2018 will go down in the Bethany Cetti history books as the year I spent pursuing Italian citizenship. The possibility crossed my radar in February of 2015 when a Brazilian friend traveled with us to Costa Rica on an Italian passport. I found out, then, it was possible to trace family blood lines back to the homeland and gain citizenship. I was busy the next few years, working on other projects and figuring out why exactly I would need such a thing. Three years later, the process was in full swing. Birth, marriage and death certificates. New names, dates and information on the journeys of my ancestors. It’s begun to weave a story I am happy to continue to share. I found out it was a 5+ year wait to do this application in America, but only a matter of months if I moved to Italy and did it in person. You can bet if there is a fast and adventurous way to do something, I’m going to find it. Maybe that fact circles back to the people I came after.
Abbondio & Natalina
My great grandfather, Abbondio, left his deeply rooted family in Tremezzo, Lago di Como, Lombardia, Italia when he was 28, a wife and child in tow. They settled in beautiful Santa Barbara, California where he found employment as a farmhand, she had more children. Four more children, two of which died, and her along with the last one. We never knew much about this woman, the first wife, but I later was forced to meet her: Maria Lingeri. Her family also had deep roots in Tremezzo. It is said one of her five children was the product of infidelity, but we aren’t 100% sure which one, because Abbondio raised him as his own. A woman who left home at the age of 21 and spent her whole adult life having and caring for kids in a land where she never learned the language. She died in childbirth before she turned 30 and was buried in a humble grave along with her little girl, Mary Josephine. This mystery woman almost cost me my citizenship in all the-not-knowing-about-her. A fire, flood and earthquake swept away official records and I almost was unable to prove she died before Natalina came along. Flawed as she was, and unrelated as she may be, something felt important about telling the world that she was. As a writer and woman who feels the importance of being known I don’t want to leave anyone a footnote in their own family history.
My great grandmother, Natalina, was the response to a letter Abbondio wrote his family after the death of Maria. He wanted a new wife. This part of the story usually makes people chuckle. Does this service still exist? one man joked at me. Yes, I believe it does. All over the world. Grow up. What makes me wonder about this point, is that Abbondio was looking for an arranged marriage by his parents. Maybe he felt his chances with the local Californians were slim. Maybe he wanted something familiar. Maybe he wanted to make sure he was considered good enough for someone and not have it debated by in laws forever. In any case, the brave Natalina Fraquelli boarded a ship alone and sailed to America. She ported in New Orleans and saw so many black people she thought maybe they’d accidentally cruised down to Africa. From there, she took a train across the country, to meet Abbondio at the Santa Barbara station. They were married within days. While I don’t know much about Natalina, either, I know she had to be something to do this. To start over on the other side of the world takes a spirit of adventure. I know she only had one child, Guido, four years after they married. Neither she, nor Abbondio ever learned English, and they didn’t teach it to their son.
Guido & Katharine
Guido was in junior high before he started wearing shoes. He repeated grades in school as he struggled to learn English. He was funny and had a great work ethic. I feel I know he gained this ethic from his father, but I wonder where the funny came from. On the night he met the lovely Katharine Jean Potier, he was doing card tricks in the corner at a party. It was a thrill for Katharine, a girl with deeply Conservative Baptist roots, to see such a handsome Italian man doing such a scandalous thing as play cards. His ice blue eyes picked her observing smile out of the crowd and he asked her to dance. Scandal upon scandal! Dancing? She agreed. When during the dance he kissed her neck, she began to sweat. The next day as Guido was driving with Don Hollister, he spotted Katharine walking to school with a friend. Urging his friend to pull over, they invited to give the girls a lift. Because of a lack of space, Katharine had to sit on Guido’s lap and things got pretty official. Is it obvious I got the bulk of this story from Grandpa’s perspective? I’m sure Granny would have included different details.
They dated for the rest of Katharine’s high school years and married at the ages of 19 and 23. My dad was born two years later, the oldest of four. Guido continued to work hard, starting out as a salesman and eventually starting his own glass business. Katharine stayed hard a work at home with the family. She had a gypsy heart, and through all the hard working of her husband, announced she would be taking the kids on vacation each August whether he joined them or not. This started a pattern of travel for the family. In 1990, the two of them were exploring Europe together, the kids grown and gone, when they got word their home had burned to the ground in the Painted Cave Fire. Katharine looked at Guido and remarked, “I didn’t much care for the wallpaper in the dining room anyway,” and they didn’t hurry back.
They lived happily and generously. Granny died in 2003, leaving a brokenhearted Guido who begrudgingly lived a healthy ten extra years before allowing prostate cancer to get the better or him. He accepted the diagnosis as his ticket back to Kathy and stated, “Don’t give me a bunch of drugs and drag this out. I don’t want to finish my life constipated.” He rounded out his life by staging the epic finale to a 5 year prank he’d been playing on his best friend and taught me just how much I still had to learn about comedy.
David & Deborah
Dave met his best friend, Bob Cryder, at Westmont College. On the occasion of Bob’s wedding, my best man dad saw the beautiful Deborah Rehkopf float down the isle as the show-stealing maid of honor. He knew at that moment this was the woman for him. However, Dave is a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kind of guy, and didn’t make any major moves for a long while. In fact, during a well timed visit to Portland, Oregon (where Bob and his bride, Jenny had settled), Bob broke a friendship vow to never interfere with each other’s love lives and pushed Dave to make some sort of move on Debbie. She was about to embark on a 10 month missions trip. At the prompting of Bob, my dad asked if they would write each other. Mom said yes.
The following Christmas, after no conversations whatsoever about their relationship status, Dave visited Debbie’s hometown to meet her parents and ended up asking her father’s permission for her hand in marriage. He agreed, solely on the assumption my dad must be legit to be Bob Cryder’s best friend. When they moved on to Santa Barbara, visiting Guido and Kathy, mom and dad went for a walk. This walk turned into a proposal. They shared their first kiss and came back hand in hand. What had gotten in to these two? Everybody wondered.
Dave had moved to Portland to become the Bible teacher at Portland Christian High School, meaning after they got engaged they went back to long distance and planned a wedding. They married the following July and had my sister Natalie three years later, followed by me and our little sister Brittany.
Now, both sisters are married and I’ve returned to the scene of the crime: Italy. A single gal full of bravery, comedy, hard work, gypsy heart and prone to scandalize her Conservative Baptist roots. It’s anybody’s guess what happens next, but in all cases, I will be a dual citizen by 2019.