Sunday, August 3, 2008

A Practicing Italian

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So from my previous posts about my sister's wedding, you may have guessed that I'm not Italian. Nope, I'm an American. My sister and I like to say that we are about as American as it gets. My dad's family came across the plains in covered wagons. They moved to California from Virginia to escape the Civil War. But we were Yankees (fought on the Union side) and I even have an Uncle Sam who died in a battle outside of Atlanta towards the end of the Civil War. He has my dad's clear blue eyes and chin dimple. My mom came to the US on an airplane.

To make a long story short, my dad met my mom in post-war Japan, they fell in love and got married in Japan. After about a year of paperwork, legalese and finally, favors and evidently, a congressional act, my mom was officially allowed to enter the country and became our mom and an American citizen. We never knew we were different. We didn't know everyone else wasn't like us. We grew up in San Francisco. My parents had a circle of friends whose wives were Japanese and whose kids were a mix. Usually, the dads had been in the service and they could be Greek, Finnish or Danish. For us, that was normal.

I don't think it was until I got married, and I was the first sister to marry, that we realized that there was this thing called tradition, that we didn't know much about. Our mom didn't know American tradition. In fact, since her own mom died when she was 13 years old as a result of injuries she received in a bombing raid, she didn't know lots about Japanese traditions either.

I suppose that is why I find cultural traditions so fascinating. For my sister's wedding, we had to adapt tradition because we just didn't know enough (or maybe start early enough) for her wedding to be traditionally Japanese. When her dresser asked her how many kimono changes she was going to make I started to laugh because I had been to my cousin's wedding in Japan and they change their clothes a lot during the ceremony. But, in all fairness to us, the Japanese have changed their cultural practices. At my cousin's wedding, the bride first wore an all white uchikake, then changed into a more colorful one, then ended up wearing a traditional American wedding dress with flowing train. The cake was beautiful and a prop (no cake to eat just looked like a 3-tiered wedding cake with lacy white frosting). They did a candle lighting thing together, and everyone, separately, sang a karaoke song for the bride and groom. We all made a toast to the bride and groom with real champagne but no one drank it! Evidently, they don't like champagne and that was fine. Just all the more for me! But, when I turned around and sat back down, all the champagne was gone! Hauled off by the waiters!

So, when traditions can be traced back centuries and even for thousands of years, I think it is worth the effort to honor them and keep them alive when possible. But, I realize that we are not all the same. And that having a mom from an old country makes me different but in a good way. Yes, there was drama about the wedding but it was handled and the bride decided that if she just looked nice and the food was good she would be happy and both came true. So in the end, my sister's wedding was just lovely and the guests enjoyed themselves and a good time was had by all.

So, segueing back to the post title, while I may not have been descended from Italian relatives (what about people with last names like Greco, Tedesco or Lombardo, they don't have those last names without good cause), or even Catholic, I like to say that I'm a practicing Italian.

So here are the 10 Italian Words of the day:

1. ipoteca - mortgage
2. risparmio - savings
3. tirchio/a - fiscally conservative
4. preventivo/a - estimate (please don't confuse this with a preservativo)
5. assumere - to hire
6. stipendo - paycheck
7. saldare - to pay up/off
8. pagamento - payment
9. affitare - to rent (a house) affito - rent
10. noleggiare - to rent (everything else) noleggio - rental/charter

bonus phrase:

Un buon affare - a good deal!

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