Road Construction, Culture Shock and Family

September 19, 2017

I think I am going to need more tape. It is time to leave the 6-week USA journey and return to my home in Chiavari by the sea. Unfortunately, my foot is still broken. It is worse than when I arrived from Italy. I am using to ship more home items to my apartamento because of the injury. I am not sure it will actually arrive with all those papers taped outside of it. In bocca al lupo.(In the mouth of the wolf—that is a good luck expression in Italy.)

My boot is bigger and stronger and I have an Evenup Lift for my other shoe. My family in Minnesota would like to see me stay in the US until my next X-ray. They fear it will be too difficult alone in Liguria and how could medical care be as good there as it is in USA? Piano, piano. No worries. Medical professionals and good hospitals exist in Italy.

This awaits me.

By the time you read this I should be at home.

My journey through Minnesota and Washington has been one all about la mia Famiglia, my family. On January 9th of this year I left for Italy from Washington State where my daughter and granddaughter live. They are my heart. And it was difficult to leave.

I spent two weeks with my girls (as I call them) this summer. My granddaughter is so much fun. She loved helping me put on my boot and tried it out herself. I had her all to myself for 4 days while my daughter, Stephanie, visited friends. We painted pictures, rocks, seashells

and even our hair.

When Stephanie returned, the three of us spent so much time together. Our most fun times were spent at the beach on the Puget Sound and having a tea party with my 60-year-old set of a porcelain children’s tea set. It was difficult to say goodbye.

On this visit, I spent even more time in Minnesota than with my girls. I planned to bring more things back to my new home in Italy and give away more of my belongings stored there. And most of my siblings plus my 93-year-old Papa’ live in MN.

There are so many of us in Minnesota that I barely saw any friends or family. My older brother Jim needed surgery and a break from caregiving to Dad.

Cousin Maureen was in town from California.

And we had a treasure trove of newly discovered old photos and newspaper articles from Maureen’s mother, Emma Del Fiacco Kadrie. Here’s one of her father and mother styling it like Italians in the forties. Brother Michael and his wife Roxanne were instrumental and obtaining these treasures. Thank you!

Auntie Emma had been a St. Paul Winter Carnival Queen. She was beautiful. Her Husband, Uncle Dick, had been a musician all his life.

He played with the best, including Johnny Del Fiacco, his brother-in-law, who passed away at the age of 25 years old.

We found a newspaper photo of Maureen’s brother, Richard, from his childhood. We lost him a few years ago. It was melancholy-tainted joviality as we shared memories of Richard.

Maureen’s mother had kept so many articles and photographs that, as a family, we walked back into our family history together. Part of being Italian-American is remembering as much of our history as possible. My father enjoyed it all.

It was a family reunion at Papa Ricci’s house. The Three Musketeers, Janet, Kathy and I, were all less than 1 year in age apart. We were inseparable at Ricci family parties. But our lives have taken us along different paths. This was the first time the three of us had all been in the same room for about 5 years.

Note the framed photo on the wall behind us. That is of our grandparents at their wedding. The frig photos are of every family member my father can fit on his refrigerator door.

I loved seeing Janet and Kathy but I felt a bit out of place. Their lives have veered away from mine once again. It was surreal, maybe a bit of culture shock.

When I took my father to see Jackie, our oldest first cousin, it was more of culture shock for me. Jackie is in a home now, had lost most of his sight and was not all that communicative. It was sad to see and to realize how time passes, how we are getting older and tomorrow is not promised.

Poor Jackie looked and acted older than my father. I remember when we were young. Jackie would tell us unbelievable fantasies of flying to the moon, of having girlfriends and of the neighborhood.

On a more positive note, I was in town to celebrate my grand-niece’s and my older brother’s birthdays. They were born on the same day and we party together.

Piper assisted Jim in blowing out his candles while Ross and little Ramsey watched Mikayla with her cake.

So many family members were there.


Brother Joe

Geno and Dad


Jamie (Yes, we use our garages as auxiliary party rooms.)

And more, especially all the little ones. I am so glad I had the chance to talk with them all.

The two people I have seen the most are my sister Patrice and her partner, Diana. They gave me a home for approximately a month, let me use the cars, their Wi-Fi and their kitchen. I cannot thank them enough.

Then there are all the pets, who think I am one of them.

Big and small dogs, one cat and a bird kept me company as I worked on healing and attempted to rest.

But I had places to go, doctors to see. The very first day after arrival I drove for the first time in about 7 months. For those of you not familiar with Minnesota, we have a saying that goes like this. There are only two seasons in Minnesota—winter and ROAD CONSTRUCTION.  

Boy is that true.

Everywhere I needed to go was under construction or the only path to use to go anywhere that wasn’t under construction.

From the very first day in the states, I began to lose that dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing, and la dolce vita, the sweet and relaxed life I experienced overall in Italy. My shoulders tensed up driving. I would plan extra time to run errands or attend appointments and still be 15 minutes late because of the crazy traffic. I was almost hit by another car on the way to see my finance guys (don’t tell my sis, ok?). I hated driving. I hated the tension and it affected my peace.

I watched others stressing out over work, over bills, over a waiter who was late, over things that do not really matter on the long road of life. All the advertising to buy, buy, buy that has a different attitude in the States than what I have seen in Italy seemed unreal to me. I know that this was normal for me less than a year ago. All of it was part of my life. But now it is different and I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

For instance, there is a deodorant commercial that I have seen here in the US. The female actor is objectified. She must be super-sexy, thin and under age to sell something to keep her smelling fresh. That same company on Italian TV shows an Italian woman who has used this same deodorant. Her boyfriend comes up and kisses her armpit as if he is worshipping her. It is a very different approach. It was more culture shock.

I love my country. I love my family. And still, I cannot wait to return to my average apartment with used furniture, a small frig, an old stove and only a washing machine. I won’t need to drive to buy groceries. I will walk a short way to Tiziano’s little store, and, with my broken foot, he will carry my groceries home for me. While I am still healing, I can walk to the promenade in just a few minutes, enjoy people watching and the sea while I sip some tea or eat a gelato.

I am homesick for Chiavari. I can hardly wait to hear the waves, to breathe in the sea-salted air, to eat fresh caught fish and drink a crisp white wine with it while watching the waves.

No more road construction—no more culture shock. I will miss the love of my family and friends in the USA. I will have a bit of a struggle with a broken foot. I can weather this storm alone if I need surgery or any other issues. I can do it because of the love of my family, my friends, and especially my girls.

Please come and visit. I am on my way.

Ciao for now!

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