeling. I was exited more than anything to see them again. We walked to the hotel where they were picking us up (our apartment was on a tiny one way street) and there they were, my second cousin Marlene and my Mom's cousin's husband Frank. We said our hellos, hugs and kisses and got in to the car. Frank then announces that we are going to Birkirkara (B'kara) where my Grandfather grew up to see the house and to visit the parish Church there (Saint Helen's). Our ride over was hilarious, everyone taking so loud on top of everyone else, in this family, the loudest wins! Please note, just because someone is talking loud does not mean they are mad, it might just mean they are Maltese. An older Maltese man told my husband that at the Maltese Club a while back and I was laughing so hard. Anyway, we get to the square and I look right at my Grandfather's house and try to imagine what it was like when he was here. For my Mom, not having been there before, I pointed the house out to her and took some photos of it. We walked across the street to the church and went inside. Marlene said a prayer for the family and to St. Helen and we went over to where they have the patron saint statue behind glass and Marlene and Frank both told us the story of St. Helen. It was very sweet because Marlene's name is Mary Helena put together so St. Helen is her namesake in a way and obviously one of her favorite saints as she told the story of her with so much passion and fervor. After the story concluded she reached in the little wooden holder to see if there were any cards with St. Helen and a prayer on the back of them and you would have thought we stuck gold as Marlene exclaimed "...only 2 left! And they are both in English where they are usually in Maltese! It is destiny!". She handed us the cards and we scanned both sides and put them away for safe keeping. This Church is one of the most ornate in Malta and it was incredible on the inside. The Church was completed in 1745 towards the end of the Maltese Baroque period (you do the math, it's old). I did not take any photos inside as to not be rude, I never know how people feel about that although you can google the church to see the inside.

After spending time in B'Kara we went on to Balzan where my Mom's Aunt's are buried, but the cemetery was locked and we couldn't get in. I took a photo of some folks that are also relatives who's plaque is right on the edge that you can see from the sidewalk, they are my Great Grandfather's sister and her husband.
It was so nice this time to get a refresher on who is who in the family and also to go to B'Kara and Balzan with them, we didn't do that last time, but I did find my Grandfather's house on my own last time with the help of a Maltese friend Joe who went knocking on doors with me. That is what lead me to my second cousin Father Ray as well.

After our short stop in Balzan we went to Frank and Mary Rose's (my Mom's cousin) house for dinner. My Mom was about to meet her cousin for the first time! Pretty incredible that all of this was happening, I did a quick thanks to God for leading me to the family back in 2006. There is only so much people will let you know over the Internet, pounding the payment is really the best way to find these things and what an adventure it can be, trust me on this one. We pull up and Frank says, Ray is there - sweet, he is the first one I met, how exciting to see him again. We get out of the car and head in the house and my Mom is greeted at the door by her cousin Mary Rose, she is so cute and just as I remembered her. We move inside the house and Fr. Ray says hello and I meet my second cousin Roger for the first time (he was unable to come over last time). Fr. Ray had to leave (he is super busy all the time, he just got a promotion in the spring and is the delegate to the Archbishop for the parishes in Malta). The door opened again and it was Noel and his wife Miriam, I had met Noel but not Miriam last time. I was super happy to see him as we hit it off pretty well last time and have been in contact intermittently via email. Miriam was super cool and so sweet. We all looked at photos in Frank's well organized books (my last visit was in one of them!). My Mom asked some questions abotu who was who in some photos she had and it turns out in one of the photos of a couple, it was Mary Rose's parents! My Mom also told them that when she was a kid her Dad's nephew came to visit and asked who that was, it was Mary Rose's brother! Amazing!

We all sat down and had an epic Maltese meal, started with little nuts and crunchy things, then Maltese sausage was passed, then came the timpana (baked pasta with a pie crust top), after that the main dish was served (pork loin roulade), mixed vegetables and potatoes and then there was the cheese course served with Maltese galletti. With all of that we had wine, water, soda and my beloved Kinnie. After all of that came dessert, a cake and also a sort of creamy fruit pie dessert and we noticed it had a Happy Birthday stick in it, I said nothing in case maybe it was put in there for the happy occasion (I have learned to keep my mouth shut when it comes to things like this because I have been to Asia a number of times and I cannot even tell you how many times people have sang me Happy Birthday or have given me a Christmas card in March). My Mom on the other hand was like, "Who's Birthday is it?" I leaned over and just said under my breath, "it is just a happy occasion" her response was "Oh, I thought it said Happy Birthday" just loud enough that people could hear. I then saw Marlene lean over to her Mom (Mary Rose) and then announce to everyone that it was in deed Mary Rose's 81st Birthday - she was just hesitant to say anything! Well, then we all sang and that was an event in itself, I think the entire neighborhood heard us or shall I say Frank for that matter (he was very dramatic). We all ate dessert and the conversations we had were unforgettable and so funny, everyone loves to laugh in this group especially! Frank is super funny as well as Noel and Roger so they were cutting up the entire time. The evening ended and Noel and Miriam drove us back to our apartment. On the drive we had nice conversation about relationships, marriage, etc. and also they mentioned taking us to Gozo on Saturday because it is much easier if you have a car and you can see more of the island. We made a plan to meet at 9:30 AM Saturday morning and we were super excited to see the sister island.

It was a great day! Our family is not super big here in the states or in Malta so I believe it is important to have as much fun as you can when you are together and that is what we did.


Angela said...

The Maltese are so Greek, I love it! As I'm reading this post and laughing, I'm thinking of my own family and our vacation togther there in May. I love these posts, great pictures and I can totally picture this whole event. It sounds like so much fun!
Love you,

The Maltese Kat said...

So ironic you say that Ang, while I was in Greece with you, I was thinking the same thing about it being like the Maltese. My cousin's wife Miriam was asking me if I had seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and when I told her I had, we were making all of the comparisons between the Greeks and the Maltese - we chalked it up to being "Mediterranean" in general. So funny though!

Raquel said...

Thanks for the wonderful story Katie! I was wanting to hear more about your trip to Malta. Sorry about the sinus infection though. Hope you are feeling better very soon! I like the elephant nettie with the looooong nose. Very cute!

I have family (aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it...) that I daydream about visiting in Italy, Uruguay and Australia. Your story gives me a lot of inspiration.
It's never too late to make a connection.


The Maltese Kat said...

You are so right, it is never too late, my advice is keep in contact with them the best you can from far away until the day comes when you can visit them, which I know will come to you eventually and when it does, it will be amazing.
More stories to come...
XO - Katie

PS - Sara's Dad read your "in spirit" card at her wedding, very sweet, it made me smile!

robin said...

Great post!


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