Thursday, July 15, 2010
You Never know Who is Watching!
ITALY Magazine: Blog of the Week - When I was your age
Published: Jul 13th, 2010
Topic: Blog of the week
Words by Pat Eggleton - Pictures courtesy of Rosaria D’Ambrosio Williams
Today our blog of the week is a bit different and we think you’ll find it interesting. In “When I Was Your Age – A Memoir” Rosaria D’Ambrosio Williams, who now lives in Oregon, tells the story of a young Italian woman’s journey to America and of the people she left behind.
Rosaria, you wrote the blog “When I was your age” as a memoir for your children. When did you decide to do it and what inspired you?
Right after I retired, when I moved away from my children and missed them terribly. Somehow, writing about my childhood helped me connect all the pieces.
For those who have not followed your blog, can you tell us where you were born in Italy and something about your childhood there?
I was born in the region of Basilicata, in a small town called Venosa, during WWII. My earliest memories were all about the war, the occupation, the poverty. I downplayed that part, actually.
There has been so much written about the war that I could not add to the literature. Instead, I concentrated on my family’s focus to emigrate, to find a way out of the poverty. The memoir is both about me and about my family’s tragic situation - how they survived, what they went through to keep on living with hope and faith.
When did you go to America and why?
I was seventeen when an uncle sponsored me to study in America. My town had schooling up to the fifth grade. To go beyond that was very difficult. It took all of our extra resources to continue my education past the fifth grade. I jumped at the opportunity to go to university.
Were you very lonely at first?
Very! Lonely for everything and everyone. What kept me focused was the desire to finish my degree.
Where did you live and what did you do?
I lived with my uncle and his family, serving as a babysitter and housekeeper, helping out any way I could, in exchange for room, board and tuition.
What helped you settle and what, apart from your family, did you miss the most?
Settle is a process still going on! I missed the food the most. Products were not the same and were hard to obtain at that time. Later, I fell in love with a wonderful man a few months before I was scheduled to return to Italy. Falling in love changes everything. Still, to this day, I don’t think I am settled. I’m content with my choices; I’m happy to be alive and have all the opportunities I have; I’m glad my children are well. But, if I had any choice at all, I would live half a year in Italy, and half a year in America. I miss so many things! At the beginning, it was my family. Later, even little things - a food I craved, a smell. I am still homesick.
Did any of your family follow you to America?
No! It’s one of the tragic strands of the story. They never did. They kept hoping all the time that somehow, one or all of them could join me. They visited me for short bursts.
Did you ever think about going back to Italy to live?
Right after we retired, we contemplated the idea. Italy is just too expensive. Besides, my children are here and I would miss them.
Do you ever visit Italy?
I’ve visited Italy a couple of times, for brief periods.
Do you ever think about contacting members of your family with whom you have lost touch?
Yes. We attempt to stay in touch; but, it is not easy. I am hoping that through the internet we can reach each other, or that our children can. I have many nieces and nephews whom I have never met.
If you could give the girl you were when you emigrated some advice, what would it be?
This is a good question, but most difficult to answer. I was so naïve and I knew nothing of the challenges waiting for me. I’d say, visit for a little while, say a year, as an exchange student. Enjoy each country and what it can offer before you make such a life-changing decision.
What do you hope your children and, perhaps, their children, will gain from reading your memoir?
I hope they understand how difficult my choices were. I hope they learn that every one of us is on a journey, peppered with choices, both moral and financial. That our journey defines us and gives us both strength and character.
What aspects of your Italian heritage would you like to pass on to your children?
A love of life! An appreciation for art and music and education. A sense of wonder and exploration and joy! An appreciation of the classics.
You have two other blogs, don’t you? Can you tell us a little about these?
Sixtyfivewhatnow is about living in a small town, growing old, being involved with the community. I also have an Italian language blog, Italian for beginners. I started it for my grandchild, who has shown interest in learning Italian. She is Asian/American, speaks Mandarin, Burmese, Spanish, and now is dabbling in Italian. Who knows where she’ll go on her journey?!
Thank you for talking to Italy Magazine and happy blogging.
Thank you for your interest. I appreciated the opportunity.
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