Friday, April 10, 2009

Anniversary: Part Two

My story is the story of America. In every one's memory there is a story of immigration and struggle, of learning new ways and a new language, of homesickness and hope. I'm just rereading Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, a tour-de-force story of survival, a struggle to keep things normal, a faith in the future, and the unusual bond between a mother and her daughter. I cried the first time I read it; and I'm crying again.

But, I digress.

My story is quite simple, on the surface. My parents sent me to live with relatives in America as I pursued my studies. The plan was for me to return to Italy after a few years as a teacher. I did study; day and night, weekends and holidays, on buses, in closets, in bathrooms, at lunch counters. After four years I graduated with a B. A. in English. (not ESL)

I had great teachers at Immaculate Heart College in Hollywood. In the midst of the 60's revolutions, they sisters and lay faculty molded our dreams and characters. We were exposed to a liberal arts education and challenged to think boldly and ecumenically, beyond our religious parameters. We received world-class education while other campuses were experiencing unrest and revolts.

When I left Italy I had taken two years of English and was proud of my abilities. Maybe too proud. I had so much confidence that I fooled myself too. I thought it would be a matter of weeks before the mumble -jumble I was hearing would become understandable. With my relatives, I was forbidden to speak Italian. The uncle who had sponsored me did not want to translate for his wife. She had made that her first rule. You can imagine the many misapprehensions and misunderstanding the two of us had.

That, is another story, for another time.

I had been admitted to a junior college and attended it for a year before transferring to Immaculate Heart. My salvation? I knew the subject matter already. What I was doing was learning the vocabulary. By the time I transferred to Immaculate Heart I was managing well. It didn't hurt that two neighbor girls still in high school and with whom I shared babysitting duties wanted to be tutored in French and in Mathematics. My French was much better than my English. The arrangement helped.

To end the story, I never returned to Italy because I was hired to teach before I graduated. Catholic schools did not have enough nuns and priests to staff their classrooms, and they were recruiting among the graduates. I substituted for six months, in exchange for tuition during the last semester. By June, they begged me to stay; they prepared the paperwork to change my visa so I could work for pay, and I signed up for another year while I attended graduate school. I taught French, English, History and Philosophy. I postponed my return to Italy. By then, also, I decided to move out of my uncle's house and live at a convent with other lay teachers.

It was during that time that I met my husband, married and lived happily ever after. He wasn't even catholic. Italy and my family had to wait another two years before I could save enough money to pay for new family to visit my homeland.

During holidays though, the tug of homeland is still there, especially at Christmas and Easter.

Now, hubby and I have retired and live away from our own children. This Easter, we'll go up to Bandon Dunes for brunch and watch golfers tee-off at $300 a pop. We'll feel rich and spoiled. Life is good. It isn't perfect. It never was. We always have to give up something in order to reach a new goal. Maybe that's one of the reasons I like Easter so much: it is a story of death and sacrifice, a story of renewal, a story of transformation. However we see the parallels in our own lives, the anniversary reminds us of the arc of our lives, the ups and downs, the constant push to be fully present and in resplendent ascension in our humanity.


Amy said...

Nice to get some of the back story! It somehow strikes me as odd...the Catholic college in Hollywood. Very Hollywoodish all in itself!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Woman in a Window said...

Wow, what opportunity! And you rushed headlong into it, snatching it up. Fantastic history, rich and worthy! Have fun this weekend!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I am familiar with Immaculate Heart her in So Cal. What an amazing story. Fit for a full-fledged memoir.

willow said...

Happy Easter to you, as well! I've seen the film The Joy Luck club and really need to read the book. Thanks for the reminder.

Natalie said...

Great story,thanks for writing it.

Hope you both enjoy your lovely brunch.xx♥

Sarah Lulu said...

Happy Easter and thanks for giving us more about your story.

Italy to Hollywood!

Mary said...

Please consider yourself a fully pledged member of the 'The Adventurers Club'. What a rich adventure you have been on - and still are, mind you!

It is 0950 and I have just woken up (almost unheard of). I guess I might just join you in the brunch idea.

Happy Easter

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Happy Easter to you Rosaria! I'm glad you stayed in the U.S. We are all better for it!
Love, Cheryl

Anonymous said...

I'm just discovering the richness of your life...I would have enjoyed having you as a teacher and hearing your stories, so consider me a student of your blog.

lakeviewer said...

Amy-Thank you for your return visit. Yes, a saintly school in a hellish neighborhood.

Woman in a Window--We do many rash things when we are young and foolish and do not know any better.

Elizabeth-how do you Immaculate Heart?

Willow--The book is of course an experience enjoyed slowly, with many occasions to ponder, cry, rejoyce.

Natalie--I so enjoy watching how you handle your life and your many responsibilities. It allows people my age to revisit those days when a day was never enough; and when we never had enough sleep.

Sarah--Which girl wouldn't jump at the idea of going to school in Hollywood? The reality is not the illusion.

Mary--I never saw myself as an adventurer. You're right, I have been one and still continue to see life as a series of new discoveries. I hope your cold is better and you can enjoy time off.

Cheryl--Thank you for your sweet remarks. You never fail to make me feel better. What a good friend you have been to me all these months. Thank you. I know Bandon Dunes would appeal to you and your fantastic hero golfer.

C. Michael Fox--You are a gentleman and a scholar; and yes, I would have appreciated students with your sense of curiosity and talent for narration.

Susan said...

Hi, Rosaria,
Did you go back to Italy to visit? Did your family come to visit you here? I'll bet it was hard for them to let you go.

Mervat said...

Thank you for sharing a piece of your past with us. I am thrilled to learn more about you. I look forward to hearing more. I really want to read the Joy Luck Club but have never had enough courage to. I think it may open up emotional wounds that still are unhealed.

I hope you enjoyed your lunch.

janis said...

How wonderful! I can just see you there @ Immaculate Heart!
I loved the book "The Joy Luck Club"! I should reread as well. Just finished a great book with a bad ending that ticked me off!
Enjoy your brunch and have a Blessed Easter!

lakeviewer said...

Hi Susan, Mervat and Janis: by reading each other's story and by sharing books and impressions, we are bonding in new ways. It must have been like this when we were children and had pen-pals in other parts of the world!

Happy Renewal!

Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing how life has twits and turns that come up and change everything, just everything. It all depends on which way we went.

I am fascinated with this story, yours. Hope you will write more.

I love Easter because it always reminds me God can make what was dead, alive. That when it looks like the end was not so good, it isn't really over.

Happy Easter!

An English Shepherd said...

Happy Easter, no I will not eat any chocolate, my mum and dad won't let me :-(

Bogey said...

A fantastic account. I loved reading every word. My favourite part is;

"Life is good. It isn't perfect. It never was. We always have to give up something in order to reach a new goal."

Truer words were never spoken. I'm sure I will enjoy more from your future writings.

$300 a pop......I could play about 6 rounds of golf here and enjoy it just as much.

Ribbon said...

I like both those stories... "Joy Luck Club" & your journey "Italy to America."
My Mum also had an Italy to Australia tale to tell.

Happy holidays... Best wishes Ribbon

Delwyn said...

Good morning Rosaria,

I enjoyed your story of immigration, learning and settling in a new country. The US and Au are both countries comprised of a wide variety of immigrants.

I read the Joy Luck club many years ago when it was first published and it had such an effect on me that I began collecting a group of women together and facilitating weekly self discovery sessions and learning. It was an exciting time.
The movie did the book justice I thought.

I like to think of renewal and revival each day now and not just at Easter time. Each day can be an opportunity to start afresh and to see in different ways.

karen said...

Thanks so much for sharing more of your admirable story...your mini memoirs are so lovely to read. Hope you are having a beautiful Easter weekend x

Man of Roma said...

Quindi non sei tornata perché hai potuto lavorare subito. Deve essere stato duro stare lontano dalle radici così a lungo, 50 anni. Hai avuto una grande forza.

Il lavoro è decisivo. Io infatti non partii per l’America perché non avevo ancora finito la laurea e quindi non sapevo cosa avrei fatto nel Nuovo Mondo. Non sono mai stato un tipo pratico. Quegli anni erano confusi anche per chi sapeva organizzarsi meglio di me. Volevo fare il musicista. Scelsi lettere (Arts) perché era l’unica facoltà che mi permetteva di fare entrambe le cose, università e conservatorio di musica (mio padre mi imponeva la laurea).

Era infatti la rivoluzione studentesca. La vivevo nel modo ascetico che la musica mi aveva insegnato. Non erano chiari i valori della vita a cui ispirarsi, non ero all’interno di una organizzazione come quella cattolica, dove cosa fare e non fare era chiaro. Quindi mi diedi alla vita bohemien per un paio d’anni, assieme ai miei amici americani californiani a Trastevere. Mi hanno insegnato molto e aperto a diversi orizzonti.

Poi però I pulled myself together, mi sono laureato, mi sono sposato una romana, ho avuto due figlie ora grandi (parlano molte lingue, una ingegnere, l'altra economista) e ho cominciato a insegnare lettere nelle periferie più povere della città. Un’esperienza che mi ha dato moltissimo.

Scusa, mi sono lasciato andare ai ricordi del perché non sono venuto in America. Una storia molto più complicata, but I cannot flood you lol.

I hope you don’t mind if I write in Italian.

Ciao Rosaria

You can call me Giorgio

Dave King said...

That's a great story well told. I look forward to the second part - as promised!!

lakeviewer said...

Thank you, folks, for your encouraging words. At my age, telling my life story is a privilege I indulge in. I have completed a series of stories that I have compiled into a memoir. When I get the strenght to do some real editing, which it sorely needs,then, I will post a few pieces in a different link.

Your interest and feedback are invaluable.

Thank you Meredith, English Sheperd, Bogey, Ribbon, Delwin, Karen, Giorgio, Dave King.

Your writings and your perspective are sheer inspiration for me to continue in blogland. What's more, you share too, and in the sharing we get a great deal of satisfaction that other writers do not get. (Maybe they do after they have published, turned a few millions, are stalked day and night, have to forgo other pleasures to continue to create.)

Arrivederci. And thank you again for taking the time to give me feedback.

Kikit said...

You were (and still are) an asset! You taught four subjects? That's awesome!

Ei, I went to a Catholic school too. That's now something we have in common.

magicpolaroid said...

Italy of course!!
ciao, Luis

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Angela Recada said...

I'm so glad you told us the rest of the story. What an interesting life you have had!