Worth its weight in gold

I feel an added burden to blog tonight, simply to move that hideous Cinderella picture further down the page. :)

After braving torrential downpour, wind storms with only 50 feet of visibility, followed by more rain storms, I've safely returned. I won't say, "It's good to be back," since if you've read my blog for any lenth of time you'll know that I don't mind living out of a suitcase. I woke up this morning, thrilled that I was going to drive for 6 hours. (See earlier mention of audio books and lecture series.) But I do love home.

By the time I reached Jackson on Friday, I'd listened to Dennis Prager's show; Eats, Shoots and Leaves; took a break from intellectual topics to listen to the Schindler's List soundtrack; and practiced my French for a few hours after that. Among the beginning warm up phrases, my favorite had to have been, "Je suis américain." Close runner up, "Je ne suis pas français." (I'm currently working on, "And darn proud of it," to tag to the first statement.)

On the return trip, I listened to The Teaching Company lectures on C.S. Lewis and Classic Greek Mythology, practiced more French, listened to a sermon by Bishop Joseph Garlington on the favor of God (he's one of my favorite speakers that my church is fortunate enough to welcome a few times a year), and listened to a bit more music so as not to be too distracted while trying not to hydroplane through the Grapevine.

My primary reason for taking the trip was to visit friends who are expecting their first child. When I shared the details of my trip with my mother, she excitedly informed me that our Italian ancestors settled in Jackson when they first came from Italy, four generations ago. My first thought was, "Why the heck would you settle there?" That was, of course, before I saw how beautiful it was, remembered the whole Gold Rush thing, and realized it's still prime real estate for vineyards.

After learning that half of my family's heritage could be traced in this location, I decided it would be a great opportunity to research my geneology. My mom gave me a list of our family names and I called my friends to read off a few. To my surprise, they knew of a winery that bore one of our primary family names.

Sunday, my friends led me down Highway 49 (a stunningly beautiful stretch of land that puts English countrysides to shame) giving me a brief history lesson on the area while directing me to the vineyard of interest. We arrived at Charles Spinetta Winery one half hour before closing, which turned out to be perfect timing. The minute I mentioned my family background it turned into a fascinating exchange with the owners. I never anticipated how happy it would make me to find out more about my family, and I wish I could describe how exciting it was to hear Mrs. Spinetta mention our other family names in her conversation without me ever tipping her off that those were our names as well. It was my own hunt for buried treasure, so to speak.

After purchasing a bottle of "Heritage Red" (not just for the name, it was my favorite red), a Chenin Blanc and a dessert wine, I listened intently to the stories that were, that had to be, connected to my family. On my way out, Jim Spinetta (son of Charles) said he threw in a bottle of their family's red wine vinegar and when I went to shake his hand, he said, "Hey...we're family," and hugged me. That little detour was one of the most delightful experiences I've ever had.

That's a brief recap of the events of my weekend. I discovered I absolutely love long drives, asking questions and being Italian. I'm back to the daily grind now, making a trip to downtown L.A. tomorrow to process graduate apps and will be in Orange County on Wednesday to do the same. So, as of Thursday, things will be normal again.

Oh, who am I kidding?

Posted by Portia at February 28, 2006 12:13 AM | TrackBack

It was such a joy for me and Abe to see you find out more about your heritage. We had such a great time sharing that with you! Of course Abe got to enjoy it a little more with the free tasting and all...Hehe

Posted by: Kandice Hanes at February 28, 2006 09:51 AM

What's normal?

What a blessing to find family when you least expected it! Sounds like you are ready for a family reunion party, Italian style.

Posted by: MarcV at February 28, 2006 11:50 AM

Very cool, Em. I'm glad to hear your trip went well. Those serendipidous moments are the best, aren't they? Warm regards.

Posted by: Muzzy at February 28, 2006 12:27 PM