No wonder in the sixties they called it the era of the Mad Men. Women during this era had the choice to put on their apron and shut up or burn their bras. My mother was one of those women with the apron on and what did she do when my dad declared his intention to return to Canada? She had two choices, one was to dump dad or the other to do what she was told. Dad returned to Ottawa and got his job back and started to look for an apartment for us. What could my mother say or do? She did what she thought was best for her and I. She did what she knew best and it was to listen like a good wife and do what she was told. She stayed behind and did her best to sell some of our belonging. Once everything was sold, she packed our bags, trunks, me and swollowed her pride and followed dad back to Ottawa, Canada. I really don’t understand what possessed dad to change his mind to leave his beloved Italia and return to Canada. My parents had to start all over again. We lived in a rental on the second floor of a home owned by an Italian family from Abruzzo. During the transition time every chance mom had, she would talk about Italy to whoever would listen. Mom kept Italy alive for me. She made sure I would never forget my brief time in Italy. Not long after our arrival from Italy, Dad had saved enough money to put a down payment on a new single home close to another Italian family who had two daughters my age which we became friends. The summer of 65, my sister Carolina was born and I became a big sister of 7 years senor. We had fun growing up because my parents balanced their work and family life very well. During the summers every Sunday we would go on a picnic and we would spend family quality time together. Dad was against eating anything that was not Italian. At that time he had a testa dura (hard headed) he did not want to give in and try as he called it, magiare Canadese (Canadian food). My Italian friends Mara and Diana who lived across from me always talked about hot dogs and corn on the cob. I wanted so much to try a hot dog and corn on a cob that I went home on day and asked if I could try some. Dad was not pleased and said that in Italy the corn on the cob was given to the pigs to eat, but cornel where to make polenta (corn meal) flour and that was the end of the conversation. One day at school a friend of mine asked me to exchange sandwiches. She said that my sandwichs always looked pretty. I gave her my salami and eggplant panino and she gave me her peanut butter and stawberry jam sandwich. It was an amazing flavour combination. My friend loved my salami and eggplant panino that she suggested to come up with a plan and ask our mothers to make us the same lunch every friday, so we could exchange. Six year had gone by since the hot dog conversation and I turned fourteen and it was during our trip to Niagara Falls visiting mom’s cousins that I had the pleasure to eat my first hot dog with ketchup, mustard and relish served with a corn on the cob drenched in salted butter. I enjoyed it, but the most enjoyable part was my father’s face when he was presented with a hot dog as a meal. Not to be disrespectful he took the hot dog and ate it without any condiment and I was surprised to hear him say that the hot dog tasted somewhat like mortadella an Italian cold cut meat and from that time on when we had barbecue, along side with the home-made Italian sausages was a few hot dogs served with corn on the cob.
One of the most important thing dad demanded was to speak Italian at home. Sometime I would slip and say a few English words and in a harsh voice he would remind me to speak my native language. Don’t get me wrong my parents were not abusive, only determined that I would not forget my roots and thank to them for keeping my Italian traditions alive and because of it, I can write about my experiences about growing up Italian.
Since my parents also knew how to speak French, I was enrolled in French Grade School and later I was also educated in English. On document papers I am Canadian, however my heart is Italian and this is due to the persistence of my parents making sure I would never forget my heritage. My father loved his Bella Italia, but he had made up his mind that Canada was a country for growth and opportunities. He believed so much in making a future for us in Canada that to make it legal dad and mom become Canadians and I without a voice in the matter become automatically Canadian. How strange it is, the country of my birth did not want to recognize me as one of their own and on the other hand, Canada embraced me. At this moment as I write these words, I am proud to be Canadian. Not long after becoming Canadian, dad managed to open a small machine shop business on Preston Street in the heart of Little Italy and soon after he took on three other partners all immigrants. The machine shop business was thriving and they built a new building in an industrial park. Dad and his partners managed to create one of the largest privately owned machine shop in Ottawa. They had over 40 employees and after thirty-five years of fruitful business, they sold the machine shop. It was sad to see the flame of a dream die. Dad was seventy when he retired and his only dream was to relax and enjoy his family.