Tom immigrated to the United States when he was a teenager. He was recently asked, “Do you like living in the United States better than Italy?”
Circumstances had a lot to do with his answer. “Living in the United States is better,” said Tom.
Tom easily remembers being eleven-years old and living on the family farm. “During World War II, the Germans moved onto our farm, into our house, and made us live and sleep in the barn, for nine months. We lived with the animals, but the animals became fewer and fewer because the Germans ate them for meat. We’d try to hide our stuff, but the Germans would find it and consume it or take it away from us.”
Tom remembers making shoes out of Papyrus. He said, “People did not have shoes during the war, all the shoes were gone. We made shoes out of anything we could, but it wasn’t easy because even the papyrus was killed off due to a devastating insect.”
He told his story with more curiosity than animosity.
Which made me curious.
I wasn’t even born when Tom was going through these deprivations. By the time of my birth, Tom was in the United States, working at a concrete business, about to married and start a family.
Tom quickly moved on to another story. He said in his heavy Italian accent, “Oh, this is funny…”
Tom’s wife had to get use to his Italian habits, one of which is eating unusual foods; artichokes being one of his favorite. “But, you want fresh artichokes,” Tom said. “And, you want the whole stem that holds the artichoke flower because it is most delicious.”
One day, Tom had purchased artichokes on stems and brought them home. But, he had to deliver a load of cement, so he was away from the house for a few hours. When he returned, his wife had placed the artichokes in a vase of water and was all dressed up in an evening gown. She said, “Oh, Tom, the flowers you brought me are beautiful, let’s go out to dinner tonight.”
Tom explained to her the artichokes were dinner. After some coaxing, she cooked the artichokes and learned to love the vegetable.
Tom and his wife are celebrating 50 years of marriage.
Curiosity allowed me my vision to pierce past the heavy accent and stories of loss and deprivation to discover Tom’s reality. His reality resembles the realities of characters in the Bible who are pillars of wisdom, foresight, humor, joy, forgiveness, and willingness.