This summer, my husband and our boys traveled to our “hometown” in the province of L’Aquila, Italy. Truly, the work I do through Bridges Together, comes from what I know in the core of my being. And once again, this summer, I experienced the truths of my work in the core of my being – in our interdependence and the passing on of love, of unity, of struggling together, of supporting one another, of community, of tradition. All of this ran through my mind as my husband and I spent our days in a home that my great-great grandfather built in 1873 – and we laid our heads down in the same room in which my grandparents had slept. As my kids ate gelato on our front steps in the wee hours of the morning – as I did and my dad did. And I wondered… were we that loud?! Did my grandparents hear my every word?! Did my stoic grandfather sit on the stoop as a teen, also? And yet I know, as an elder of the community, my Nonno, Andrea (for whom I’m named), sat there in the evening, greeting each and every passerby.
And as I greeted my cousin in my aunt’s home, and our sons eagerly embraced, I was reminded that she and I embraced some 40 years ago – and now our boys are inseparable here, as we had been, and our parents and our grandparents had been. So beautiful. Such a treasure. I’m aware of traditions – of adapting traditions – of new life and new people – of our loved ones who have passed and yet remain so dear and near to us…
And I’m aware of bridging cultures… and generations. One day, we invited my 86-year-old, recently widowed, great-aunt to lunch at our home. In the Italian style, we sat at the table for two hours, leisurely enjoying a four-course meal that we had prepared. But, in the American style, my boys helped prepare the meal. Afterwards, she and I went to rest in the living room. She couldn’t get comfortable in the winged-back chair. I encouraged her to lie down on the couch – something that is unheard of in Italian formal living rooms.
“In America, we say, ‘furniture is for living,’ so it’s OK to lay down and put your swollen feet up,” I assured her.
“You’re right,” she responded. “In fact, it’s better to use the furniture then to have it look nice.” And she laid down comfortably and rested her feet, and we chit-chatted for an hour. So nice.
And so, I return to America, refreshed to carry on my work – helping to empower people to bridge the generations, in their families and in their communities. And I remember: how blessed I am, indeed!