on Sun, Dec. 29, 2002
Australian cousins host a little bit of Italy
Carolyn Palmarella Matkowsky
In the cold
predawn of Dec. 27, 2001, I, along with my husband, college-student
son, and elderly father took the first mile of a journey that
would send us halfway around the world to Australia and our
heritage. A cousin from Arizona planned to meet us in Sydney.
postmarked Brisbane, Australia, had arrived a year earlier.
They began, "We are from Villa Magna, Chieti, Italy. Are
you from there?" My Palmarella grandparents emigrated to
the United States from Villa Magna. The letters included an
invitation to a family reunion in Melbourne, Australia, in January
cousins found our addresses by searching the Internet for anyone
named Palmarella. Modern technology connected two New-World
branches of an old European family.
to see some of Australia before the reunion. After a layover
in Los Angeles, we boarded an Air New Zealand jetliner for the
14-hour flight to Sydney. Despite the length of the flight,
we slept well and arrived in Sydney refreshed.
a vibrant, exciting, beautiful city. We toured the famous Sydney
Harbor by boat and partied with other revelers on New Year's
Eve at the historic Rocks. We rang in 2002 watching fireworks
under Sydney Bridge with a few million others.
we flew to tropical Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. The clear,
aquamarine waters of the reef are beyond awesome. My husband
and son went snorkeling and scuba diving. I viewed the breathtaking
underwater beauty from a small submarine.
the day we had spent a year planning for arrived. We arrived
in Melbourne and cousins met us at the airport. After months
of phone calls and e-mails, we felt as if we'd known them all
5, we attended the reunion with 140 of our Palmarella relatives,
progeny of my grandfather's brother's 16 children. The party
was held at an Italian club in Melbourne, and for a few hours
we were in Italy. We ate scrumptious food, drank Italian wine,
laughed, talked, and danced the tarantella.
proud of his Italian heritage, cried as he studied the display
board filled with pictures of relatives on three continents
and a family tree that went back generations.
next three days, we got to know our new family as we picnicked
with them, saw a golf course where kangaroos roamed free, and
toured the wild and beautiful beaches of Melbourne. The stark
beauty of the rocks and cliffs left us speechless, but the best
part was getting to know and love our Australian family.
brought us to a fascinating country and proud, warm people who
will always be part of our lives. It also made me appreciate
the love and sacrifice of those who left the country of their
ancestors so long ago so their children and grandchildren would
find happiness and opportunity in the new lands of America and
Carolyn Palmarella Matkowsky may occasionally
dance the tarantella at her Wilmington home.