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  • Valuable, if Unusual Lessons
    Part 1 of 2: Growing Up in an Italian American Home

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    I fell in love in Italy. Perhaps I should clarify that – I fell in love WITH Italy while I was IN Italy. I am the child of Italian parents. My dad was born in Italy, my mother was born in the States, and both sets of grandparents were from the same small town in Calabria. I always knew exactly who I was, the little, curly haired, dark-complected girl who's family was big and loud and who ate things completely different than any of my non-Italian friends.

    The curious thing is that as an adolescent I didn't feel as much pride in this Italian heritage as I do now. You know, when you're young and you bring a friend home from school to play for the first time the last thing you want them to hear is your dad speaking a different language and instead of the record player belting out the tarantella, you want the radio playing the top 40, you want just the regular American afterschool snack (peanut butter and jelly, or maybe cookies and milk) instead of some Italian concoction that had been simmering on the stove smelling up the whole house, and you don't really want to have to explain that when you say " family" you don't mean just the people that live in your house, but your whole, entire family. I know I'm making this all sound so negative, but at the time, in my 12 year old mind, it was.

    As I look back on all of it now I can see that there were many positive lessons in the way I grew up. I learned very early on that family – again, I mean the ENTIRE family – third and fourth cousins included, always came first. I learned to appreciate everything we had because grandma and grandpa had nothing when they came from the old country. And because we come from a good peasant heritage, I learned that a hard day's work was something to take pride in. As I grow older, I remember these early childhood lessons and do everything I can each day to pass them on to my kids. So who would have thought that at this age I would be exposed to all kinds of new lessons, but that's exactly what's occurred in my life these days.

    Part 2: Lessons Learned

    Article Published 11/2/11


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