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.
Our Christmas tree stands outside. After Thanksgiving, we decorate it with lights. During the Holiday, the tree will often have a dusting of snow on it. The significance of modest, lovely, comely light goes down through history. Here are verses Genesis 14-18 from 4 different Bible versions:
From the New International Version: “And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.”
From Jubilee Bible 2000: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth; and it was so. And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth and to rule over the day and over the night and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.”
From the Contemporary English Bible: “God said, “I command lights to appear in the sky and to separate day from night and to show the time for seasons, special days, and years. I command them to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened. God made two powerful lights, the brighter one to rule the day and the other to rule the night. He also made the stars. Then God put these lights in the sky to shine on the earth, to rule day and night, and to separate light from darkness. God looked at what he had done, and it was good.”
From the Orthodox Jewish Bible: “And Elohim said, Let there be lights in the raki’a of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for otot (signs), and for mo’adim (seasons), and for yamim (days), and shanim (years); And let them be for lights in the raki’a of the heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so. And Elohim made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; He made the kokhavim (stars) also. And Elohim set them in the raki’a of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and Elohim saw that it was tov.”
Here is a Sicilian Hymn that I don’t hear too often at Christmas time. It’s strikingly lovely and I would like to share the words with you:
O Thou Joyful Day
“O thou joyful day, O thou blessed day, Gladsome, peaceful Christmastide. Earth’s hopes awaken, Christ life hath taken, Praise Him, O praise Him on every side.
O thou joyful day, O thou blessed day, Gladsome, peaceful Christmastide. Christ’s light is beaming, Our souls redeeming, Praise Him, O praise Him on every side.
O thou joyful day, O thou blessed day, Gladsome, peaceful Christmastide. King of all glory, We bow before Thee, Praise Him, O praise Him on every side.”