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  • Stay Connected with Loved Ones in Italy
    Like me, you're probably pining for days gone by with your Italian relatives and friends. Instead of accepting sadness, do something about it
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    In the top from left to right My boyfriend Antonio, cousins Flavia and Gigino In the bottom: My parents Pasquale and Regina Di Meglio
    DECEMBER 25, 2006 - My holiday was over before it started for everyone else. Right before Thanksgiving, my boyfriend Antonio traveled from Italy to the United States to be with me for one month. A week after he arrived, my cousins Gigino and Flavia joined us in the States for a three-week sojourn to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. It was truly the most wonderful time of year - at least for a little while. But what do you do when your Italian loved ones have to return home and you're left all alone? How do you keep in touch? How can you make this time of year special even when you're apart?

    The time I spent with three of my favorite Italians was magical. We were all roomies on the third floor of my parent's house in New Jersey. Along with my parents, we did lots of traveling - to Mount Holly, N.J., where I was giving a speech to Amici della Lingua Italiana, to Philadelphia for the day, and to Washington, D.C. for the weekend. Back at home in nearby New York, we saw the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall and the tree in Rockefeller Center, took a horse and buggy ride in Central Park, and said a prayer at the World Trade Center site. There were numerous parties and dinners with family and friends, times when the Italians could sample things like American cheeseburgers, New York cheesecake, filet mignon, and lobster. It was sometimes decadent, sometimes down home, and always fun.

    Now, it's all over. The third floor is empty and quiet. I sit here all alone. A dead house means I can finally get some work done again, but dead is dead. And I can't help but keep the television on because the silence makes the hole in my heart grow ever louder. But I learned a long time ago that life is too short to dwell on the negative or be sad. That's why I've decided to take action and do things to make me happier - and to help me reconnect with my Italian friends and family during this season and always.

    Distraction is the order of the day when you're missing people or feeling nostalgic. One way to embrace your memories in a positive way - and get your mind off missing people - is to create a scrapbook or photo album with all the pictures you gathered when you were together. You can also use your photos, especially the digital ones, to create a film replete with music, graphics, and special effects with programs like Windows Movie Maker. Antonio surprised me with one of these videos after his first trip to the States, and I still sometimes watch it when I need a pick me up. Sending, via snail mail, a brief note and a single photo to your friends and family means a lot. And it shows a touch of class.

    Investing in a $5 or $10 phone card will give you the chance to hear the voices of your loved ones. And if you pick up a Sprint card at Radio Shack, your card will likely last you a long time. Perhaps, one of your Italian friends will serenade you on the phone - "Tu scendi dalle stelle..." You never know what will spill out when you surprise someone with an unexpected call!

    Bake American cookies - from chocolate chip to gingerbread - and send a tin to Italy in the mail. Although most Italians prefer the country's own cuisine, they love to sample American favorites. If your friends and family are bakers, then maybe they'll send you some Italian biscotti in return. That would be a tasty tradition.

    By far, the most affordable - and easiest way - to reconnect with your Italian loved ones this holiday season is to say or write "I love you" or "Ti voglio bene." It's simple, short, and honest. That's just what I did on Christmas morning!

    For more information on Di Meglio, visit her Web site, www.francescadimeglio.com

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