Thinking of all those volunteering and working over this time when many get to take a break. It still amazes me how my grandparents opened their milk bar and fruit shop 7 days a week from early morning ‘til late at night with only two days a year off – for 20 years straight! And then ‘scaled back’ to 5 days a week for the following years.
Nonno Anni worked for 36 years before his first holiday and Nanna Francesca wasn’t far behind. It makes me feel blessed and so grateful to write for a living, something I dreamed of from when I was 7 and found out the stories that I loved writing could actually be a job.
Thank you for your lovely comments and messages throughout the year. It is always wonderful to hear from you. Fingers crossed I have some book news I can share with you in 2020! In the meantime, whether you are working, volunteering or taking time out over this time, please stay safe and all the very best for the coming year. Tante belle cose! Zoë xx
Christmas Eve, 1970s, Nonno Anni shouting, ‘Everyone get ready!’, Nanna Francesca already with tears in her eyes, family crowding onto the plastic runner over the carpet in my grandparents’ narrow hallway, the clunky, black, Bakelite corded phone ringing with that booked international call to relatives faraway in Italy. A few precious, expensive minutes to talk at a time when overseas holidays weren’t so common or affordable and relatives far away were sometimes never able to be seen again.
Wishing you much happiness at this time whether near or far, however large or small your day may be, hope the coming year is wonderful! Thank you for all your messages and support over this past year, it really means a lot to hear from you. Zoë xx
(Top left, lane outside Fossa house 1970s, and below, town hall Xmas tree Brisbane same time.)
Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar continues each weeknight on ABC Nightlife – thank you to all who’ve sent messages upon discovering the book – lovely to hear from you!
By chance, I came across this photograph when looking for something else for the next book and realised it might be the only one to show the family unit of Maddalena and Vitale and their two sons Elia (left) and Annibale/Joe (right) taken not long after they were reunited in Australia.
Financial hardship, separate migration, the Depression and WW2 forced Vitale and Maddalena apart for all but about three of their first 26 years of marriage, the boys without their father, and then Maddalena and Annibale apart for a decade after he migrated at 15. So lovely to see them reunited here. They remained close for the rest of their lives in Australia with Maddalena and Vitale even living with Annibale and his family for many years.
Coming up this street in Fossa always feels like being ‘almost home’ whether returning from nearby L’Aquila or a long flight from Australia. For just around the next corner is my family’s house and while it has centuries of history, to me it also has that comforting feel like coming to stay at your grandparents’ house.
In recent years, this street was renamed via dei Beati for two saints born here, Bernardino in 1420 and Cesidio, 1873. But for me, this is also where Granny Maddalena stood not far from the church door you can see and watched her son, Annibale, then 15, walk away from her as he carried just one port to start his journey to Australia. It changed the course of our family history from then on, but his keeping a part of Fossa in his heart to one day share with us showed me that in a way it was part of us too. (For which, after resisting it a long time, I’m now very grateful!)
This is one of the first photographs I chose that I hoped would make the cover of Mezza Italiana (it’s on the back). Taken in the 1960s, it was dinner for my uncle’s birthday and one of the rare times the family got to eat together since one of my grandparents were usually doing a shift at their milk bar.
I love how the young, fair-haired friend (second from left) looks happy to be at the dinner table eating spaghetti among three generations of an Italian family (reminds me a bit of how Roger was when he first came to eat at my grandparents’ house). And of course that is my Dad in the front right corner, being his usual larrikin self!