Their First Look at the Americans

One by one they filed in, sitting around the smoky fire in the dark, dingy room. The entire village, it seemed, wanted a look at the foreigners. While I in turn, through teary, smoke-filled eyes, examined them. Our new town folk, for this was our new home.

Life in that isolated village seemed of another era. 

Shut in, not only by the surrounding mountains, but by time, which seemed to stand still. Everything, from wrinkled grannies to thick-walled ancient homes, spoke of the past. 

Quaint and picturesque.

A long, winding cobble-stoned staircase climbed the mountainside to the ancestral home, quaint and picturesque in every way. (A poetical way, I’ve read, to describe crude and primitive.) Electricity often failed. Water lacked most of the day. Dim, gloomy, grimy homes heated by flickering fires. Quaint and picturesque indeed!

“This was 20th century Europe? 1989? Perhaps we’d caught the wrong plane!” Like snapshots from an ancient album, they returned from country gardens. Kerchief-covered women, bundles of kindling wood balanced on their heads.

Their husbands, stooped from age as well as labor, leading equally ancient, produce-burdened donkeys. Home from working the land. Which was, as it always had been, their life and sustenance.

A Medieval life, flowing with the rhythm of the seasons and the weather, belied only by the electric wires and few passing cars. Little educated, they lived much as their grandparents before them had. Locked away in the past, and the memory of time.

Yet somehow, we were strangely one with these enchanting, colorful folk.

Many of whom remembered the mischievous little boy who had migrated to America long ago. And so, like aunties and uncles, they came to call, welcoming home one of their own.

Enchanting and colorful.

Enchanting and colorful, or critical and tradition-bound? We used too much water. (No one needs to bathe every day!) I did too much laundry. (Why did we change so often?) And I did laundry on the wrong day. (Wash day was only Tuesday!)

These were Latinos? Hospitable, cheerful, and generous? OK, no doubt about it, I thought, we’d taken the wrong plane! And I just wanted to go home!

Life is full of the unexpected.

Stuff we’re not ready for, and don’t know how to handle. But nothing takes the Lord by surprise! And he helped us adapt to all the unexpected ‘quaint’ surprises. He enabled us to stay and make a new home here. We learned to accept, and even be grateful for all the quaintness. And little by little, we fell in love with this picturesque land and it’s colorful people.

It’s home! And I’m glad we didn’t catch the wrong plane!

Published by Signora Sheila

Missionary blogger, wife, mom, nonna. Join my simple life journey of faith and missions in small town Italy!

5 thoughts on “Their First Look at the Americans

  1. Indeed: Nothing takes the Lord by surprise, and he helps us adapt. I can attest to the truth of that statement too, as God moved us six times in forty years (not so bad compared to what some have endured), as my pastor-husband served six churches during his ministry. We faced challenges to be sure, but God saw us through and blessed us BIG time–in spite of them!

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    1. Well Susan, it was at times difficult. But other times we just found it downright amusing! I mean wash day only on Tuesday?? I mean, really?? But it was quite another nation back then. Especially in those isolated areas. But yes, it was and has been rewarding!! Still today when we go back there – they are thrilled to have “a son” coming home. Family and paesani ties are very strong and important!

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