What Are Your Thoughts on Tradition?
by Lynn Ricci
For this guest blog, I decided to ask my main character, Vanessa Tozzi Parker, what her thoughts are on tradition . . .
I cannot think of my childhood without warm memories of my Italian heritage. Italian traditions and culture had an impact on religion and holidays, family and friends, and of course eating. Growing up just outside of Boston’s North End, the oldest “Little Italy” in the country, made those traditions even richer with flavors and memories of the old world.
When I was growing up, our town was predominantly Italian and Irish. It seemed that the majority of my friends’ last names either ended in a vowel or started with a Mac or an O’. We would leave our elementary school and walk thirty strong to our church for CCD classes. We all celebrated the same holidays, and understood the foods that accompanied those holidays like the feast of the seven fishes on Christmas Eve, and the sweet ricotta pies for Easter. Most of us had gardens and grew vegetables because that was just the way it was done. We always shared the bounty showing up at each others back door – always the back, never the front – with brown paper bags holding whatever was in season. And, of course there was always one uncle that made wine!
My mom always had food ready at a moment’s notice in case someone stopped by, whether they were hungry or not. It is amazing that my sister, Samantha, and I weren’t affected by the amount of pasta we consumed. On the weekends there were always pots simmering on the stove – even if it was 90 degrees, Mom would be in the kitchen cooking. Family and food went together and on Sunday afternoons there was always a big extended family dinner. We had an abundance of cousins around and we grew up with a sense that we had a strong family connection.
That sense of family and tradition also influenced us growing up and starting our own lives. I have a close circle of friends from my hometown – Kim, Jackie, Sue, and Trish. When we were in high school, we would gather downtown at the ice cream shop, ordering hot fudge sundaes and endlessly planning how we would live our lives — what schools were we applying to, where in town we wanted to live, the type of guy we would marry and the number of children we would have. It all seemed so easy then – but life gets harder as we grow up, doesn’t it?
Sometimes traditions can remain our foundation, our bedrock, but we need to modify who we are because of the circumstances in our lives. For instance, I got a divorce- that doesn’t necessarily fit in with our Catholic religion, but it was best for me and my girls. Do we still have family dinners on Sunday and go to church? Of course. Do we still enjoy the old traditions and celebrate at the Feasts in the North End to honor patron saints every summer? Yes. Do we swoon over Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin like our Italian mothers did? Well, OK, maybe not so much, but there are plenty of Italian American singers and actors we do enjoy and feel a special connection to.
Tradition plays a big part in making us who we are, who we relate to, and how we conduct our lives – but I believe it doesn’t bind us to a set path. Sometimes, as you will learn about me in my story, you can find the path to the life waiting for you without giving up on your traditions . . . just bringing them along for the ride.
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