Those I tell my stories to about my mom say that I should share them! So, over a series of several posts, I will pass on some tidbits about her: her life in Italy before she immigrated, and also her life now as an Italian/American. Her stories always mesmerize me because they depict so vividly what life was like before all those modern conveniences we so take for granted – how much harder, but at the same time, how so much simpler it was back then. It’s like a living history movie, and because I know the locales she talks about, it brings it to life for me. I have been to the home where she grew up – it is still there and it is in the “old town”. Therefore, the insides can be modernized but the outside has remained the same as when she lived there.
My mom is turning 80 this year, so if you do the math, she was born in 1931. Her early childhood memories are not as vivid as those of her teenage years, but interesting to say the least. She was the youngest of 3 daughters, and by far, the most vivacious. Because she was the baby, she was also a little bit spoiled! (Well, about as spoiled as you can be when there is barely any food to go around!) She was actually the only one of the girls born in a hospital because her mother suffered from asthma (or at least that’s what they called it then). During her early childhood, the family moved from the Veneto region to Lombardy, on the shores of Lago Maggiore. This is where all her memories are from.
When she was nine years old, her mother passed away. Her father was left raising three daughters on his own. Grandpa and an uncle lived with them at that time – now,whether that was good or bad is hard to say, because my mom’s oldest sister, who was only 15 at the time, had to wash and clean for all these men and her two sisters. She instantly became the “mother” of the family. Fortunately, her father was a good cook so he took over the cooking duties of his family.
When my mom was in the 2nd grade, she had an unfortunate accident. Her sister and her were in charge of cutting some wood to use in their wood burning stove (which heated their living area). While my mom was holding the wood, her sister chopped off the tip of my mom’s middle finger!!! Ouch!!! Luckily, the bone was fine – fortunately, she had only gotten the tip. But because it was her right hand, she couldn’t write until it healed. Schools were tough back then, and because she couldn’t write, they made her repeat the 2nd grade! (as a side note, my mom told me that if someone was left handed, they would force them to learn to use their right hand – left handedness was NOT ALLOWED!) To this day, my mom reminds her sister of this incident and shows her her shortened middle finger!
Another story deals with food and the rations that was put on food around the time of World War II. One of the food items rationed was jam. This particular day, her and her sister were in charge of going to pick up the month’s supply of jam. It just so happened that the jam being given out was cherry jam. Yum! My mom and her sister were kind of hungry, so they thought it would be OK if they sampled some on their way home. One bite for her, one bite for her sister….and before you know it, all the jam was gone! Gone was their ration for the whole month! I’m sure they got an ear full when they got home, but maybe it was worth it 🙂
I wish I had some photos to post of her as a little girl, but unfortunately, the only photos they had were some rare professional ones – AND HER SISTER THREW THEM AWAY!!! I can’t believe that these would not be treasured items! If only I could have them now! So, instead, I will post some pictures of the town she grew up in the shores of Lago Maggiore. What a gorgeous place to live…and so many of her memories center around this beautiful lake.