The story I want to tell you is all about simple things, things that can happen to any individual, they are facts of the life of a man who goes around the world in search of fortune and adventure.
But I guarantee you that these true facts tht happened long ago, that can still happen today and will continue to happen over time as long as human beings are on this planet we’ve made ours.
I was born during the Second World War in a small provincial town, Cinisi. I say small town because I think that this beloved town of mine has never given its children a great story. But on the contrary it gave the most beautiful gift a mother can give to her children: a genuine character, strong and constant but at the same time complicated and tormented in its traditions and customs.
My family, modest in its village origins, has never been rich in money but has been strong and united with love that has been handed down to its children. The love for our Lord and a deep kind of respect, values that are still today the foundations of my very existence.
I grew up like so many other peers of mine between going to school, and playing games with neighborhood friends, always attentive to the calls of older people, especially those of my mother.
The free time of a boy was spent being carefree, and I hardly noticed the change that followed me everyday. Everything seemed normal, simple and still. But no, life was a succession of changes and alternatives. Yesterday I was just a kid sitting in an elementary school desk and then, after a few years, I found myself a teenager sitting in a middle school one.
This time the ideas were of different nature, there were other fields to be discovered, other alternatives. But they were just the alternatives of a kid from yesterday who was growing up fast with little potential and lots of things still to be learned.
I continued my life every day carefree, always busy with studying and playing with friends in my free time, but always careful in helping my father with the family’s domestic needs: picking almonds in the countryside at the start of summer and then helping him during the grape harvest in September. This gave me the joy of being with groups of older kids who helped us during the harvest.
I learned so much from those years spent in the village, I will never forget them again.
At school I studied many subjects, from Latin to French as well as our Italian (one of the few beautiful languages spoken in the world). Maths did not go down easily, on the contrary, however, I was a good athlete and I tried any kind of competitive sport.
The bicycle remained my passion and I dreamed of becoming a new and emerging Ercole Baldini or a Gastone Nencini, or a Jacques Anquetil, the blond Frenchman who in those days won everything. These were my heroes of sports world of the time.
But they were forbidden dreams for those times in the late 1950s, our town at that time offered little chance for outbursts of youth. Not being able to find our place in sports, we young boys let off steam by playing with friends in the neighborhood. We did this in the street behind mine, or by going down to the end of the road to the famous ‘Chiancello’ where we’d all end up playing together.
They were very simple but at the same time fascinating games because they contained challenges and values, they have names which are as romantic as untrnslatable ‘la mazza e lu scanneddu’,’atti vitti’, ‘a la verra’, ‘a sutta giacomu’, ‘a la banda a quattro e quattrotto’ and many others that I have almost forgotten.
My games still continued as a young man, only that the panorama of life was beginning to change: the square, the mountain and the sea had become the favorite destinations both for me and for my companions.
When playing games our dreams were multiplied, we became more serious, and I began to smoke my first cigarettes sharing the thrill of doing so with friends. Then girls came into the picture. Feeling these new sensations in my heart, I began to understand that I was growing fast, and already i felt like an adult.
I remember when my father who had only finished his middle school studies, encouraged me as a good parent to continue to study “so when you grow up you can become someone” he told me. As a good boy I obeyed him so I attended the Palermo high school for a couple of years.
Unfortunately, my career as a student did not last long. Nobody’s fault, a decision I made myself at that time. The economic conditions of the family and a future that I did not see so clearly may have been the reasons for my academic failure.
After all these years, I can still feel the pain of having finished my studies at too young an age, and I’ll admit that those few years I spent in the village were of sadness and anguish, mostly for not being able to satisfy the my father’s dream. I firmly believed that I had lost the most important battle of my life.
A wound had opened in my heart, an open wound tormented me night and day and it never healed. But the games with friends continued, indeed as time went on they became more fun, as different interests kept building up.
Something was missing from me, but I did not want to confront myself with it, I accepted the temporary defeat, even reluctantly, and I prepared myself for the shock, the real step to take if the occasion had been presented.
The countryside and the sea, I said a little while ago, were the first two sources of entertainment for my youth.
The fields, mass, the gardens, the majestic grandeur of the mountains that surround our territory almost like an amphitheater, gave me the strength and courage to continue in life.
While the sea, with the vastness of a divine bed, sometimes dormant in its blanket that at times when calm seems to shine with mother-pearl, other times smothered by an incomprehensible anger. The sea gave me the thrill of adventure, it gave me the security that I would make it.
In those moments of daydreaming I realized that my life was changing. A dream was coming true, my departure for America was already an accomplished feat.
This was my destiny and I followed it. There never was regret, but a bit of bitterness. Language problems, social problems, economic position.
After constant years of hard work, the negative sides disappeared. Today, after having lived for more than 40 years in America, I can confirm that this mosaic of people living in the new world gives me a strenght that makes me feel like a true citizen of this planet.
In America I feel at home, I don’t feel like a foreigner at all. This is my philosophy: an Italian discovered it, an Italian gave it the name. A certain Philip Mazzei (a dear friend of Thomas Jefferson) wrote the draft of the civil rights, of human freedom, the famous “Cicerone” lent him the institutional civil code for human civilization.
Finally Americans today are learning to set the table, and they would not be able to do it without the products and recipes of our beautiful country.
Dear friend who’s reading my story, do not think that in life there is only the satisfaction of accomplishing, together with this broad spectrum of happines and success there is also pain.
If perhaps you have not experienced this kind of pain, then you have been lucky. So not knowing you, I want to give you my advice as a friend: I invite you to love your and MY Italy more. I suggest you love her open heartedly and with more sincerity. If you succeed in doing so, you will understand my pain and the great love that I reserve for our ‘Italy’.
Rosolino Lo Duca is an American citizen originally from Cinisi, near Palermo, and for his love for his two homelands he is today Represents Cinisi emigrants abroad and is President of the Scientific Committee of the Town Ambassador Award dedicated to those who play a proactive role in the promotion of his original country and town.