Sunday, July 29

Potato dish

My great grandmother's potato dish.
I love visiting with my oldest sister. Not only do I go home sore from laughter, my heart is always overflowing. A small story from her childhood (we're 15 years apart) has helped me build stories into my family tree more than any research possibly could.

This is exactly what happened on a quick Friday night visit when she asked me if I'd like a chipped, broken handled dish. It may seem odd to anyone else but she knows me well ... the older, the better. Missing parts, yep, broken handles, of course. She didn't recall how it had ended up in her basement but knew it was from Mom. As a genealogist I feel kinship with anything that can tell a story and I knew this dish had one to tell.  Sold.

It sat on my dining room table with a handful of other foraged items she'd gifted me for about a week before I cleaned it up, very carefully, hoping to make it shine. On the bottom of the dish was a note written by my Meme, "Noella wants this she was her Godmother" and on the lid, "potato dish". My Meme, was my Moms mom and had passed away when i was 6 years old. My memories are few but something that has always stuck with me is that when she passed, most every item in her small home had a similar sticker. She had decided who of her five children would get what including this potato dish.

I hadn't yet located my Moms baptism record from Quebec so now I was on a mission. I wanted to know who decided this random shaped dish was a 'potato dish' and more importantly, who was my Mom's godmother? I began to search with different spellings on the names, then by last town listed on a census. I paged thru every sheet scanning for a similar spelling to Noella. Two weeks later  there it was. D-O-E-L-L was baptized on Christmas Day 1926, the same day she was born.

The mystery was solved. This dish belonged to my Meme's mother and my great grandmother, Marie Louise Boulerice who died years before i was born in 1954 at the age of 81. I like to think they were over for Christmas dinner, labor began, my Mom was born and they went to Christmas mass for the baptism. Nothing like nowadays when a production is made of every life event we have, right?

My new potato dish has taken a special place in my dining room. Its the oldest piece of family history I have and I treasure it. I may actually sneak it on the table around the holidays. I'm sure my great grandmother would like that and hope she's smiling when she sees it, overflowing with potatoes, and surrounded by those we love.

Sunday, July 15


I'm sure I'm not alone in doubting myself now and then. I've been thru enough in my 50+ years to write a book of stories, some good, some not as good. But I find in my younger years I was braver than I am now. I took chances, made spontaneous plans, didn't think of the consequences that followed decisions and you know what? It all worked out.

I sit here with all my appendages still intact, a little money stashed away, fully employed and trust me, not worrying about my next meal. Yet now I'm much less of a 'chance taker'. It would be easy to blame it on maturity or wisdom. But if I'm honest, I'd have to admit it's fear. Fear of failing, fear of looking foolish, fear of {fill in the blank}.

My Italian grandparents came to America in the early 1900's. Grandpa R. arrived in 1913 with his brother-in-law and from Ellis Island, headed to western New York where they stayed with family while looking for work. Taking a chance on a new land is hard not knowing the language and with very little money in your pocket but the history of Southern Italy at the time tells me it was a hard life with little food available as the land was not farm-able, jobs were non existent and just surviving was a struggle.  He was brave leaving but under the circumstances, staying wasn't an option.

Not to take anything away from Grandpa R. but in my opinion it was Grandma R. who was completely fearless. Staying behind in Italy for another 18 months on her own waiting (hoping) for word from him, had to be a daily struggle. Adding to the pressure, she was 8 months pregnant with their third child as he leaves. Eventually enough money was sent ahead for their passage. But before she made the 3 day trip by horse and cart from Calabria to Naples, she would bury her oldest daughter, just 3 years old. Boarding that ship, leaving her family and baby behind was fearless. Traveling alone for 17 days with two babies under three years old was fearless.  Starting over in a new country was fearless. 

My fears are incredibly ridiculous. 

I am going to take more chances, write more, start that business I dream of and just live in the moment. What is there to be afraid of? I have the blood of this incredible woman running thru my veins.