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  • Valuable, if Unusual Lessons
    Part 2 of 2: Lessons Learned
    Continued from part 1

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    You see, I've been lucky to have had the opportunity to travel to the small mountain village in Calabria where my family first started, where I still have relatives, and each time I go I learn something more about the town, my ancestors and myself. What I've come to learn overtime is that my 12 year old opinion about being Italian has transformed into a great sense of pride in my heritage. But I've also learned some more unusual lessons from the Calabrese – we might call them old wives tales, but to the people of Alessandria del Carretto they are words to live by:

    LESSON ONE – Don't sit in front of the fan, you'll catch pneumonia – told to me by my dad's childhood friend after I purchased a fan, as I seemed to be the only person sweating and could no longer tolerate the stifling August heat.

    LESSON TWO – Don't sit in the sun too long, it'll make you sick – told to me by Comare Bette as she saw me enjoying the view from the balcony each morning.

    LESSON THREE – Don't drink so much water because you'll get a cold between your shoulders – told to me by Cousin Domenico because I kept turning down the beloved Orangina in favor of water.

    LESSON FOUR – You must always kiss the photo of a deceased person and make the sign of the cross every time you pass a church – told to me my Cousin Rosa in reverence of those before us and to keep the good karma.

    LESSON FIVE – The most bizarre (I hope I don't offend anyone) – if a black cat crosses a woman's path she should grasp her left breast; if the path crossed is a man's he should grasp, well, let's just say a different region of his body.

    Granted, these are all loosely translated and might seem to miss the mark in English, but lessons are lessons and we should always respect what our elders say right? Looking back on my childhood, I now realize I had the most incredible mix of old country/new world experiences. And each trip to Italy brings back all these wonderful memories, helps me fall a little more in love with this country and its people that I now so identify with.

    Part 1: Growing Up in an Italian American Home

    Article Published 11/2/11


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