A Reflection By Joan Lombardi
When you are the child of an immigrant, you grow up with stories of the other country. No matter how proud you are of your own homeland, there is always the other. It is in your food, it is the way you feel when you hear the language too often forgotten, it is in your traditions, it is in the faces of your cousins, it is in your heart.
Each day I read the reports from Italy and cry. I remember hearing stories of my father’s reaction to the bombing of Cassino. Now I understand. He would read the newspaper and listen to the radio, worried about his aunts who raised him living in the small town nearby. Those elderly women are long gone now. Yet each day, as the numbers rise, I think of them again.
After the war the packages began. My father found a bakery with hundreds of old flour sacks. My mother would haul them up to the roof of their apartment house, bleach them over and over to get the printing off, dry them on the roof, then fill them with everyday items and off they would go. There are no flour sacks that I can send.
I think of the countryside, the smell of lavender. I remember my first trip, walking arm and arm with girls in the village on a Sunday afternoon, laughing as we tried to communicate. I remember the large square in my grandparents hometown, filled with life when we arrived. It must be so quiet now.
I worry about my colleagues there who I have met over the years, and others all around the world sheltering in, trying to figure out what to do next. Each day a new country is added, places and people who depend on their daily work to feed their families, a modern day bombing with new age victims.
Each day I hear the numbers and grieve. Then I try to focus on what happened after World War II when Italy rallied and the economy moved forward and beyond. We will get through this and morning will come, we pray.
Joan Lombardi lives in Washington, D.C., and serves as an advisor to a number of domestic and international organizations on child and family policy issues, with a particular focus on young children.