So to the question “where’s my Italian?”…Turns out I have an answer… I tracked down 2% of it!
As ancestry improves the science behind determining dna, results become tweaked to be more and more accurate. With this fine tuning my ancestral connection to Wales has become very prominent and just for a fun little (haha here’s your Italian) twist, they threw in 2% from Northern Italy.
Even if that had been there from the beginning, the minuscule amount presented along with the sudden appearance of Irish dna would have been enough to raise questions in regard to my paternity. Never mind the dna matches of “close relatives” bearing names I’d never heard.
What that 2% might have changed though was triggering my suspicion enough to look beyond my own paternity and into my mother’s.
Perhaps I would have assumed that 2% was all that got passed down from my ALL Italian maternal grandfather. And perhaps I would have assumed all those unfamiliar names with matching dna stemmed from my newly discovered biological father.
It wasn’t there though, and it made me curious…
As I believe I may have already mentioned I seem to have somewhat natural investigative skills coupled with an occasionally almost spooky intuition.
It is not unusual for my mind to immediately make a leap to what may initially appear as a far fetched conclusion, only to then double back and begin to fill in the blanks along the way with more and more clues that support my initial “guess” < for lack of a better word.
To be fair, there have been times I’ve “guessed” wrong but, there’s been more times I’ve been right. Ya know…if we’re keeping score 😉
So I did look a little closer and upon realizing that not only is all of this Irish dna coming from both parents but that a good number of these unfamiliar matches stemmed not just from my new found father’s side but, from my mother’s as well, I drew the obvious conclusion. I wasn’t the only one who was about to add an Irish dad in the mix with the currently known Italian one.
It would seem closets are made for keeping skeletons and apples don’t fall far from trees.
I recall my mother telling me about being mistaken for Irish, much the same way I had always been. One gentleman in particular who upon her correction of “no really I’m Italian”, confidently proclaimed “don’t be silly, I know a fine Irish girl when I see one”. Turned out he was right!
I brought this follow up information to my aunt, whom I have mentioned is the matriarch of the family, and informed her I suspected Grammie of having had an affair resulting in my mother, therefore creating a dna connection to this new group of maternal side matches with names we didn’t know. For the record, their dna primarily Irish.
This notion was met with resistance and shrugged off. Other possible explanations discussed. I knew though. I felt it in my Irish bones.
I began looking at the names closer and I began reaching out with a general introduction and inquiry. Upon not getting any responses I began google searching their names and compiling any facts I could put together of their ages, relationships and where they lived.
What I came up with was a grandfather/father to the ancestry matches provided, who was the same age as my grandmother and had lived on the island during the years she was raising a family. I could find nothing actually linking them though. They were married at the same time and he had two children to her four. Her oldest two, a son and daughter (<my mother) the exact same ages as his two, a son and daughter.
Becoming increasingly interested in connecting with one of these maternal side matches I went beyond the ancestry site and sent one young man in particular a Facebook message. He responded.
He wasn’t that much younger than myself and as luck would have it, he was indeed the grandson of the gentleman who piqued my interest. He was genuinely interested in figuring out the possible connection and we shared facts about our families with each other.
As we went down the highlight reel of our grandparents, who we both seemed equally enamored with, we finally met in a common place…Levittown.
In my own searches I had not found any thing connecting them to Levittown, but as it would turn out, in the early years of this young man’s grandfather’s marriage he did indeed live in Levittown. It was his first home with his wife and it is where his two children were born.
My newly discovered cousin through previously unknown dna, informed me he always remembered the name of the block his father had lived on the first few years of his life because it reminded him of the Beatles song, Abbey Road…though the street was actually Abbey Lane.
Abbey lane. Abbey lane as in the Abbey Lane I grew up on. The Abbey Lane my mother, aunt, and two uncles grew up on. The Abbey Lane where my grandmother and her GI husband bought their first home. The Abbey Lane where she spoke of bridge parties with neighbors. The Abbey Lane where my grandfather worked long hours as a policeman while my grandmother raised four children. The Abbey Lane where my grandparents had separate twin beds in their bedroom, like on I Love Lucy. The Abbey Lane where eventually my grandfather left my grandmother to raise four young teens alone and never looked back.
Which house on Abbey Lane was home to these future matches that now appeared as aunts, uncles, and cousins? The house across the street from my childhood home.
With this new information my aunt could no longer dismiss my suspicions. She became the Oprah Winfrey of ancestry dna tests…”you get a dna test”, “you get a dna test”…”everyone gets a dna test”….
As we awaited the results, results I had initially assumed would prove my mother also a match for the across the street neighbors and a half sibling to my aunt, something else began to take shape.
My P.I. partner (who I was now assumed to share an Irish grandfather with) and I continued to share old family photos. In these photos something could not be denied. His father and aunt, bore a striking resemblance not just to my mother, but to her siblings…my uncles and aunt.
Plot twist…dna results are in…Italian grandfather > you are NOT the father to ANY! Irish grandfather > they’re ALL yours!!
Granted this could never be officially proven in regard to my deceased Uncle Jimmy but, there are the pictures. The similarities between him and the boy of the exact same age from across the street are uncanny.
That family moved shortly after the birth of their daughter. Irish grandpa didn’t have anymore children within that marriage, but he certainly did with my grandmother. I guess whatever pulled them toward each other from across a street was strong enough to cross some towns for.
This is where the facts end. Anything beyond is pure speculation, though for myself it’s impossible not to imagine the scenarios in which this may have happened.
In my minds eye I see my young grandmother, a 1950’s housewife. She’s beautiful, she’s passionate with a bit of a wild streak. She loves music and dancing. She’s social. She wants to see the world. She yearns to get outside of herself.
Maybe her husband isn’t that nice. Maybe he works too much. Maybe she’s lonely.
The man across the street is handsome. He has a magnetic personality, this I know from what his grandson has told me and from what I can see in his pictures. They would have made a beautiful couple. They did make beautiful babies.
Maybe it all starts at a key party. Just a little swinging fun. The free love hippies of the sixties didn’t begin the sexual revolution. Happy little suburban neighborhoods just like Levittown were rumored to be swinging hubs.
Gentlemen drop your key in the bowl at the door. Ladies grab one on the way out and see who you’re going home with. All those bridge parties…hmmm. Urban legend or scandalous reality?! Who knows for certain…
Within the process of revealing all these wild truths, and entertaining possibilities that don’t seem quite as wild anymore, many of us close to this began digging deep into our memories. Looking for hints to help string the pieces of this love affair together. Moments that may have seemed insignificant in the past but now in this new light revealed themselves to have deeper meaning.
My aunt and I share a memory, hers a bit clearer than mine due to my young age, but it is there none the less. I’m in the living room. A man carries in a wooden rocking horse. It is a gift for me.
My aunt was there when this happened. She didn’t know the man or why he brought this beautiful rocking horse for me. I keep it my whole life. My children play on it. I still have it.
Could that have been…
I obviously don’t really know why or how their love began, nor do I know why or how it ended. I choose to believe it was love, again it’s just something I feel in my Irish bones.
After spanning all those years they later both ended up divorced. Why not finally be together…Make a real go of it. Perhaps he wanted to. The point where they would have been able to do just that, they would have been in their late forties. Still so much life ahead. Still youthful, vibrant beings. What had changed? What was she doing then…oh wait, she had been left with me.
Shortly after the time I received that rocking horse would have been when he moved to Florida. He settled down and remarried (side note > to his ex wife’s cousin, who I’m told kept a tight leash on him< you just can’t make this stuff up). Perhaps that gift was his goodbye.
One last bittersweet note worth mentioning, that helps support my romantic notions of ill fated star crossed lovers, is something my Abbey Lane offspring cross the street cousin remembered.
He told it to me like this…that on one of his last visits to Florida before Irish Grandpa passed away, he and his dad were taking him to lunch and on the drive something about Levittown came up and at that time he recalls he mentioned “Hope”. My new cousin was now aware “Hope” was my grandmother’s name.
He wrapped this up by sharing that while at this point (our) grandfather suffered from some dementia, Levittown and Hope, had not been forgotten….
Look at me digging up old bones. I’m sure some family members cringe at my confessional style blogging and perhaps my poor grandmother rolls in her grave upon realizing we’re all spitting in tubes and matching with old neighbors, revealing the secrets she thought she had safely carried with her.
I don’t do this to shame anyone though. I point no fingers. I know her a little bit more and in knowing her more, I love her all the more.
I don’t see the old woman, whom I believed to be so full of wisdom, who I thought had all the answers. I see a reckless wild child living with her choices. I see a vulnerable, and yes selfish, perfectly imperfect human just trying to stay the course on a twisted path. Mostly …I see myself.
I see myself, and I make a little wish…may the generations that come after me look upon my life of mistakes with a bit of kindness, compassion, and a whole lot of forgiveness. Remember, we’re all just doing our messed up best…
Air hugs to y’all, from this Irish girl with 2% Italian ☘️ 🇮🇹