Traveling with Twain

In Search of America's Identity

A First Birthday Party for a Great, Great, Great-Granddaughter

Mark Twain, celebrator of his siblings and children, many of whom died too young, would have joined me in appreciating what I experienced with the Ghiglione family in Seattle.

I am an effete, East Coast Ghiglione, an only child (please, spare me the jokes) with an immediate, four-generation family of only 10 people—not even enough for a football team. 

But the Ghigliones of Seattle invariably collect enough relatives at family events for a football team, soccer team, basketball team and baseball team, plus a full complement of pompom-waving cheerleaders.    

In 1997, on the 125th anniversary of Angelo Francesco Ghiglione’s arrival in America, 60 relatives gathered in Seattle and, with green, red and white Italy-America lapel buttons in place, smiled for the camera. 

This trip to Seattle, Dan Tham, Alyssa Karas and I attended the first birthday of Tinley Ann Tyson, the great, great, great-granddaughter of A. F. Ghiglione.

For someone who has reached age 70—what Twain called the scriptural statute of limitations—I was pleasantly reminded that, whatever mess I make of my time on earth, the family and life survive.

Christopher Hitchens, shortly before his death, said, “It will happen to all of us that at some point, you get tapped on the shoulder and told not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse: The party’s going on, but you have to leave.”  In the case of the Ghiglione family, however, at least the party continues in a joyous celebration of life, as Dan Tham’s video of Tinley Ann Tyson’s birthday party captures.

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