We met last summer in Filene's basement in Boston. "I like your blouse," she said, her voice startling me out of my shopping stupor. I looked up at her. She was wearing the same print cotton shirt in a different color.

I listened to her talking with her friend as they rummaged through a pile of nightgowns. It was fightening. Not only did she look remarkably like me, she sounded remarkably like me. The same pauses in between her words. The same laugh punctuating her sentences.

"Hi, my name is Maria," I said, interrupting their conversation.

"Oh, that's weird, so is mine," she responded. "Maria Riccardi."

"Very funny. You saw that on my notebook, didn't you?"

I refused to believe her until she took out her driver's license. Sure enough, we have the same name. We soon discovered that we also have the same family. Our grandfathers were cousins. They tended their sheep and goats together on adjoining farms in southern Italy. Her grandfather came to the United States when he turned 16. My grandfather never left the tiny village. When my father immigrated to this country, he knew he had relatives here, but didn't know where to find them. Now he does.

My cousin and I were born the same week of the same year. She was going to a small college in the Midwest. More than anything else, she said, she wants to be a journalist. But . . .

"But your parents want you to go into teaching or nursing, right?" I said.

"How did you know?"

"Believe me, I know." We both laughed.