On June 13th 2013 my brother, Tony Hatch, was in New York where he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. When I was a very young girl we would have regular family evenings with Tony playing the piano and the rest of us singing. (That’s me on top of the piano in the photo above.) Often on a Sunday we would travel to Bedforshire to my mother’s sister where other aunts, uncles and cousins would arrive and we would all sit round a huge dining room table (it was a full size snooker table with a cover on it) and eat roast dinner cooked on her Aga. I remember the delicious sticky meringues she made for dessert. Of course we were lucky to have a relation with a large enough room to accommodate us all. After lunch all the kids would pile out into the garden to play. I lost contact with my cousins for some years but I’m glad to report that more recently we have been in touch again.
I think the Italian family is still a very strong unit. I was chatting the other day to an English friend and we commented on the style of housing here where there are many large properties, old and new, divided into two or three apartments. Instead of being occupied by different families these apartments house different generations of the same family; ground floor grandparents, first floor parents and younger children, top floor married son/daughter and their family. I haven’t researched this but I don’t think families in the UK would take to this mode of living but here it works very well. Babysitters are on hand and there is always help for the older generation without having to call in too much in the way of home help or putting older relations into homes unless absolutely necessary. Of course, they don’t always live together in harmony!
The typical Italian family here in Le Marche live a very close knit life, coming together on Sundays for church and massive family meals in large restaurants or each others houses. Many Italians don’t move far from home, particularly in the rural areas, although that could be changing as these days there is a need to travel further afield for work. In my capacity as English teacher I am always amazed at how many cousins are at school together, sometimes six or seven in the same class of twenty students. This reinforces my belief that Italian families stay close together.
Our family are now spread all over the world, New York, Singapore, Wales, England and extended family in New Zealand and other far flung places, but I’m pleased to say that when we get together there’s always someone to pick up a guitar, play the piano or the harmonica and everyone joins in with a song or two. We enjoy big family meals too! Haven’t quite mastered the technique for the meringues though.