ECHO Molise
  Emigration and Cultural Heritage of the Molise

Echo Calgary

We are very happy to present an echo from one of ECHO Molise's founding directors, Melina Maucieri Akins.  Melina talks about the eternal connection with her heritage home (click to see our Heritage Visit services), although growing up as an Italian-Canadian in Calgary, Alberta.  Visiting Bonefro as a child, Melina was in for some pleasant surprises!  Melina also shares some family photos from the time, and talks a bit about the regional dialect and the practice of soprannome, surname nicknames that help distinguish branches of families with the same name. 


C'e Vedeem (Ci Vediamo), See you later...
by Melina Maucieri Akins

Three words I spoke often in dialect to my grandparents and parents. One of the entrances into Bonefro in the early 1990s It was my favourite saying and one that my Nonno would remind me of when he would turn to my Nonna and say, she said C’e vedeem and she hasn’t come by… when is she coming over?   You see in Bonefro, a small town in the region of Molise, Italy, C’e vedeem means see you later, but in Canada see you later is just a saying.  Nonno was waiting to see me.  
                                      One of the entrances into Bonefro in the early 1990s

I am the daughter of two Bonefrans, both my parents were born in Bonefro and came to Canada with their families. Different times for each of them but mainly for the same reason. It was time to make a better life and to find somewhere that would help them survive the post war poverty of Europe. 

When I was born, I was the third grandchild on my Mother’s side of the family and on my Dad’s side, I was the first grandchild, named after my Nonna Carmela.  I was lucky enough to be spoken to in a language that I would later come to know as Bonefran, not to be mixed up with “real” Italian.  Italian is great and I have since learned to write, read and speak Italian, but Bonefran is the dialect of my ancestry and the language of a little town I have grown to love. 

I learned to ask for “pastina,” “precoca” and “uve”  (soup, peach, grapes).  Okay so this isn’t going to be a lesson in vocabulary but suffice it to say that is not the way you pronounce these words in proper Italian.  I had no idea, I just spoke the words I was taught and it wasn’t until school started that I realized hmm, these other kids don’t seem to get the other words I know.  My sister did, my cousins did, how come these kids didn’t?  Being one of the oldest grandchildren allowed me to learn the language because that is what they all spoke around me.  By the time the other grandchildren arrived, my uncles had married non-Italians, my aunts had married northern Italians, so Bonefran wasn’t the only language spoken.  Now we spoke  Bonefran/Italian/English at our weekly family gatherings.

My parents and my grandparents told stories of Bonefro and their paisani (paesani =friends).  Bonefro panorama from Monte FerrunI learned about the days of owning the bakery, working the fields, washing the clothes at the Fontana, and the journey to Canada that would change everything.  My Mom was 11 when she came here, my father was 20 when he arrived.  Both from a very little town, that while I was growing up I assumed must have been pretty big if they didn’t really know each other over there (they met here in Calgary).

         Bonefro panorama from Monte Ferrun

To my wonderful amazement and surprise, my parents decided it was time to go back to Bonefro and show their kids.  By now, I wasn’t alone anymore.  I had a sister and a brother to keep me company and to torture!  Being the big sister, I couldn’t wait to get on the plane, go to this cool place and see all the amazing things they had told us about.  I was 14 and of course, I was ready to conquer Italy.  Well I will leave out the details of taking your family back to Italy in the early 80’s but suffice it to say lost luggage, missed plane, late arrival are just some of the key phrases.  We were put into a car after much hugging and kissing and drove from Rome to Bonefro.  We arrived at night so we didn’t really get to see much but everyone was very excited and kissed us on both cheeks, hugged us and then got really excited when we as kids could answer their questions in “Bonefran.”  What!  You taught your kids to speak the language?  My parents proudly announcing that in fact yes, we could hold our own, even my 7-year-old brother. 

The morning brought sunshine and the discovery of life in Italy, life in Bonefro.  First, the café e biscotti, which we thought you called “cookees” pronounced much differently than “cookies,” as it ends with more “ezze.”  Only then to discover that in Bonefro they had never heard that word.  It appears that our parents and their  Bonefro friends in Calgary made up this and other words.   Hmm, this might not be as easy as we thought, but oh well let’s go explore this big metropolis of Bonefro.

         The piazza in the good old days
                                The piazza in the "good old days"


As we walk out and see all the attached homes, cobblestone roads and ancient buildings, we realize this is like nothing we ever imagined.  The people are dressed similarly but yet it is different and you can’t quite put your finger on it.  The air is hot and it is early.  People are moving about but walking and talking, not the rush hour traffic you see at home.  There are cars, but most of the people are walking towards the Piazza.  That is the center of town, where the older gentlemen read their newspapers, talk about the town gossip and find out what is good at the market this week.  The ladies are doing their daily shopping at the butcher and the general store, and getting the desserts for company.  Wow, this is nothing like home but I love it! 

They are all impressed with our ability to speak our version of Bonefran.  They begin telling stories about the good old days, when Mom and Dad lived there.  They ask about others that left Bonefro and now reside in Calgary.  My parents ask about the people who are still there and those they left behind when they moved; who moved to Switzerland, Germany, France, South America and other places in Canada and the US.  We discover quickly that other “stranieri” (foreigners) have come home to see Bonefro.   For us children, we are in awe and learning about a culture so different from our own.  For our parents, sweet, bitter and treasured memories surface.  They have been gone many, many years.  Bonefro changed and yet in wonderful ways remains the same.

From a 14 years old female perspective, this place was amazing.  I loved the smell of espresso, I loved visiting the little homes and hearing all the stories of the famers, the bakery dilemmas, the war, the donkey and other animal stories that made us laugh and my parents cry.   I couldn’t wait to see everything, to put it into memory, to return home and share with my grandparents what we saw and that we were in their town!  I never knew that figs, cherries, olives and almonds grew on trees right there.  Now the stories of the great fruit, the traditional recipes and the long walks to till the fields made sense.  Growing up with our Nonna M, who was a baker, we knew her bread was great and you couldn’t get it anywhere else in Calgary, not like hers.  But here in Bonefro, the bread is was almost as awesome as hers.  It was at least the same texture, shape and taste.  These guys get good bread!  They also remembered bringing their dough to my Nonna to get it baked and to make the special baking for Christmas and Easter. 

          The forno bakery where Nonna Maucieri made her bread and baked the bread for others

        The “Forno” bakery where Nonna Maucieri made her bread and baked the bread for others


 Soprannome

One interesting yet challenging feature of being a descendant of Bonefro, Campobasso, Italy is that everyone has similar names as you traditionally name your children after your parents.  As this goes on through the generations, you can imagine there are a lot of people named Luigi, Antonio, Domenico, Maria, Filomena and Carmela in the town.  So the Italians have a special nickname for everyone, “sopra nome”  (“the upper name,” literally translated).  What it means is that you can quickly identify Domenico from which family and possibly even from which part of the town.  I was the granddaughter of Domenico  Madonn, Carmela Mezzanotte,  Antonio Col da mul and Filomena Carrafone.  When you referred to the other families they might have been the Vaccaro family that were the I ndinin family, or maybe you were visiting the children of Z ‘ndonio Maccheron, which is actually Antonio Vaccaro but he was of the family Maccheron.  To understand and make sense of the soprannome is too hard.  I just accept it and now, having grown up with the stories, the people and visiting Bonefro many times , I am proud to say, I know the difference between these families and can identify who they are talking about quickly.  Now that I am working on our genealogy, it is fun to match real names with soprannome too!  The best part is that so many of the soprannome have a story to go with the name.

The street signs in Bonefro might say Via G Marconi, but you would tell someone that the house is near the house of the Galasso (Ricciardelli) family that owned the jewelry store.  Then they know exactly where you mean.  Or maybe you are talking about a house in the old district called a terra vecchia… near the church or farther down?  This is how you reference the families and places you want to visit. 

The four times I visited Bonefro, I loved walking the little streets, finding the many families that I had grown to know over the years and made connections.  I missed the people who were gone, either moved or passed away.  I noticed new people had come as spouses, children or visitors to the town.  Today I hear there are many changes--a pub, hotel, restaurants that were not there before, which make me curious and want to return.  I am jealous of those that participate in the Chamber, Jazz and Rock Music Festivals as they get to live each summer in the Bonefro I love.  I want to bring my daughter to see the hometown of her Nonno and Nonna.  She doesn’t really know any Bonefran, but she can speak some Italian.  She doesn’t understand the stories, or what we mean about Bonefro even when we show her pictures.  Why?  Because she hasn’t been there, felt the spirit and connected with the town.  I am forever grateful that my parents choose to take us back--the stories, the people, the recipes, the photos would never have meant as much if we hadn’t had the chance to walk the fields and roads, eat the food, and drink the wine, coffee and liqueurs with the people of this magnificent small town.  Bonefro is in our blood and in our hearts. 

My father at the fonana


C’e vedeem is now my phrase for going back to Bonefro with the hopes and dreams to go back and share it with my daughter and to be a part of that unique town again. 

 

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