My grandmother Virgina married a man named Virginio

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

My grandparents met in the 1920s. They married in the early 1930s and set about having a family right away.

Her name was Virginia, and his name was Virginio. I like to think that's part of what attracted them to each other. I mean, what are the chances of two people with such similar names meeting, falling in love, marrying, and having a half-dozen children?

They had six children, five boys, and one girl. They named their two oldest children Alexander and Alexandra. While they didn't name any of their children after themselves, you could see their influence in the names of Alexander and Alexandra.

My grandparents named their next four children Mario, Roberto, Antonio, and Julio. So you can see there was a theme there, too, with each name ending in that final "o."

When I was a child, I always knew there was something special about having grandparents with such similar names. It seemed like fate they should meet and marry. But as I got older and understood more about names, I realized it was just a fun coincidence.

Virginia isn't an overly common name, and Virginio even less so. In my entire life, I've only met one other Virginia and never another Virginio. So there's a good chance that my grandparents were the only ones in their village with those names.

Could you imagine how much teasing they got for their names?

They got a lot of teasing about it as young newlyweds, but they didn't let that stop them from having fun with their shared name. They often signed Christmas cards to each other as "Virginia/Virginio."

They moved to the United States in the 1950s with their brood of children and settled in the same neighborhood where my parents would eventually meet and settle down themselves. In fact, my parents bought a house right across the street from my grandparents, so I spent my childhood in very close proximity to them.

I remember when I was a kid, my grandmother used to joke about the telegrams they would get from their family back in Europe. They'd say "Virginia and Virginio, or is it Virginio and Virginia?"

They were similar in other ways, too. My grandmother and my grandfather were each short in stature. They had tough sturdy frames like bulldogs. When they spoke, they both spoke loudly enough to be heard across the street where I lived with my parents. When our windows were open in the summer months, we could easily eavesdrop on their conversations from our front yard.

"Virginio," my grandmother would yell at my grandfather on their front porch.

"Virginia," he would yell back.

Everyone in the neighborhood knew them by name.

It isn't surprising that two names like that stood out in the neighborhood, especially with a couple as uncommonly lovable as my grandparents were.

Maybe they were special precisely because of their unusual names, but I like to think it was something more than that.

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