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Tony Soprano's madeleine

I'm rewatching The Sopranos, ten years later, and I identify more strongly with Tony's character, being closer to his age now. He and Carmela reminded me of my parents, the first time I watched this. Dr. Melfi points out that what has triggered Tony's panic attacks, making him pass out, have been associated with meat. He remembers an event from childhood where he witnessed his father's violence, and where the meat came from. Pleasure and power and meat and violence, all rolled up together. Abbodanza.

This weekend, my cousin Gina from Palermo emailed me, "for fun," she says, to tell me how my surname is pronounced in Sicily. We're FB friends, she may have saw on my profile how I say our name, KAS-ee-oh. In the old country it was KOSH-ee-oh. Down south in this country, there are descendants of Cascios from Corleone who spell our name Cashio. That discussion made me wonder if perhaps "la cosa nostra" was really derived from "cosca nostra." The pronunciations are much more similar than I have ever given consideration, before. It's the same vowels, and the difference between an S and an SH sound in the middle could be easy to overlook. And if an English speaking American heard a Sicilian say "cosca costra" and asked for it to be explained, and the Sicilian didn't have a lot of English, it would be easier to say "thing," cosa, and leave it at that, than to go into what, exactly, a cosca is, and what it metaphorically represents.

My post this week on Mafia Genealogy is about given names. In my Sicilian family, and among all the families of Corleone, there is a very strong naming tradition: first son is named after the paternal grandfather, second after the maternal, and likewise for the girls. My great-grandfather was baptized Leoluca, a very common name in Corleone, but he moved to America when he was a teenager, and here he went by Louis. That's the name that my grandfather, Paul, passed down to his oldest son. But that's as far as they went. Their other three kids, including my father, the second born, have American names that I can only imagine my grandparents picked because they liked them. Louis' son is named Paul. My aunt's daughter is named Dorothy, after our grandmother. That used to be my middle name. For the past sixteen years, it's been Paul. My son and my niece have novel names. My son is named after my mother, a nickname she had.

Sometimes I have trouble making my name heard over the phone. Unhelpfully, Kevin has suggested that when I'm anxious about this, I make it worse, because in enunciating it, I end up sounding like I'm saying some other name. I get Jason, Chester.... When I lived in Bushwick, and would take my dry cleaning to be done locally, the counter clerk would take my name for the slip. I started pronouncing it with a Spanish accent, so they would "get it" and write it correctly. If I say my first name like that, and my last name like Gina would pronounce it, my name feels right to me in a different, and deep, way. Who STEEN, like Dave likes to call me. I must have told him the dry cleaning story. Who steen cash, yo.

I had my own madeleine moment yesterday, walking through the plants outside the Stop N' Shop near my house. They were so thick and the air was, too, that they smelled like a nursery, like inside the greenhouses where I worked the year I was eighteen. It brought back memories, so easily. I can't even bring them back now, thinking about it. I remembered Terry, my boss, and some of the feelings of being on the farm. It was a good time for me.

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