My Birthday Week – A National Holliday
Written by Bianca Ghikas June 9, 2020
This particular week is a very special week to me, it brings so many memories of events that will forever be a part of who I am. Lets begin by saying that this week is my birthday week, and I have always known that my birthday was a very special one, which is actually confirmed in the book “The Secret Language of Birthdays” by Gary Goldschneider and Joost Elffers. According to them, those born on June 11 are incredibly special and different Gemini.
The day I was born, namely June 11, 1950, was an incredibly special one for my dad’s side of the family. Dad was the only surviving male child and the youngest of four siblings (his younger sister was 9 years his senior); being the Benjamin and the only male it was a given that he was the favorite. Of course when this adorable baby was born to him and his gorgeous Italian bride, she became the first female grandchild born into the Ghikas family (dad’s sisters had only male children) in this first generations of Ghikas born in Athens, Greece. Therefore, spoiling me was the main purpose of my giagia (grandma) and the rest of the family.
The following year dad’s younger sister Sassa gave birth to another boy, and just fourteen months after my birth another adorable little girl to spoil was born, my sister. By now they had their hands full. However, it did not last long, and nine months later we were leaving for Colombia, South America (where mom’s immediate family was living). As it became common practice in later years, we stopped at Napoli, Italy for a few weeks every time we would travel to and from South America.
In Napoli of course we had to be with mom’s maternal grandmother, nonna Clelia in Giugliano in Campania, quite close to Napoli. Her house was over 400 years old, built as a summer home for our Cerqua ancestors, a well to do aristocratic family comprised mostly of high-ranking military men, lawyers, Judges, and doctors. I remember the way that house used to be, although I never got to see it in its full glory. You entered from a huge tall door, over a story high and approximately 3 meters wide (it was so big because they had to enter with their carriage drawn horses. At the entrance there was a huge fountain in the middle of the cortile, surrounded by many rooms, that in the older days were the service quarters. The house was a huge rectangle; to the left an incredible staircase with the railings plated in gold and the walls around it made by maiolica ceramics; arriving at the main floor, to the right, was the formal living groom, where we as little tots, were not allowed to enter; then my great grandfather’s office, it was huge with incredibly huge furniture; the desk was solid oak and massive, but what I do remember the most about this office, is my great grandfather’s butterfly collection in a frame over his desk, and a Gold plated frame with his portrait. The second living room followed and had a rectangular mirror with a donkey at each end that when you stood in the middle it said “Siamo tre,” meaning “We are three” (lol). In this room there was the third piano which was the only one that my sister and I were allowed to play with. A few bedrooms followed, and at the other end of the rectangle, there was a huge dining room; turn once more, additional rooms and bathrooms, and finally the kitchen with a wood burning and charcoal oven. All the rooms were connected with each other through huge doors, and there was a balcony all around from which you could see the downstairs fountain.
The street was named Vico Cerqua because our forefathers brought electricity as soon as it was available in Italy.
My mom was the first child born in Italy and because of it was named Italia Maria. Her first four siblings were born in Colombia (her father was a successful businessman and run imports and exports between Italy and Colombia), and another four children were born in Italy thereafter. Mom was a very spirited child and adored her maternal grandparents and spent long periods of time with them. Needless to say, she was the favorite granddaughter. She had attended two schools, one in Secondigliano where she lived with her family, and another one in Giugliano in Campania during her long staying periods with her grandparents. My maternal grandmother Bianca was the first born in the Cerqua Ventriglia family, but she unfortunately died around the end of WWII. I was baptised Bianca Maria because I was the first granddaughter born after her death. To make a long story short, Italia was a favorite granddaughter and of course her daughters (us) became the predilect granddaughters.
Between the families in Greece and Italy, we became not only the favorites but spoiled rotten with love as well. Thereby, our birthdays became a “National Holliday” and because I was the only granddaughter named exactly as my maternal grandmother, Bianca Maria, my name day celebration became a “National Holliday” as well. Furthermore, I remain to this day the only granddaughter named exactly as nonna Bianca; the three Bianca’s that were born posterior to me did not have Maria as a middle name.
The first time that my birthday was associated with a painful event, happened on June 10, 1967, the day we left Chile. We arrived in Buenos Aires that evening, we went out for dinner, and after that straight to sleep. Unfortunately (lol), I woke up at 5:00 am, while my mom and my sister were both sleeping, I begun crying thinking that nobody loved me lol, and to make matters worse, the reception forgot to hand me over a telegraph that dad had sent to wish me a happy birthday. Teenage depression ensued! Hehehe…
Mom took us shopping to ease the pain (hehehe). From that day on, I always bugged them that they forgot my birthday …. hehehe…
The next pain associated birthday was June 11, 1970. We had arrived in Toronto, Canada, on holidays to celebrate my birthday, dad’s birthday, my name day, mom and dad’s anniversary and my sister’s birthday. Dad was supposed to go back to Venezuela after that, and Mom, my sister, and I would go to Montreal for my sister to study English (she had been accepted in a school that many of our friends and cousins had studied). Unfortunately, tragedy stroke and we could not do any of the above celebrations. We had arrived on April 23, 1970 and by the 26th of April (Greek Easter Sunday that year) dad had entered the first hospital, and six weeks later on June 1, 1970 he was dead; we buried him on June 5, 1970.
To this day my birthday week is a “National Holliday” to me, I go through all the happy and sad emotions these memories bring.!! The photograph to the right, was our last Christmas together in December 1969.
The above photograph depicts our last Christmas together as a family of four in caracas Venezuela December 1969.
These events have been paramount in shaping my personality and have given me the audacity to always follow my dreams!!
|Daniel Machado||Beautiful story. You’re special -at least to me.
Happy National Holiday Birthday!!