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La Cartella

Updated: Mar 29, 2023


If there ever was a dream that I wanted to come through for me, it was to become a student. The image of carrying books, writing tools, and paper always fascinated me. To maintain these things, one needed a cartella, a backpack. I was good in school, and I truly envisioned that I deserved a cartella. I wanted one, but my parents did not have sufficient savings to buy it. My parents weren’t poor but worked hard to put food on the table. Whatever cash they had extra was left loose on top of the bureau in the master bedroom. What amazed me was that our front door had no bolts or keys, and anyone at any time, night or day, could have walked into our house. Obviously, nobody ever did. What was there to steal? That’s not where my mind went one day. At the tender age of 10, I concluded that whatever belonged to my parents also belonged to me. I have no idea how I arrived at this moral distortion. “Don’t you think that, since I was doing well in school, I deserved to carry my books, writing tools, and paper in a cartella?” And… Since the cash had been left loose on top of the bureau for over two weeks. It was surely not needed for food. Why not take the money my family had saved and use it to buy a cartella at the village bazaar? That’s precisely what I did. One afternoon when I got dismissed from school while my mom was visiting a neighborhood friend, without hesitation, remorse, or guilt, I took the 500 lire left loose on the bureau, went to the bazaar, exchanged the cash for the cartella, and proudly returned home with it. I had the gut feeling that I had become a serious student and that my mom would be happy. That thought was distant from reality. Once my mom arrived, she returned the cartella to the local bazaar a couple minutes down the main street where we lived and got the family money back. Yes, the family money! It wasn’t the way I had perceived things. Family money was not automatically my money. I pointed out to my mom, “Why not?” “Because you did not earn it!” Not convinced, I gave my mom a harsh argument. “I am your son. Therefore, what belongs to the family belongs to me. Right?” That was it. That was the turning point. “People who take things that do not belong to them are thieves!” my mom concluded. My mom tied me lightly to a chair, adding, ” What you have not earned is not yours. If you want it, you must ask for it.” “You will stay tied to the chair until tonight.” I was dumbfounded. In my mind, I was convinced to be on the right side of things and I must confess that I also found pleasure in getting myself untied. Where is the logic? What is the lesson to be learned? In later years, the concept became very poignant, “Earn what you wish for!” “It is truly yours when you work for it!” Post Scriptum One should not expect for learning to produce visible imminent inherent rewards.


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