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April 5, 2013     Post-Gazette
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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 5, 2013 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore Stretching My Roots Nature has come a long way from the barren, snowy winter. I walked to class on Monday in balmy sixty-de- gree weather, relishing the comparative heat wave in my pale blue windbreaker and orange polka-dot tee. I have also noticed the trees all around me, filling with fragile green buds, their roots firmly entrenched in the ground. These trees have inspired me to examine my own roots, which extend from Italy and South America to the United States and which I long neglected in the early years of my life. Just like nature, I too have come a long way in how I view my iden- tity as an Italian-American. When I was a little girl in elementary school, being Italian was a mark of shame, a stain which forever labeled me as an outsider -- at least, that is how I perceived it. The problem lay not in the fact that I was Italian, but that I was too Italian, too old- country. My classes teemed with plenty of other kids who had Italian surnames, as typical in the Boston area. However, their ancestors had arrived to the United States decades or even centuries before and their first names and customs remained de- cidedly American. I was the only girl in the class with an unpronounceable name -- Alessia -- and I quickly grew frustrated and embarrassed over how many times I had to correct people about it. I was the only girl, it seemed, whose family opened pre- sents on Christmas Eve in- stead of Christmas Day. When my friends gushed over Italian food, they meant Americanized staples like spaghetti with meatballs and lasagna flled with runny red sauce. My mother cooked odd things like orechiette with broccoli rabe, oregano-sea- soned potato croquettes and choux pastries with thick yellow egg cream. I hated the by Ally Di Censo fact that my family spoke Italian and Spanish at gath- erings instead of English. I hated the fact that the pro- grams on the Italian chan- nel were so loud and goofy. Most of all, I hated the fact that being Italian reflected so poorly on my self-esteem. Gradually, however, I be- gan to realize that the prob- lem lay inside me, not in being Italian. I used to be blind to the number of people who expressed interest and admiration in my Italian heritage: the teachers who exclaimed how beautiful my name was, the friends who told me that they wished they spoke a foreign lan- guage, the many admirers of my mother's authentic Ital- ian cuisine. As I matured, my Italian life became some- thing to be proud of, some- thing that made me wonder- fully unique. All of this coin- cided as all things ethnic be- came "trendy" again (thanks, hipsters!). Coffee isn't just coffee anymore; you order cappuccino and espresso. You would be hard-pressed to find a sandwich shop that does not label their delicacies as panini. The other day, I was eating lunch at a chain res- taurant and discovered that they had orechiette with broccoli rabe on their menu, the same dish that once served as a symbol of my otherness. Now, whenever I see the world around me reveling in Italian cultmre, I realize how silly I had acted before. Everyone else thought that old-world cus- toms were special except for me. I am embarrassed about my previous under apprecia- tion of my heritage, and con- stantly seek new ways to explore it today. I believe that my status as an Italian-American con- nects me to a rich past of folklore, customs and tradi- tions that have been passed down through the many wise hands of history. It means being closer to the earth as I craft recipes from seasona! ingredients like artichokes, fennel and as- paragus. It means celebrat- ing holidays not as commer- cialized days of consumer- ism but rather quaint re- minders of agricultural soci- eties past, whether it is by enjoying a late-night dinner on a still Christmas Eve night or pinning a paper fish to someone on April Fools' Day, known as pesce d'aprile in Italian. It means par- taking in a joie de vivre so typical of the Italian people. I still think Italian televi- sion shows are loud and goofy, but I now believe that is part of their charm. I en- joy watching them with my father, who has done more than any other person to in- troduce me to the wonders of Italian life. I encourage everyone to take pride in their ethnicity and culture, whatever it may be. I work in a very diverse school district and I swell with pride when I see stu- dents who have not forgotten the importance of their heri- tage. My fianc~ is of French, Ukrainian and American Southern descent and I am always goading him to search back into his roots for ideas on holiday celebra- tions and folk customs. Rather than a badge of shame, I now view my Ital- ian-hess as an integral part of my personality, a code encrypted in my DNA that makes Ally Di Censo who she is. Like the spring trees, I know I comfortably rest with my roots proudly on the ground but my branches ex- tending upward, ready for whatever change the future holds. Ally Di Censo is a Graduate Student in History at the Uni- versity of Massachusetts Bos- ton. She appreciates any com- ments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folklore at adicenso89@gmail.com. SPRING MARATHON BOOK SALE Are you ready for Marathon Day? No, not that one. You don't need running shoes for the BPL's big spring mara- thon book salel Join us on Saturday, April 6 when we will be running from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. We look AT COPLEY LIBRARY forward to all of you joining us at the library in Copley Square (lower level, McKim Building, Dartmouth Street entrance) as we race to give you the best book bargains in Boston. Most of our pre- sorted inventory is priced All the glory that was Rome ..... Pompei FUf CAFFE PO PEI TEL. 617-227-1562 FA~.- 617-74-2-7927 Bistro * Beer * Wine $2 or less, including a small selection of mixed media (DVDs, vinyl, audiobooks). We also invite you to browse our section of premium books priced individually. Be sure to check out our collection of photographic movie stills and couture drawings (many matted and ready to frame) for only $1.00 eachT The book sale is sponsored by the City-Wide Friends of the BPL, a 501[c]3 affiliate of the Boston Public Library. All proceeds benefit the off-bud- get and programming func- tions of the library and its neighborhood branches. For further information visit www.citywidefriendsbpl.org or call us at (617) 859-2341. by Sal Giarratani CONGRESSMAN LYNCH: Common Man, Uncommon Leader As a working-class guy it is like to collect unemploy- who grew up in Roxbury and ment. It would be nice to see has worked almost 28 years him in the Senate. He as a police officer, I am knows what it is like to live a Democrat. When I was paycheck to paycheck. younger there were plenty Lynch knows what it is like of good Democrats to vote to struggle and overcome for in elections. That isn'tobstacles. always the case today as Recently, I was astounded most Democrats have moved to find out that there are over to the left so far that I many labor unions not back- won't follow them there. We ing him for U.S. Senate. The have a Democratic presi- state AFL-CIO is staying dent who appears hell-bent neutral which is basically on remaking America into a an insult since Lynch has European-style bankrupted not only been a card-carry- socialist democracy, ing union member but a past Back last year and before president of a local union that in 2010, I had no alter- representing ironworkers. I native but to vote for Re- was not surprised that publican Scott Brown for public employee unions U.S. Senate. This .time like AFSCME Council 93, around I am supporting S.E.I.U. and the Massachu- U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch in setts Teachers Association the upcoming April 30 spe- have jumped on the cial primary for U.S. Senate. other Democrat's band- His opponent U.S. Rep. Ed wagon. These unions are so Markey has been anointed liberal they could never sup- by the Beltway crowd and is port a Democrat who thinks far too liberal for me. I have independently and doesn't known Lynch since his walk lockstep with them. younger union days and U.S. Rep. Ed Markey isn't a believe he is the best candi- bad guy but who better to rep- date running for this vacantresent members of unions seat on the ballot. I don't both public employees and always agree with him on trades unions than Lynch. In everything but he is one of Congress, Lynch was the guy us as in regular people who who co-founded the Congres- work hard, follow the rules sional Labor and Working and expect government to be Families Caucus. on their side. I have been a member of Recently, his wife Marga- AFSCME Local 470 in Boston ret has become a great sur- for over 37 years and am a rogate on the campaign trailpast executive board mem- which recently found itself ber and I fully agree with traveling across the Town ofFrank Sullivan, president of Weymouth. He has only re- the Massachusetts Building cently become the congress- Trades Council which has man for this district and al- endorsed Lynch when he ready is liked for his leader- said, "Stev&s out of our ship and standing up for hisranks and it's not just that. constituents. Mayor Susan He's not just a union mem- Kay said of him, as soon as ber; he is a former union Lynch was going to pick up president." Weymouth for his district, It seems shameful that "he came in here and he was any union out there would be everywhere ... I support himopposing Stephen Lynch's wholeheartedly." candidacy. Apparently, there Former Norfolk County are some union leaders out Treasurer Joe Connolly there whose political ideolo- noted that on that day Stevegies are so "pazzo" that they was in Brockton and Quincy would oppose one of their and he asked his wife own because orders were to stand in for him with given to support the other folks in Weymouth. Connolly guy despite Lynch's own noted Lynch can relate with great labor track record. people living in public hous- They love Lynch in ing and blue collar workers Weymouth and I hope they because he grew up in the will love him everywhere projects in South Boston andelse on April 30~ at the polls added, "(Lynch) knows what too. EAST BOSTON SATELLITE OFFICE IS NOW OPEN MARIE MATARESE 35 Bennington Street, East Boston 617.227.8929 TUES. 10:00 A.M.- 3.00 P.M. THURS. 11:00 A.M.- 2:00 P.M. Legals