Life offers best of both worlds

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

I am writing this column from my hometown. It’s a miracle I made it across the ocean with my children on my own.

Indeed, I survived our atrocious 24-hour trip to Italy, which included a five-hour drive to the airport, and two flights to get to Rome. I am now sitting in my parents’ home, enjoying the Roman heat without the comfort of air conditioning, but with the advantage of having my parents spoil me and my children for a few days.

There are many differences between life in the United States and in Italy.

On the one hand, things are smaller over here. The keyboard I am typing on is tiny, cars are miniature automobiles, stores have no room to walk around the aisles, there aren’t any parking spaces and people get in and out of the ones they find by hitting the cars in front of them and behind.

On the other hand, the food is fantastic and people are always so friendly. It’s fun to just walk around with my children and talk to passers-by about how I managed to get over here with my kids in tow. We Italians are very friendly, and usually a few minutes into a conversation we know personal details and are talking as if we were old friends.

I am not the only one who notices differences. My children also comment on people, places and habits of their mother’s old world.

My oldest daughter asked me why she couldn’t bounce little balls at the apartment, my parents home. When I told her that other families live downstairs and they can hear us, she pointed to the floor and matter of factly replied, “But what about the floor? They can’t possibly hear us through the wood?” Clearly she didn’t grow up in an apartment, nor was reproached by the downstairs neighbors trying to put their baby to sleep while my sister and I were jumping rope.

When I took them to the toy store I went to as a girl, and talked to the owners, my 4-year-old asked me if they were angry at us, even though we were just saying hello and remembering the old days, because we were yelling and using our hands a lot.

It’s funny that my family and friends comment on how calm, soft spoken and not so animated I am. Usually in the United States, I am the one who is always described as exuberant and very animated.

It’s always a precious time when I go back home. I am sure that many Americans, new generations and those who have been part of the United States for many generations, experience something similar when they go to their homes, or visit distant relatives or maybe their ancestors’ country of origins.

As my mom always tells me, the key is to harmonize and complement the differences we experience.

I love Italy, even the crazy traffic and noise that makes me feel so alive. But I also love my life as it is today in the United States, our military bases, my husband’s world and our lives together with our children. I am grateful for the many opportunities and the absolute freedom I enjoy in the United States, my present home.

Now, if only I can bring back some of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese they have over here, I can have the best of both worlds.