As a young child, I can remember Mother’s Day being a big event. My Grandmother would be in the kitchen cooking “gravy” and meatballs. I would be in the living room with my Crayola Markers and homemade Mother’s Day card made out of construction paper. Around 1 p.m. “the family” would visit and eat all day. Of course, our family was made up of neighbors, friends and extended mafia members. Okay, maybe not mafia members, but there is an element of truth to this. I lived in an Italian neighborhood and to be honest, we all considered ourselves related by some circumstance or purpose; broken English and all.
Dinner was normally enjoyed in the dining room, not far from the Technicolor portrait of John F. Kennedy and Jesus Christ. (Not in order of importance, of course) If you haven’t had the experience of visiting an Italian home, there are distinct smells that remind us that we belong there. These smells usually consist of anisette, coffee, fresh tomatoes and of course, Uncle Vince’s home-made wine. What was particularly distinctive during those times was a sense of La Familia. Yes, we were poor. Yes, most were Immigrants reenacting their village upbringing. Yet, it was “that village” that taught me loyalty, faith and the belief that I am my brother’s keeper. This isn’t to say that there weren’t family squabbles. When I say, “La Familia” I mean it in the most literal sense possible. During those days, the words double-crosser had real consequences.
(“Are you talking to me?”)
Sorry for the digression. My Robert Deniro impression comes out from time to time.
In all honesty though, Mother’s Day and most other holidays for that matter, taught us that we were all responsible for each other. Not only did my Mother have eyes behind her head, but so did every other person in the neighborhood! To this day, I swear my neighbor Millie was really disguised as the Italian version of the Oracle of Delphi. I honestly can say, I was raised and protected by those that I like to call, “family of choice.” Most of those heroes are long gone. I say that they were heroes, not because of the great things they had done, but for the great things they had endured. You see, those were the very immigrants hated by some that helped shaped my beliefs in humanity.
As Gerry and I visited with the Social Worker last Friday, we were reminded of how important it is for us to raise our children to include the richness of both my Italian and her Irish heritage. To some degree, I feel as though we as Americans have lost our inclusiveness in honoring each other’s diversity. We always seem to look deeply at our differences instead of celebrating our uniqueness’.
With this in mind, here’s what I think. I think Sunday dinners will include Gravy and meatballs. I think that Saint Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate Irish patriotism. And, I think “our Village” includes each of your cultural experiences. If we can accomplish this together, perhaps the children of today will experience an inclusiveness which will help sever the ties of discrimination, injustice and hopelessness.
Perhaps I like to think big. However, as Marianne Williamson once wrote, “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.” Enough SAID!