Thursday, November 4, 2010

All Souls Day

Tuesday, Nov. 2nd was the feast of All Souls Day.  It is a day to remember all those who have died and who we love and miss.  We had a special service at church that night and it was beautiful.  We said the names of those we were remembering and also later in the service they sang the names of those who have died this year and after each name we asked them to pray for us.  That was so powerful to me because I know my parents are in heaven but I never thought to ask them to pray for me.  How blessed we are!! As I prayed for mom when she was here now she can pray for me while she is with our Lord.  I know this is not my usual posting but I wanted everyone to know that in our sorrow there is also joy.  God bless and ciao.  Love Maria. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Copper Pots

I know I am long overdue but what can I say, things must get done and you can't always sit at the computer.  I was cleaning our Florida room the other day, washing the doors, cleaning away the cobwebs and washing the floor, in order to get it ready for bringing in all of mama's tropical plants.   You see my mother had a green thumb and could grow anything.  She had grown every boxwood on our farm from cuttings from the original 2 boxwoods.  People would throughout bushes and mom would bring them home, plant them and by the next year they were beautiful.  So back to the florida room, every year the plants go outside in the spring and back inside in the fall before the first frost.  It is quite an undertaking and I always teased her and called it the jungle when all was done.  One year I even got her a monkey to hang from one of her hibiscus trees.  This year I am doing it alone in the quiet,  thinking of all the wonderful things mom had taught me.  She taught us to work hard so I cleaned the room and the pots and cleared away all the dead from the plants.  I was cleaning her copper buckets which hold plants when I remembered her telling me about carrying water in those buckets.  There was a well in the center of town and mom would carry these buckets on a yoke across her shoulders from town to home.  You can see where the handles have worn the hole in an unusual pattern.  She must have been very strong at a young age.  Then I thank God that we have running water, and realize how blessed we really are.  I also remember her telling me about the copper cake pans that hang in our kitchen. During the war her grandmother and aunt took them out and buried them in the garden so the Germans could not take them for ammunition.  If they saw something that could be used for the soldiers or melted down for bullets they just took it. These would be a few of the things to survive the war.  Who would have thought cleaning some windows and copper pots would fill me with so many emotions and thoughts.  What used to be a chore now became an expression of my love for her and all her hard work.  She always wanted her plants in a particular place and sometimes we would argue about what should go where, boy did I miss that, so I hope she likes where I put everything!. I will post a photo of that cake pan later.  You can see the holes where it is worn away, mama said they were bullet holes but I think it was just worn.  Peace to all, ciao, Maria

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall Party

Well it is that wonderful time of year.  When the air gets crisp and cool and everyone loves sitting outside, and you feel like you have a little slice of heaven around you but it wasn't meant to be a cool fall day but a hot as all get out day this weekend.  Hot and dry with dust kicking up with every step, but it ended up being a beautiful day as the bright orange sun set, and a little breeze picked up and cooled everyone off.  See, my brother has been putting on this end of the summer party every year for 17 years. The year it started it was for my sister's Tina,  wedding party.  Mom loved having people over and showing off her gardens and flowers.  There is usually a bunch of kids running around and we give hayrides and have live music, and oh yeah a ton of food.  My heart wasn't in it this year at first and I really didn't want to do it but my brother Art said we needed to do it.  He was right, it was good being with friends and I could feel mom was there.  Her roses looked great and she would have loved giving tours of her flowers.  All in all, I think everyone had a good time even though we all felt there was a little empty place.  Here's to a cool breeze in your face and the sweet smell of  sundried laundry.  Hope you have a great day, Ciao, Maria

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oh well, learning is hard

I am sorry but I don't know how I moved the stories around.  So you will have to figure it out.  I am really enjoying this blogging thing.  I hope you all have enjoyed reading, and I am trying to go back and edit my typos and my grammar.  It has been a long time since I have written anything, but I feel this is good for me.  Today I have been listening to my tapes of mama and I when we went to Italy and France.  I had a dear friend give me a small hand held tape recorder and tapes, so when I would remember, I would tape mama and her family.    My favorite tape was in Venice after we had been out all night and she was lying in the bed telling me stories of her youth and her grandmother.  I hope all of you leave memories and stories of your family for your children and grandchildren.  One day they will want to know and you won't be there to tell them.  Have a blessed day and ciao, Maria

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mom's childhood

As I had written earlier, mom's childhood was simple and filled with much love from 2 older women, whom she believed everything they told her.  I remember her talking about having to wash dishes at an early age, she said 5, and they made her a stool to stand on so she could reach the sink.  She also told funny stories like how the old women had underwear with a slit in them, so as they walked back and forth to town they could just go to the side of the road to tinkle.  The dresses were long so no one could see anything.  The reason she told me this was we were up in the attic looking through things and I came across these big white pair of  bloomers with the hole in them.  We laughed afterwards just thinking about it.  She talked about harvesting grapes and making wine in the fall, and we even grew our own grapes here on the farm, but I don't remember making wine, she always made jelly.    As I said my mother was fluent in french and italian so when she went to school she was asked to help tutor the other children in french, thus earning the nickname "Frenchie".  She herself would take German and this would come to play a vital role in her later years.  Nights were spent around the fire and there was a kerosene lamp, which we still have, sewing and saying prayers, telling stories.  My mother said that her grandmother could knit a sweater in one night.  She said those needles clicked so fast you could almost see sparks.  She did all of this without a pattern.  Mom also picked up this skill, I remember her knitting socks while in the hospital after having surgery.  She also was an expert seamstress, sewing all our clothes, including coats, formals, and bridesmaids dresses.  Her mother was a seamstress, sewing clothes for many of the rich and royalty of Europe.  Of course I can barely sew a button on but oh well that's life.!!
      Mom got rheumatic fever at some time in those early years.  She said the house was on quarantine and no one could come in and Nonna Maria and Aunt Ida could not leave.  It left an impression with my mother because she said they never left her bedside.  I guess this is part of the reason mom was always helping people who were sick, trying to make them feel better.  She not only went to their homes but brought them here to the farm.  So it is only fitting that 2 of us are nurses.  I guess she has passed that on.
I wish I knew more about her younger days, and I'm sure as I go through more things I hope to find more.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Some more photos

My sassy mom on a fishing trip with my dad.  Not sure where this was taken.
My dad is the one on the right.  I always thought he looked like James Dean.

True Love

My parents on their wedding day.
    As promised, a love story.   Now my sister and I remember different versions of this story but the basics are the same.  Mom had been invited out for dinner at a friends house, for her birthday.  They had  a good time and it was late when everyone left.  Mama decided to walk home so she headed out and of course it was already dark outside.  Well there was a curfew in place to limit black market dealings. A lot of times it was an exchange, for example I will give you american toilet paper and you give me fresh meat from the market.  My mom actually did this with a neighbor friend years later.  We are so used to having everything at our disposal that I think it is hard to comprehend not having toilet paper, or bread or meat.  Well back to the story, mama was walking home and up comes the GI in a jeep and pulls over and stops my mother.  He checked her papers and wanted to know what she was doing out so late, my mother told him about the party and what happened.  Then he wanted to know where she lived, saying he would take her home but my mother did not want him to know where she lived and would not tell him.  Well he lets her go and mom goes home and thinks everything is over with.  The next morning a delivery arrives, I can't remember what he sent and that was the beginning of their years together. My dad Arthur L. Sage was the MP who pulled my mother over.  We always told people my dad arrested my mom for their first date.    They courted for a while and were married May 28th 1949, once mom passed all the requirements of the Army.  You see, you couldn't just get married, they made sure mom was in good health, she had to get papers from her home town, and I believe this is when mom found her family again.  Mom said dad was so giving and sweet.  He had a gentle spirit and loving sharing his candy and rations with the children in the area.  Daddy adopted my older sister and from that point on she was his daughter.  We never knew she was adopted until we were all older.  I know their early years of marriage were filled with happiness.  Mom even cooked her reception dinner and they filled the bathtub with ice and beer and drinks.  See after going through everything in the war, they knew what was really important was spending time with friends, and they didn't have a lot either.  Mama's wedding suit was sent to her from daddy's mom, June, we called her Meme(pronounced maymay).   
My parents at their party.
Well there is the wedding day.  But I think there will be more to come.  My parents gave us so many lessons in life.  Neither one of them spoke much about the war or the things that they had done.  They felt they were just doing what needed to be done and  I often wonder if I would have done the same.  My dad went in the service before he was 18, he was in Africa and contracted malaria.  He then went up through Italy and into Germany.  He received two bronze stars, which we didn't know about until after he died.  So I think it is important not only for us to learn from those who have gone before us but also for us to pass on our stories to our children.  Each family has something special to offer.  Enjoy your family and friends, God Bless.  Ciao, Maria 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A fall day

    Today has been a bitter sweet day.  It was beautiful outside and I have been working in mama's flower beds.  It was a perfect day to work in the yard.  Then just when I am close to being done, and I am pruning the Chinese maple I remember the last time I pruned it.  Mom would take her cane and pull a branch down with the hook of the cane and I would cut where she told me to cut.  We laughed and at first when I remembered I laughed but then the tears came thinking about all she had done and how all of the beauty around me was because she had worked so hard fixing these flower beds.  She had such a green thumb, she could make anything grow.   Many of the boxwoods we have here, as a matter of fact all but two, were started by cuttings that my mother would then nurse into bushes.  Everywhere I look inside and out my mother is there and it makes me happy but it also makes my heart break.  I thought being older would make this easier but I see it is never easy to loose someone you love, especially your mom.
Spring time on the farm.  See all the boxwoods. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Enough sadness,  mom was liberated on Easter Sunday, 1945 by the "good looking Americans and they  looked like angels without wings".  Mom weighed approximately 85lbs "soaking wet"she would say.  She said at first she couldn't eat, everything the soldiers would give her made her sick.  In time and slowly mom was able to keep food down without getting sick.  Times were very different then and it took years for families to get in touch with each other.  This was the hardest part for me to understand, why mom didn't just go straight back to Italy.  But there were no phones, no cars you couldn't just go where you wanted because of curfews and shortages.  Mom tried to find her mother through the Red Cross and they told her she was dead and everyone in the house, she would later find out it was her oldest sister Elizabeth and her husband and children who were killed in a bombing.  So at first mom thought she was alone, until she met her high school sweetheart.  I don't know why he was in Germany but they quickly fell in love and got married by the Justice of the Peace, planning on going home later to get married in the church which was considered the real marriage back in that time.  Giovanni was a cute fellow with curly dark hair, and mom said he was very sweet.  Mama got pregnant right away and 3 months later he was killed by a bomb that had not gone off during the war.  I can't imagine the sorrow my mother must have felt.  To live through the horrors of war, to find a little happiness and then it be taken away.   Mama had my sister in the convent in Germany, because his mother would not accept their marriage as legal and so would not accept mom into the family.  I can't imagine the sadness or loneliness she must have felt.  But she said the sisters took her in and helped her get back on her feet.  Now time moves forward and mom was in Bayreuth, Germany working for the French consulate as a translator. She rented a apartment with a friend and had my sister with her.  Now that handsome American soldier will come into the story but you will have to wait for that post.  Ciao, Maria

Mama's hands

I know I talked  about mama's hands, so here they are holding her great grand-daughter Sage.  Hope everyone has a blessed day. Ciao Maria

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mom's time alone.

I think I ended with mom being picked up outside of church.  When we traveled back to Italy I got to go in that church and stand on those steps.  It gave me a feeling of stepping back in time.  It was a beautiful church and I could just imagine her coming out and the German soldiers grabbing her by the arm.  I am sure she was scared but I know my mom had a quick wit and she was smart enough to convince them to let her live, because if they did not believe her it was certain death.  Mom also talked about her ride in the train for the first time.  They were loaded into cattle cars with just what she had on.  She had slipped her identification papers into her good Sunday shoes.  She said some of the cattle cars went to work camps and some went to the death camps.  She said she was lucky hers went to the work camp.  Mama only told us bits and pieces, she never talked a lot about it.  I am sure it just brought everything back, all the cold and unbelievable actions that people can do to each other.   I know they were in a big camp and they would take them out to build and fix roads and any other manual labor they needed done.  The thing my mother talked the most about was when she would be sent to work for a German Lady at her farm. She was kept in a room(if you want to call it a room) the size of a refrigerator.  That is were she slept.  They would often be fed the potato peelings and pig slop.  She said it was years before she could eat potatoes again, but it turned out to be one of her favorite things before she died.  She had to chop wood, one time she said she wasn't chopping fast enough and the woman beat her hands with a stick.  She said in the winter when it was so cold outside an older woman taught her to pass her urine over her hands to help warm them up.  Needless to say her hands worked hard but I remember them as being so pretty, holding your hand, fixing dinner, making flower arrangements, wiping away tears, fixing  our cuts and scrapes, and she loved getting her nails done!!  It was her last outing before she died, was to get her nails done!  Big change from having to pee on them to keep them warm.  
      There was a Polish man who also was working on the farm as a prisoner.  The Germans did not discriminate about taking prisoners.  Mama said she kept loosing weight and getting skinnier and this Polish guy kept looking pretty good.  So one day she asked him what he did and he quietly took her into the barn and unwrapped two eggs he had snuck out from the hen house.  Now if they got caught they would be beaten at the least.  So he takes one egg and eats it raw!!
Then he gives my mother one to take.  She takes the egg and swallows and proceeds to get sick.  She said she got so ill.  He also could milk the cow squirting one teat in the bucket and the other in his mouth.  She said the prisoners tried to look out for each other.  She also remembered one morning at the big camp where she woke up and she said half of the camp had died or was dying.  She did not know what they had.  She did say there were kind people also on the outside.  She remembered an instance when a German girl gave her a slice of bread through the fence.  Someone must have seen it because she did not come back.  To me the hardest thing is to believe that we human beings put on this earth by one God, would do such horrible things to each other.  It makes me cry.  The other amazing thing about this is that my mother went through all this and maintained a sense of humor and a love for life and was able to pass that on to us, her children.  Well now I can't tell you the farmer's name because what mom called her I can't put here!!
But I guess she's allowed.  I just thought of another funny thing, I know mom was taught by the underground how to fight, so when I started dating my mother gave the lessons on what to do if a boy tries to get too frisky.  The other funny story that is related is after my day passed away a friend of mine fixed mom up with this fellow.  Well his son had a bread truck so he would bring bread up when he came to visit mom.  This went on for a couple of months.  Well I noticed that the "bread man" hadn't been around in a while and I asked mom what happened.  She said "He never took me anywhere, he always wanted to stay here!  I didn't give it away for bread during the war and I am not giving it away for bread now!!.  Well we laughed till we had tears.  I am sure there is more to mom's time in camp than I have but like I said she kept most of it to herself.  Ciao, Maria

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just a quick note.

I thought I was doing this to help my grieving and found out I am doing it more to honor my mother and my father who were strong, loving and brave people.  I want my children and grandchildren and generations to come to know their story.  I feel so blessed to have had two awesome and loving parents.  I am not saying we didn't have our differences but I now know as an adult what a great gift they were to us.  I hope the day will come when I don't cry but I just laugh and smile thinking of them, but it hasn't happened yet.  I did make it to the cemetery to put those flowers and some pumpkins, its fall you know and mom loved to decorate! Next I'll have to get a little Italian flag and a little American flag for their spot.  She loved Italy but she loved America more.  She was very proud of this country and of the military who serve us so well.  Ciao, God bless, Maria

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time moves on.

     It's funny this grieving thing, just when you think you are doing ok all of a sudden out of nowhere there you are crying in a store because something reminded you of your loved one.  Mom loved Christmas and decorating and as we all know the stores put stuff out sooner and sooner.  Well I went out to get some flowers for the cemetery and there is the christmas village staring me down, and I see the cutest little addition to mom's village and that is all it took.  I then spent 10 minutes walking around Micheals not looking at anyone or anything, trying to get it together so I could check out.  Well I now have what is called the trash bandits, little raccoons going through trash cans for mom's village scene.  I know she had to be laughing at me.  Well as promised here are some more pictures of mom.  First is the picture of mom with her sister Elizabeth and her little brother Joseph.
      The next photo is of my great grandmother Maria, or Nonna Maria who so lovingly raised my mother.  She was 90 in this picture which was taken in March of 1942, just before my mother would be taken away to Labor Camp.
      And the photo that is left is my mother and her older brother John.  They were close because I think John was in Italy alot, although my mother was close to all her siblings.   Just as life moves on so must this story, so here goes.  When mom was little, Italy had a King and Queen.  Then came Mussolini which many Italians felt that he did a lot of good for the country until he got involved with Hitler.  Check out your history!!  He did a lot to improve the infrastructure of Italy and people felt he was improving the country and their lives.  As we know Europe was involved in the war long before America got involved.
Germany was taking over countries and working its way through all of Europe.  Germany and Italy had signed the Pact of Steel, thus making Italy partners with Germany.  Much of the information I now give you was researched by my wonderful sister-in-law, Lydia, who came down and interviewed mom and wrote a paper on La Resistenza.  Mama turned 15 in 1940 and at this point the Germans were present in Italy, trying to use the resources they had to further the war effort.  Mom was approached by the Partigiani, the underground, to help them with translating messages.  She did not fully understand the danger or risk she would be taking at first, but she continued with it because of her love of Italy and their love for the people they were helping.  So my mother had a code name, V14.  Mama would translate communications that would enable the Partigiani to rescue and regroup allied soldiers or get others to safe havens such as Jews, Italian or German soldiers who were facing persecution.  Everything was done in secrecy so mom kept her full time job which was working at a bank during the week.  It seems funny that someone would be working full time at 15! and put there life at risk on the weekend to help others!  On weekends she would ride her bike 13 kilometers north to her uncle's house, stash her bike and be picked up by someone, often in a German jeep, once even wearing a German uniform.  Because there were many civilians working for the Germans no one ever questioned it.  They would drive far into the mountains then travel by foot until they reached a cave.  This is where their communication equipment was hidden.  There she would work until returning home Sunday night after dark.  Her work involved providing communications regarding times and places that were arranged to enable her group to secretly handoff anyone needing help to the next group along the way.  Although mama  was not directly involved in the movement of people there were two occasions where she did assist getting help from the Partigiani.
Mama around the age of 15 or 16. Isn't she beautiful
      One day mama came upon 2 British soldiers with their parachute in a corn field.  She helped hide them and get them help.  To express their gratitude they gave her their parachutes, which mom and her friends quickly cut up into blouses.  Nothing goes to waste!!  She was crafty.  On another occasion a German Jew showed up at her grandmother's back door.  They hid him in the garden until she could get him into the hands of the Partigiani.  This was typical of what would happen.  Someone would come upon someone who needed help and they would hide them in gardens, sheds, barns, hayfields, until arrangements could be made for a partisan to meet them.  Because everything was done in secrecy mama did not know the names of the people she worked with or the people she rescued.  There was another woman who worked with the Partigiani but she was shot by the Germans before 1942.  Mama was taken in for interrogation in 1942, turned in by someone in her town(she never knew who).  She convinced the Germans that she did not speak German and I believe God was looking out for her.  She had been picked up coming out of church on Sunday morning after Mass.  Never to see her grandmother again, she would die while mama was in camp.  Mama was sent on a cattle car to Germarode work camp where our story will pick up.  Mama never talked alot about her experiences.  She believed still to this day that it could bring harm to someone.  I am so grateful to Lydia who was able to record so much of this information that we would never have known. It is so important for us to talk to those who have gone before us, they have so much information if we would just ask!  This last photo is of mama not long before she was taken away to camp.  I am so lucky to have so many photos>  Ciao for now, Maria

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Follow up

I am still learning so that was published prematurely but I wanted to say what a great amount of love and laughter must have been in that home for mom to have been the woman and mother she was.  She always had a sense of humor and always told us that no matter how bad things may be for us there is always someone worse than ourselves.  More photos to come but I must get up from here.  Next will be the war days and mom's whole world changes, more than many of us can comprehend.  Ciao and hope to get the next one in quicker.  Maria

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My grandparents marker at the cemetary in Tricesimo and mom on our visit in May of 2004 to her home town.  We had a great time.
Mama's mother was french, Elisabetta Hiessler, from the Lile region and her father was Italian, Giuseppe Driussi, from north Italy, Tricesimo ( I checked the spelling this time).  My mother was born in her father's home because it was his wish.  My grandfather Giuseppe was wounded in WWI and had a piece of shrapnel near his heart. It was his wish that mama be raised is Italy.  My grandparents had business in the north of France so they would travel back and forth but towards the end of my grandfather's life he had to stay in Italy due to his illness.  I remember mama telling me that he died when she was 4 or 5 and she then would be brought to live with her paternal grandmother, Maria, and her aunt Ida.  They would be the strong influence in my mother's life.  I remember going to see her home but most of it had been destroyed during the earth quake in the 70's I believe.  My mother was fluent in french and italian and the age of 5 and even spoke the dialect of the area called friulong(not sure of spelling).  Unfortunately for us our mother was trying so hard to learn english, none of us could speak her other languages.  That is one thing I am sorry about, that I am not more fluent in either language.
       My mother's grandmother and aunt were independent and even though they were older they seemed to enjoy teaching my mother how to cook, sew, knit, needle work, also working in the garden and cleaning.  Anything that needed to be done to survive and run the household.  I remember mom telling me that a woman must be able to do everything.  Never to rely on a man, because you never know when you will need to do it yourself.  She was way ahead of the conventional thinking of the time.  Nonna Maria and Ida also had a strong sense of faith, mama said they never missed daily Mass and mama was active in the choir.  So in this wonderful setting of life in the foothills of the Alps my mom grew up.  She was loved and cared for but also taught to work hard to get ahead in life.  She learned to share what she had with others even though no one had much.  One of her girlfriends remembered her on our visit to Italy, now this was 50 years later, and she was talking about how my mother shared her money, it was ten cents so she could get an ice cream cone.  This is what they did after church on Sunday, the kids would all walk together home and on the way get ice cream.  I am sorry our kids now do not have this wonderful time to walk together and just enjoy being together.  I asked mom what games they played, and her favorite was jack rocks.  They didn't have jacks but would play the same game using pebbles in the road.  Now there some imagination.  Well got to get some work done.  Till next time, ciao, Maria

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nonna's story, the beginning

I'm not sure about blogging but I felt I needed to get the story out about the awesome lady who was my mom.  Mom died one month ago on August 7th at 1am.  My sister, Tina, and myself were with here and we both felt very blessed to have been with her that last week.  It was not only a gift to take care of her but it was a gift to us to have that time and remember the funny times.   Mom was a strong and powerful woman and you always knew where you stood with her.  She was born on Valentine's day 1925 so she was named Barbara Valentina Driussi.  The next to the youngest of 6, she was born at home in the little village of Tricessimo (I will have to check on the spelling) in the Udine region of Italy.  I was so fortunate to have gone there with mom 6 years ago and it was so beautiful I cried when we got out of the taxi.  It was breath taking with the Alps all around.  I couldn't believe she left  there.  But that part of the story comes later.  Here's to all mom's friends who knew and loved here.  Thanks and more to come tomorrow.  I hope I will do her justice because she was so much more than anyone could have guessed.