And now, dual citizenship.
Nothing is a mistake. You may think, ohhhhhhh! Ana went to Naples to learn about Neapolitan pizza, when the truth is the gods have the deck stacked in my favor for an adventure of another kind.
I am the only member of my immediate family that has original Italian documents, whether military, baptism, death certificates, and a short biography written by my grandfather Joseph, that while I had perused them in the past they had no meaning for me. Why? Given to me by my now dead aunt who insisted I get them because she knew something I didn’t. When I was about eight I tried to teach myself Italian and still remember CH=k as in Chianti, and GLI is pronounced in a thick-tongued drunk “glee.” And I’m the one who insists my name be pronounced properly: Gagliardi, guile-YAR-dee, say it fast, like chef BoyYARdee
Six months ago I was aimlessly wandering around the American southwest when I had an accident that sling-shot me across the great blue divide, plopping me down not only in the country of my great grandpa’s birth, Italy, but the exact city, Naples, and zone, Chaia. Go figure Batman.
And I am in love with Naples from the disparate garbage, the myriad styles and varieties of dog poop, a heart dropping sea coast, the mad mad pace of its citizens, from how they walk almost as fast as I, to the manner in which they park cars and scooters.
Back in the day, when the Ukranian Village of Chicago was cool, I had a 1990 Honda Civic that had been given me after being parked in a garage for years. My former mother-in-law put merely 69,000 miles on it. If you’re familiar with that decade of Civics you’ll know its a small car, so small that I never stopped believing it had been stolen every time I parked it. To return from shopping into a sea of cars, frantic , doing dog-turns, I’d find it hidden behind a perfectly tiny economy car. Every time. It’s diminutiveness was a bonus. No parking spots? I’d shimmy into a minuscule hole bumper-carring until it fit.
When I drove it to Tennessee to see my nephews, teens on the brink of driving, they were fascinated by the car, especially the license plate. “Why is your license plate flattened aunty Ana?” Well, that’s because I park the nose under the back bumper of an oversize (illegally-parked) dump truck in front of my flat.” Nuh-Ugh!” Oh yes I do! Every night, all winter long that truck was parked in front of my apartment building and never moved, (also never ticketed…because the building was owned by a cop). In my mind, that was my legitimate parking space so I cozied up under the truck while the guys who owned it, (and worked illegally next door), watched. This is how I know I’m Neapolitan. Audacity. Ownership. FUCK you lookin’ at?
It’s in my blood.
My DNA results show I’m 48% Italian, specifically from the areas of Salerno and Cosenza, south of Naples. I am a product of blue skies, sea coasts, talking hands, and rugged landscapes. No wonder California failed to lure me in, same-ish but not same AT ALL. Why Rome and Florence bore me. They’re not Naples. Napoli, the only thing I’ve ever wanted in my life. Everything else has been pratfalls until now. This is the real deal, I am eligible for dual citizenship and will walk you through the treacherous journey. Treacherous, as the only thing that stands between me and citizenship, is proving that my great grandfather did not naturalize, of which I am 99.99% sure he did not. And then securing antique documents, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates with apostilles-notarized for Italy- and hoping the lady at the Italian citizenship office is having a really, really good day.
Walk with me.
*Honda Civics of a certain era were very desirable. I was approached several times by someone offering to buy it. My favorite mechanic explained, also a Civic junkie, the car gets stripped of seats and extra weight, rebuilt with a sick new engine and is transformed into a little racing beast. I know. I went to Michigan to watch him race his. Fun!
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