Ciao Mama Italia!

Ciao Mama Italia!

Italy was everything I expected, wanted and needed! Going into the experience I knew that I was desperate for nature and the idea of a retreat was ideal. Visiting Italy had always been on my bucket list as far as I could remember. Before my brother or I were born, my mother spent years living in Italy and that is where she got the nickname: Baci, which everyone called her, friends and family alike. Her nieces and nephews called her Titi Baci and my daughter currently calls her Grandma Baci. I even have that name tattooed on my body, twice. In Italian, Baci means “kisses”. She was given the name by someone who I would later know as Big Judi.

I was excited to interview Big Judi for the interview project I’ve been working on and I knew I wanted to do so before visiting Italy. Big Judi came to my house the day before my flight. After noticing her marijuana socks, I asked her if she wanted to partake in any cannabis activities and with socks like those I was not surprised with her response.  We lit up and began talking about how and where she first met my mom. Shortly after getting started, Big Judi asked if it would be ok for her to lay down and a bit later Rick drove her home. The interview itself wasn’t as concentrated with information as I would have hoped but we promised to get together again so that she could share more. Before she left, she gifted me with a small white pillow that was used at my parent’s wedding. I am thrilled to have received this just before my own wedding and plan to use it as well.

Big Judi may not have shared much yet but she got my mind ready in a voicemail she left, just as I was boarding my plane. Take a listen…

I was traveling with my friend Patria. In addition to wanting this trip for very personal and self-involved reasons, I was also happy to have time to spend with Patria, outside of wedding planning which is currently running my life and is the topic of most conversations I have with people. I considered this trip, among many other things to be a pre-wedding-friend-honeymoon.

The flight was smooth, as I slept nearly the entire eight-hour direct flight to Rome. After landing, Patria and I met with the retreat coordinator‘s husband and daughter who we would then share the 3-hour drive with to the tiny town of Piobicco.

As we more closely approached our destination, I began noticing the hiking trails off the side of the road that led into the forest. My eyes swelled up, this was exactly it! I got excited that this was going to be my life for the next 10 days. There would be no other responsibilities of wedding planning, or picking up and dropping off my daughter: just me, nature, yoga, meditation and my best friend.

The way Tanya leads yoga is different than anyone else. She gives writing exercises, visualizations, breathing and stretching along with traditional yoga poses. When you work with Tanya you will get a full body, mind, and soul work out and I am stronger for it now. The things I worked on have led me to be gentler to myself and more supportive as a mother and soon to be wife.  

I am so happy that my path, which was always leading to Italy, crossed with Tanya’s and that I was invited to participate in this fantastic voyage!

Patria and I shared spacious accommodations with seven other ladies all from different walks of life. Each taught me something and lead to my overall experience. We spent a lot of our downtime discussing our childhoods, trauma and all the variables that shaped the women we are today. I have to admit I was taken back by the fact that many of these women who are somewhat older than I am still felt very impacted by their childhood. This brought me a sense of calm because it was then that I realized even if I don’t remember much of my mom, she raised me for eight crucial years, at a time when I was being shaped into the person I am today. This meant that I am effected by her whether I knew it, remembered it or not. I am comforted by this realization.

One of the most transformative parts was during a yoga session when I was reflecting on the things I’ve learned about my mom over the past year. So far I’ve interviewed my dad, who had a lover‘s perspective. My godmother, who had the perspective of a childhood friend. A woman who became close to my mom in the last years of her life and Big Judi who knew her somewhere in the middle and gave her the name Baci, which was a huge part of her identity. Here I was in Italy, where she lived for years and for the very first time I felt like I knew her and I missed her. Does it sound crazy that I never missed her before? I didn’t know her and I didn’t think I remembered her so how could I have missed a stranger? For years I was too afraid to engage in conversation about my mom because I was saving myself from deep sadness.  That served and protected me then and now I am ready to feel.

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Me & Mine

Me & Mine

In the summer of 2016, I was preparing to go on a shopping trip at BJ’s with a coworker for our Fourth of July BBQ.

Let’s call her L.

As we exited the company vehicle in the parking lot, she shared with me that she was sensing a female presence from the afterlife. It wasn’t until this moment that I knew my coworker was a Medium.

I’m skeptical of all things mystical. I believe that too often fraudulent people claim false abilities and prey on others who are in vulnerable or emotional positions.

But I didn’t ask for this contact. It was being presented to me.

We began discussing some of her other experiences in communicating with those who have passed on. She told me countless stories of their interactions while she was in museums, or near grave sites, where the dead often linger. We discussed high profile unsolved cases of which she was sure she knew the answers due to her abilities. L told me of how she never charges anyone to enlist her help. This put my mind at ease a bit and helped me to trust her more.

After telling L of those nearest to me who have died, she assumed the woman who was joining our shopping trip was either my mother or my grandmother. I clung to the idea of my mother trying to communicate with me and I needed to know more. I hadn’t after all, seen her since I was 8 when breast cancer put an end to her life.

BJ’s was too loud, L said. We should reconnect another time and do this in a setting where she could concentrate better and work at her full capacity. L was also moving across the country the following month. The clock was working against us.

The day before moving, in between her last minute errands, my fiance and I met with L in a park in the Bronx. We sat down at a bench amidst all the sounds of passing trains and traffic and the normal distractions of the boogie down. The setting was still not ideal but it would have to do.

We sat and I was asked to lead….. What questions did I have?

Shit. I wasn’t prepared.

I didn’t have any questions to ask, so L took over sharing with me things that my mother was sharing with her: Paint Jayda’s room pink and keep her into music- Jayda hates pink but loves to sing and plays the violin. My father was the love of her life- good to know. Name my next child Josephine- we’re hoping for a boy, but OK.Put her photograph back up on the wall- I had recently painted the walls in the room where my mother’s photo was hanging and hadn’t put her picture back up yet. This particular detail of our meeting intrigued me the most.

Before we parted ways, L told me that, my mother was hugging me and to expect a dream with her soon. I felt nothing and I so desperately want to feel my mother’s embrace. I was somewhat disappointed and confused by what was revealed to me as some of it had significance but not all of it.

When I returned home that evening, while looking through old pictures I saw and then remembered that the living room I grew up in with my mother, was pink. Was L really on to something here?

That day, I didn’t have any questions, but since that day I have many. Meeting with L prompted a drive in me to learn more about mother. Whether or not the encounter was truly authentic, I’ll never know but the consequent events have changed my life and that’s for sure. I decided to begin a research project by interviewing people who knew and loved my mother.

I first interviewed my mother’s childhood friend who is also my God Mother. Then I interviewed my dad, who was my mother’s ex-husband. Thirdly, I interviewed a close friend from my mother’s adulthood. I’m learning so much that I never knew I never knew!

I’m no longer afraid to confront my emotions while hearing the stories of a woman I barely got to know.  I’m excited to continue this project and I still have several more interviews to conduct. I don’t know what all will come of this. Blog posts? A book? We’ll see what I’m inspired to do once the research phase ends.

My mother lived in Italy for many years, pursuing her passion for acting and this August I will be visiting Italy for the first time so as you may imagine this trip holds great significance for me.

When my mother passed away, many including myself thought that I handled it well because I didn’t speak about it much but there are simply no words to match the pain in a little girl who loses her mother. This pain is now transforming into intrigue and appreciation…. stay tuned.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mommies and mother-figures, here and beyond

And I would like to wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to my own…

Yvonne Southerland

Yvonne Holder

Baci

Vonny

Mommy

(Baci is an Italian word which means Kisses and is pronounced “Bah-chee”)