What Being an Italian-American Means to Me

For Easter Sunday, my immediate family headed over to my Aunt Helen’s for dinner. For as long as I’ve been alive and many moons prior to my birth, a member of my family has always chosen a holiday to celebrate. When we lived in New York, Aunt Helen had Thanksgiving on her house; my parents put on Christmas at ours; and Easter was my Aunt Patty’s holiday. After we moved, we had to revise our locations and designated party thrower for the holidays but what always stuck in my family is the Italian traditions, no matter where we were.

I’ve identified myself as Italian-American all my life. (And no – this is not the same identification association with the Jersey Shore clowns.) Being Italian-American is about respect, love and, most of all, family. With my family, we don’t need a holiday to roll around to celebrate. It could be a promotion, a school project that received a great grade or just the joy of spending time with each other. The food is always abundant, the wine never stops flowing and the laughter can be heard from three streets away.

Now that I’m becoming part of Jim’s family, it makes me realize my definition of what family means, and is according what I’ve been accustomed to prior to my relationship with Jim, is completely ignorant. Maybe the traditions are a little different than what I knew growing up, but the traditions are still there. More importantly: the values are still there.

As Jim and I create our future together, I’m excited to see how we will take our traditions and blend them for the family we have someday. I already see it happening and it makes me smile. For example, my family calls pasta “macaroni” and red marinara sauce “gravy.” Not only did I “convert” Jim to Italian-American lingo, but his mom and brother, too. In turn, his family has me loving barbecue and Southern food.

I will never let go of my “Italian-Americanness” as it is what identifies me. It’s simply enhancing and growing. I’m adjusting to a new culture; new values and new ways to love. In a world of such chaos, criticism and negativity, I feel grateful for the opportunity to learn these things.

If we can’t grow – in any aspect – what’s the point of living? Really living, anyway.

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