United in Napoli

Last weekend, we went on a trip to Rome and Naples. This was especially exciting for me because I have family in Naples who I have never had the chance to meet. When we arrived in Naples, we immediately left for Pompei. I was anxious to get in touch with the relatives, but I was still interested in seeing the site of the city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius. It was incredible—the city was preserved by the molten lava—even bodies. It was so sad, seeing bodies almost a hundred years old, preserved with looks of terror on their faces as the lava overtook them. I left with a deeper appreciation for life.

We got back late so I wasn’t sure if I should call the relatives. I was getting really nervous about meeting them. I almost decided not to call. Then, I looked at my map—most of them lived on the same exact street as my hotel! I couldn’t believe it. It was a sign. I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t try to meet them.

I called a couple of numbers—no answer. I called a third number, Assuntia’s, who is my great aunt, and got an answer: “Pronto?” I had clearly woken her up. “Uh..mi nuna Anna Marie Esposito. Mi madre Diane..” She cut me off, rapidly speaking in Italian, obviously very excited. “Uh..no comprendo..Only Ingles..” We struggled for 15 minutes on the phone, but I got across which hotel I was in. “I be there in 1, 2, 3, 4..minutos!” And then she hung up. Oh my God she’s going to be here in a couple minutes! I couldn’t believe it!

I waited in the lobby, nervously tapping my toe. Then, I was told that she was here, outside calling for me. I ran outside. We saw each other, and literally ran into each other’s arms and hugged for a few minutes. I couldn’t help but cry, it was was like I could feel that we were family, like we knew each other forever. It was definitely a Kodak moment. Eventually, she motioned for me to get into her car with her. Dom hopped in too—obviously eager to meet her too!

She drove around the corner and pointed out “Esposito’s Café.” I couldn’t believe it—my family's café was right around the corner from my hotel! We got out of the car and she began yelling her brother's name, signaling that he lived on the 4th floor. Unfortunately, he was asleep so we didn’t get to meet him.

She brought us to her house next. She gave me a tour, making sure to point out the guest room, which she was very offended I wasn’t staying in. Then, she showed me photographs of my Grammy and Grampy. I had never seen photos of them in which they were so young—it was beautiful. She also showed me photos of family members I had never met: adorable little boys (with my eyes, Dom pointed out!), and her sisters, brothers, etc.

She next drove us all around Naples, showing me everything she wanted me to see. Although we didn’t speak the same language, we got our points across enough, and we learned a lot about each other. We met up with her niece, who spoke English, and helped us out a lot. When Assuntia realized that I was leaving in the morning, she was so sad—her eyes welled up with tears. She thought we’d have so much more time together. It broke my heart. I promised I would come back someday, and she promised to come visit me, too.

We stopped at her favorite pastry shop. She bought me lots of delicious native pastries—my favorites were canolis and babas—and had them wrapped them up for Dom and I. She was too cute! We continued on our tour. She showed me the church that my Grammy and Grampy married in, the funeral home of her father, castles, famous hotels, museums, and my favorite stop: the port. She told me how she used to stroll along here with my Grammy. I knew how happy she would be to know we were there together. She teased me, saying that if I lived there—like I should—I could sit and paint the beautiful bay all day. We linked arms and strolled along the port, laughing and chatting (or trying to), both happy to be in each other’s presence.

She brought us back at about 1:30 and walked me in to have the receptionist act as a translator. She said to call her as soon as I was home so that she could visit! I hope she does! It also became clear that she was not happy that I was leaving in the morning and that I didn’t call her sooner. I felt so bad! She hugged me for what seemed like forever, then pinched and kissed my cheeks. It was sad seeing her leave. We had such an experience meeting each other and I don’t know when we’ll see each other again. It was bitter-sweet; I try to focus on how happy we were to meet each other, not how sad it was that our time together was so short. I walked back up to my room with really sore cheeks with lipstick stains on them.

The next morning, we left bright and early for Rome. We had a couple of hours so I went back to the Picasso exhibit to do some thinking. I had such an experience this weekend I felt mentally drained. I’m back in Athens now and know for sure that life will never be the same.

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