March 28

Making a List

We have a lot to do before we can even consider going to Italy to meet with Count Lussuria’s lawyer. We need to uncover more of the history of this B&B we’ve inherited and we need to do it pretty fast. So Willow and I decided to sit down together to make a list.

Each item seems like years of work all by itself, but at least we are doing something. We came up with this daunting list–not in order of importance:

  1. Find our siblings. Mum hinted that there were at least ten of them but we don’t know who or where they are.
  2. Learn more about the history of our B&B. We only really know about the current “incarnation.” Maybe we can ask our older cafe customers  what they remember. We’ve also inherited a parrot who is quite old and seems to know a few of our customers better than we do.
  3. Ask the historian at the local Historical Society and the librarians at the Santa Barista Genealogical Library for help. Old newspaper articles and court records could contain references to the boarding house, our mother, and might explain some of the names that seem to keep coming up. A good lead could send us in the right direction (or at least some direction).
  4. Learn Italian. We can call in a friend who grew up in Italy and ask her to give us a crash course in some basic words and phrases.
  5. Learn about the history of our own town during those earlier days. How did our widowed grandmother make it through the Great Depression? How did she serve food without wine during Prohibition to the many Italians who came to Santa Barista?
  6. Make a plan for running the B&B while we do all this background work. Perhaps we should hire additional staff.

So, starting with number 1, we composed a letter to Count Lussuria’s lawyer, Signore Borseggiatore. We asked him if he would/could give us names of any other people the Count had asked him to contact. We told him that it will be at least a few months before we can visit him in person.

We’ve planned a visit to the genealogy library to check town histories and early U.S. Census records to find out who lived at our address during the census years. Anyone who is still living might have information that would help us. Also some of our siblings might be listed.

Exhausted, but feeling we’d come up with a plan, we sat down for a glass of wine and talked about the evening’s dinner menu.

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March 28

What Next?

Honey and I received the letters from Count Luigi Lussuria’s lawyer just as we were preparing for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. We’d only been home a short time from our yearly 2-month vacation. While we were gone, our handyman (Jack) had done some remodeling for us. This is always a bit problematic. We were just starting to get some of these problems resolved when the letters arrived.

As Honey mentioned in her last post, we were notified by a lawyer in Italy that a man named Count Lussuria died and we are listed as potential heirs. This has plunged us deeply into conversation with our writers Lucy and Nancy as to how we should proceed in explaining the history of our lovely B&B.

As you may know from reading the history section, our property was originally a short stay vacation ranch where visitors came for rest and fresh air. After our grandfather Harry died unexpectedly, our grandmother Edythe struggled to make ends meet. She was a talented cook and locals often came to the ranch dining room for dinner but she needed a steady income, so she offered the cottages and rooms in the ranch house to monthly boarding house lodgers.

As the country fell into the Great Depression, grandma Edythe found it difficult to turn away the many young women who had come to our area in search of work. Apparently she looked the other way when some of them found alternate ways to pay the rent.

By the time our mother, Absinthe, took over the boarding house, it had developed a reputation as an upscale and hospitable place for men to enjoy the companionship of young women.

Our writers Lucy and Nancy recognize this gradual evolution as a choice our grandmother and mother made based on the historical constraints of the times. However, they have expressed concerns that often, in such other establishments women have been forced into slavery and to work under degrading and deplorable conditions. Such women are frequently treated with disdain by the local communities where they work. Our authors feel this is a very complex topic and it needs to be handled with sensitivity and respect, while not condoning the abusive forms of such work.

When Honey and I were born, the Starlight Inn was a no longer a boarding house. Before her pregnancy, mum decided to convert her business into a legitimate B&B. By the time we were born there were no full-time residents–just visitors from around the world who had come to see our beautiful town.

Most of what Honey and I know about the history of the B&B (and of our mum), we’ve had to discover ourselves. In our younger years we were sent to boarding school and then off to college. We came home only for holidays and summer vacation. It looks like we have a lot to learn.

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