As the story goes, my Neapolitan great grandfather, Carmine Rodio, was bullied mercilessly at school, and soon became a disciplinary problem. One day he whacked the bully in the head with a shovel and injured him. How badly we don’t know. Carmine was a young teenager at the time. After that he was banished from the house and made to live in this mud hut in the back yard. And soon after, his father put him on a ship bound for America. He was seventeen.
The reason he was bullied was because his mother died giving birth to him, and, as southern Italian superstition would dictate, he became a social pariah.
Note: my mother’s Uncle Pat with his hand covering his mouth as he peers at the terrible place where his father spent, weeks, months? Could it be that Carmine’s father blamed him for his mother’s death? There’s no way to know. In the picture with Uncle Pat is our beloved Aunt Mary, Pat’s sister, (with the white shoulder bag).
I’m struck by the similarity between Vesuvius and my great grandfather’s mud hut.