Growing up in New England, most of the Italians I knew were from Sicily, Calabria, Abruzzo, Naples. For all sorts of reasons, Italian-Americans from the South tended to settle in the Northeast. Meanwhile, my family, on both sides, came from the North...Piacenza and the hill towns around Tortona in Piemonte. Somehow, we ended up in Connecticut.
So it wasn't until I was in my mid-twenties that I met another Traverso who wasn't a direct relative. It was a snowy night at a dinner party in Boston, and she was from Argentina. My family tells a story about my great-grandmother Severina who came to this country via Geona. There were two boats at that port the day she left: one heading to New York, the other to Buenos Aires. Severina chose New York and made her way to Plymouth, Massachusetts where she cooked for the men who were digging the Cape Cod Canal. After she had saved up enough money, she went back to Italy to retrieve her husband and three sons. Perhaps that Argentine woman and I were long-lost cousins, but her great-grandmother had taken the other boat.
Anyway, I digress. My point is: no Traversos. So you can imagine my delight when I learned that there was a semi-famous Italian specialty market in Santa Rosa with my very same name. In fact, people have often said, upon meeting me, "Oh, Traverso as in Traverso's?" No, I didn't think so, I said, but inside I felt the thrill of belonging, if only by association.
I finally stopped by the shop a few weeks ago. The store has been open since 1922, and is run by George Traverso and his son Michael, who represent the 3rd and 4th generations, respectively. We compared family histories enough to determine that we're not cousins, though their ancestors came from an area near Genoa and did live in Hartford for a brief period. But we had a nice chat, and they gave me a cap and a t-shirt to take home. I like to put on the shirt and dance around Scott shouting, "Traversos rule the world!"
I have to admit, though: I was hoping to find a relation. In my heart of hearts, I wanted cousins and uncles and Sunday dinners. In our family line, I'm the last Traverso. The ranks have thinned on the east coast...wouldn't it be nice to find a batch of long-lost relations out here? Instead, I went looking for family and all I got was a t-shirt.
But it's a nice shirt. And the fact is, I have a big family. It's just made up of Kirsners and Vogels and Roehls and Clios now. "Resisting change doesn't recapture the past," as the saying goes. "It loses the future."