Cobblestones, conversations and Corks
Entering the world of this author the reader takes many journeys with him through the town of Cantatas with his family, his children and friends that his father and mother had not seen for many years. How does someone write about his past, his father’s lessons in life and the journey of the land of his forefathers in a story so powerful and heartfelt. A father who insisted that at an early age instead of playing ball or other games with other children instead he was told he had to work pulling weeds, going around with his father to collect corks and bottles for his wine and dealing with whatever family chores and obligations required. But when you visit the town that he lived in, can you every be from that place you have never been? As you hear the voice of the author and how he shares his past, present and his father’s stories, you and the author appreciate and understand how the town his parents lived in the town of origin shaped not only his parents, family and the author too. As a successful attorney, the author learned numerous lessons from his father, Emiliano. His father-built houses did carpentry work and used a phrase that would embrace his life forever: DON’T BE AFRAID. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! Powerful phrase and so true if you believe in yourself. His father loved food and so did he. While other teens played sports and had fun he was told to join his father and his maternal grandfather in his wine cellar to make wine, prosciutto, cheeses, dried sausages as if they lived in the old country. Plus, the author describes through his father what happened during the war, where they had to hide, the fact that they had no food and the fears they faced to survive.
On weekends the author joined his father and grandfather in the wine cellar which was underground. . Comparing wines, tastes and who’s was best. His father took the author on weekends to collect bottles and corks . His father thought restaurants were a waste and you should use the money to buy enough pasta or rice to feed his family of six for a week. He was embarrassed to ask for empty wine bottles and used corks. His father and grandfather each made their own wines and much more. Pulling weeds was something else he was required to do instead of bike riding with his friends. But not until his 40’s did he learn the nature of self-identity.
Throughout the memoir you feel the author’s frustrations and pride learning about his family’s past, their hardships and struggles and his own obstacles trying to come to terms within himself as to who he really is and what are his beliefs.
The author shares the past when he witnesses his father’s politer games gambling even though they had so little. Life lessons were different back then and the author was privileged to many that kids today might learn from too.
His mother Maria and father Emiliano were united in many areas, yet each had their own minds . Walking the cobblestones, he hears his father’s voice and life illuminated all the piazza , the valley and mountains. When the war ended they could not believe the devastation if they’re village left with only 200 people living there. Retelling his parent’s struggles during the war, hiding in the mountains, and hoping to survive. The post-war hardships and poverty never gave up. Yet they decided to emigrate to America hoping to live the American dream.
Many trips on the piazza, many family visits and childhood, memories that he shares. This is his hometown and most of the stories take place there. Cansano was originally fortified with thick walls protecting its interior. Perched on a high Mountainable side to avoid the dangers of primitive life.
Chapter 5 tells the history of Cansano and how the author learns Italian plus hearing the stories about the town, piazza, and people. How his parents met and the magnificence of the stroll or La Passeggiata and the memories.
The stories are filled with so many trips to Cansano the chapter about the Wall Street Journal his father’s job for Gardner Denver and the long days, plus buying his first house and working seven days a week at three jobs. His father was tough and principled and took him to Gaetano’s an Italian restaurant and a man came to greet him and he learn learned are mafioso. Be friends with them, respect them but don’t do what they do. However, when you read about the encounter he has with one of them you will be impressed and develop a respect for his father. Switching jobs, the holidays with few things, and learning that his father owned three or four houses in Frederick and the businesses he built up. He opened Sunrise Market with his mother and sister Rina in Berhoud. They were fantastic businesspeople.
The hardest chapters dealt with his sister Rina and his father’s illnesses and how the author tried to be there for both. The final trips with his father and the finality of both losing his sister Rina and father ended the memoir in a sad yet proud way for writing his father’s story for himself, for readers and keeping him alive through his words, thoughts and hearing his voice throughout the memoir.
Back in Cansano watching his father talk to friends, family and people in general the author loves the fact that cook, they share their feelings and soon they will head back to the Amalfi Coast and will his father be there the following year. His dad is talking with his children and the streetlight bounce off the cobblestones, which all have so many stories withing themselves to tell. The hardest chapter as I said before was Chapter 13 filled with the history of what can change within sections and the unexpected Maxi occupation of many small towns in Abruzzo, Italy.
Learning about the different food and wine and their passion for the best, his father and grandfather Panifilo’s wine cellar and their competition for whose wine is the best. Each year his father and grandfather made wine, dried sausages, cheeses and prosciutto and the smalls of the Italian foods filled the room an aroma of wet stone, salt , wet earth, old corks and more. The conversations were heated, fun and exciting and the author at all ages learned about the culture and his family’s history. Meals were basic peasant foods but the love with the preparation was more than worth it. Just reading about the frilled lamb, simple pasta dishes, light tomato sauce and more made me want to go out and get the same for lunch. Hs wife Aggie enjoying a glad of wine, friends over with music and conversation. Memories are precious and no one can take them away. Read this heartfelt memoir and think back to your own childhood and see which ones mirror yours. I did.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews