“My dad was the first of his brothers to leave the apartment life over the restaurant to buy a house in the countryside. The first day in our new home was both exciting and scary. Living only with our immediate family without all of our Italian speaking aunts, uncles and cousins was an entirely new experience for us! I even got my own room!! Mornings were so quiet! No more dishes, pots and pans clinging and clanging! As much as it was strange for us to go from an apartment dwelling with my huge Italian speaking family it was strange for our neighbors to have Italian immigrants that barely spoke English move into their community. =
The first little girl I met was a pretty red haired girl the same age as I was! I was intrigued by her beautiful straight red hair! She was just as awestruck by my long unruly curly hair and olive complexion. My first day of school was a little intimidating. It was hard for me to fit in. My parents were really stuck on making sure I knew my roots and were afraid that I would lose my Italian heritage if I became Americanized. It wasn’t only my Italian heritage; my dad had this old world opinion of what girls should be allowed to do. Because of my parents’ immigrant mentality and old world views they were reluctant to allow me to participate in childhood activities that my friends were accustomed too. But my new friend made things so much easier. She introduced me to her four best friends. But instead of ignoring me my little group of friends accepted me for who I was. On the other hand, it wasn’t as easy with my classmates. I learned early on to hide a part of myself. I was known as the shy quiet girl.
That little red haired girl and her friends were the only ones that got to know the real me. I was myself with them. I couldn’t help but let the loud Italian me out! They understood the struggles that I had with Italian and American culture and they helped me assimilate. The little red haired girl taught me how to feed oatmeal to her baby sheep. My short, cute friend shared her beautiful Ukrainian Easter Eggs! My Hungarian friend shared her family ghost stories! My other friend introduced me to cheese danishes. And then there was my friend who lived on the other side of town; she showed me that Dads came home at 5 o’clock with dinner waiting for them! I learned that I too could fit in the American melting pot!
The bond that I made 50 years ago with those friends was never broken! In fact we still are the best of friends and love hanging out with each other. We are all grown up now with children and grandchildren. As different as we all became, living in different states with a menagerie of careers, we are exactly what the old saying says,”The more things change, the more things stay the same!” We all share that one thing that has kept us together all these years – the willingness to accept each other for who we are.
Some of us met up this summer and spent a few days together. We went to the little red haired girl’s lakeside home and I cooked for them! Please read on as I share the recipe I made for them!!”
See our Francese Sauce recipe.