Sunday, October 30, 2011

Being Italian

When I sit in the quiet early morning and reflect on my life or my day or my feelings, I can sometimes feel melancholy wash over me. When this happens I turn my thoughts to all that I have in my life, who I am, who I've become over these past 57 years.

I am grateful for so many things in my life, very simple things, the smile and laughter of my grandchildren, a really good meal prepared simply in my kitchen with love and purpose, the people in my life, the ebb and flow of kindness and goodness that has come my way.

I am especially grateful for my heritage. I love being Italian, I love the fact that my Dad was born in the mountains of Abruzzi, Italy, he grew up poor but happy and optimistic, he didn't even own a bicycle, he had to borrow one if he went to the nearby towns. But he was happy, he tells me often that he spent his youth by his grandfather's side. There he leaned to treat people with respect, he learned to help out with the harvesting of grapes for wine of olives for oil. He took baskets of eggs on that borrowed bike into the village to sell. Once when he was biking down that hill, a little too fast to be carrying eggs, he felt himself falling, he told me he was smart enough to land on his back with the basket raised up towards the heavens so the eggs wouldn't break! He still remembers that story vividly and I think he was 9 years old.

I feel such a connection to Italy. When Clint and I travel there, no matter where we go I feel a familiarity to everything. I am home, I am among the people and culture I know in my heart. In the years of my childhood I heard that musical language everyday and saw the way that my family acted together at meals, at prayer, at leisure. We did everything together, everything. I spent my youth with my parents, near them, around them learning from them and enjoying life with them.

Our neighborhood was all Italian, therefore I thought everyone was Italian, and how lucky they all were.
I treasure my family history, my family abroad, each and every one of them. When I meet with my family in Italy they open their arms and hearts to me as if I didn't live 3000 miles away. They feed me and embrace me and love me and remember all the good times they experienced with my father.

I want to share my Italy with everyone and I do when I take people on my trips, when I teach an Italian cooking class, when I speak and tell stories of my parents arranged marriage and how my dad came here on a boat with nothing but his lunch, as my mother likes to say. My parents married only knowing each other for mere months, but they are good people and they did it and I had the most wonderful magical childhood growing Italian.

And for that I am grateful... every single day.

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