Larry Crema and I went to Burnaby North Sr. High together, along with the likes of Doug Pringle, Paul Bellano, Joey Paiero, Pete Cvitkovich to name a few. These are a few of the guys, who I walked to school with, played sports with or had coached my soccer team, had a cultural connection to or just a connection. We had moved to Burnaby at the end of grade 6 and it didn’t turn out to be as bad as I had expected.
Those elementary school years in east Vancouver were spent at Dr. A.R. Lord, close to Hastings community centre and the PNE grounds. Kids I grew up with such as Nap, Rav, Connie, Susan, Elvio, Jim, etc. many years later crossed my path when again but now with their own children. Being a “good” Aunt/Teta I would go to my nieces and nephew’s concerts and experience this childhood/adult connection. I didn’t really think how many of us had roots in Strathcona but that became more evident once I moved into the hood.
Stories started with my Mom. She began telling me how many of “our” people first lived in this area when they came to Canada and how stupid they were to have move out. “Look how close to downtown they were and used to walk to Stanley Park and they moved.”. “What a shame,” she would go on to say, “..and they used to all know each other and go to each others houses for coffee. It was like back home.” I completely understood as this was how we grew up in east vancouver at our Georgia St. house, except for the walking to Stanley Park part, we drove. We were raised with the culture of the old country, with extended families of “cousins” we visited every weekend: Drpics, Turcics, Lenics, and on occasion Kukuljans, Maracics, Miljenkos, Burmas, Oreskovics, Antunovics, Puratics… (the list goes on).
As a kid I would ask “how are we related to Oreskovic’s Mom?” or some other family name that came to mind. The answer would be something like “oh they come from the first marriage of your great grandfather on your Dad’s side, stari Malatestinic is also related to them. His sister, Jovana is the daughter from the first marriage and she was a Malatestinic but then married stari of Vrbnik, Sulina I think, and lived in her house independently until she was 90. Remember that picture of them all where your Dad came to Vancouver where he is dressed up like a priest? Ya, that’s that side of the family, I don’t remember why they were doing the pretend wedding it was before my time. They’re all from our island Krk, but not all the Malatestinic’s are related these ones are but more like 6th cousins and are related. Those ones on the east coast have the same name but they aren’t related; they come from the “other” brother that landed on the island in the 13th century from Italy our line is from the brother that settled in Dobrinj.
Figuring out the root connections of tribal members were less complicated when I realized it was easier to say “ya, we’re related”. I happily accepted they were “ours” and it was enough to know they belonged. Belonging meant they were part of “us” and we took care of each other. All pretty simple.
So back to the hood and Larry. When I “landed” in Strathcona my path crossed with my high school friend Larry , when one day he saw me walking in the “hood”. He approached me and we had a great reunion, although it took me a while to connect the man standing before me was the boy I walked and from to school with. Over the years Larry and I would chat and I met his wife Paola and his lovely daughters Francesca and Catarina. I kept wanting to call them over for dinner, lunch or even coffee but it seemed our connections were always in the street.
This week I bumped into Larry and his whole family when walking up Union St. while I was dog sitting Koda, who I’m thinking to possibly adopt. It’s interesting how moving only a few blocks can make a difference in your movements through the “hood” as well as the people you see more often, but I digress. On point, wishing Larry and his family a happy new year I discovered Larry’s Dad had passed in 2018 and the service was held at Sacred Heart Church.
It was surprising, as you’re never ready when a parent passes even if he lived to 87. I’ve lived here for so many years and only recently had I wondered into this church — fair to say I’m not a regular attendee and not even a C&E goer anymore.
My Mother goes to the community centre pool more than the church but still likes to step in the doors on occasion. She did this at Christmas when she attended the late mass on Christmas Eve at Sacred Heart.
Had I known, as I told Larry, I would have attended his father’s funeral on Dec. 28th as of course you just do. We chatted in the street and I told him of my father’s passing some 18 years ago, as the anniversary is coming up January 15th. It was a moving day when i spoke to Larry, who is a dear heart, as we shared our paternal loss on a beautiful sunny day in a hood where we both belong that is connected to layers and layers of history to this community and “the old country” that brought us here.
In memory: http://vancouversunandprovince.remembering.ca/obituary/lorenzo-larry-crema-1931-2018-1071892272