I have watched with amazement as my visitor from Italy learns about life in the United States; she is enjoying all the ‘firsts’ that have come to her. Today she ate her first hamburger…with a terrific chocolate malt. She has yet to taste a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a necessary item in life. In Italy she can buy Nutella but she has no idea what peanut butter is.
We have known each other over 40 years. I have visited her five times, always urging her to visit me. Years ago I worked on a cruise ship with her talented brother. I was a singer and he was the pianist in the band. During our early conversations, he mentioned that his sister spoke English well. He asked if I would reply if she wrote to me; I told him I would be happy to write to her. Those letters began a friendship that has no price and has become a highlight of my life.
As our letters crossed the ocean, soon I received a letter from her PaPa — written in Italian! I had stopped singing for a while to raise my five children. While they were in school I enrolled at a nearby community college and was working to earn an Associate in Arts Degree in Journalism. I learned that classes in Italian were offered and enrolled in Beginning Italian. I didn’t like to ask others to translate the letters from my new friend. Enjoying the “B” I made in that class, I then enrolled in Intermediate Italian and earned another “B”. Now I could reply in Italian to PaPa’s letters! THAT was a heady experience!
By this time, maybe a year after we began writing letters, the Italian friends were urging me to visit them. I had never been to Europe so that became a goal. Finally, after I moved from Miami to Geneva, Alabama, I made arrangements to visit this family in Italy. What a welcome I received! I met MaMa, PaPa and a sister, Luciana. The brother I knew was playing the piano in Switzerland. When we arrived at their home from the airport in Milano, there was a vase with red roses and a sign that told me, “Welcome home”. It was such a loving welcome and we immediately became ‘family’. So much so that I have visited Italy four times since then! All the family are gone now but my friend and I have stayed in touch and feel like sisters. She has no one now but I have my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren plus many nieces, nephews and cousins. My parents, brothers and sisters have passed.
I later switched to singing gospel music because I know that words can touch hearts and music is a powerful way to minister to others. I haven’t sung much since I reached age 80 but am involved in other things as I near 82.
Giangi (pronounced Jan-ji) wishes she had visited years ago but we are enjoying this time! She visited her first Wal-Mart and Cracker Barrel. It is fun to watch her expressions as she sees new things. She met my two youngest daughters when I took them with me on my second trip to Italy. My oldest son had visited her a few years ago; he shared the love of music and remembered her brother when he came to the States to work in a few clubs with me. Her father played classical guitar plus many other instruments. He was outgoing but MaMa was loving but more quiet. If the brother had been bolder he would have been world famous. He played with the Tommy Dorsey Band without even a rehearsal!
During this visit, Giangi has met my other daughter, her sons and their wives, daughter and her husband, and six grandchildren. She also met my second son and his fiance. My middle daughter passed in 2005 and her three daughters have not met my friend, who loved their mother when she was 10 years old.
Giangi likes my home in the woods, near a small town. She thinks that Alabama truly is beautiful and we are enjoying our days in the woods. Soon we return to Tampa, then on to Anna Maria Island for two weeks on the beach. Then we return to my daughter’s in Tampa for a week before taking Giangi to the Miami International Airport to return to Italy. I will remain in Tampa a few days before returning to my wonderful woods. Then I will concentrate on the online classes toward a B.A. in Biblical Studies and find time to work on two other books. My 5th book was published when I was 80 and I have no intention of stopping until I must. Life is wonderful and I am so blessed!
I am glad that my friend came on this first visit to the U.S.A. and look forward to future visits. Who knows, I might even visit Italy one more time!
Lura Zerick is an 80-year-old great grandmother. I enjoy learning new things. Give me an Elvis song with a good beat and watch me go! My favorite things are reading, listening to music, singing, cooking/baking, birds and words. I enjoy my 12 great grandchildren and 6 great grand children; love to encourage them to cook, write and sing, as well as use their other abilities. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org