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Pasta con Zucchini, Hospitality, and the Joy of Giving

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

The product of our life experiences is shaped by our choices and pre-designed by the ethics of our upbringing. My embroidery has taken astuteness to complete. Many thanks go to Ulysses' wife, Penelope, for showing me the subterfuge of slowing things down in the Odyssey.

Raised by an uneducated but extremely brilliant mother, I have no recollection of how my ethical view of the world was founded. I do remember that I cared more about intangible values than material goods.

My village was occasionally the destination of unusual wanderers that stretched our imagination beyond our limited geographic terrains. One summer day, a monk passed through our deserted streets (too hot to be outside), looking for meager donations in exchange for religious trinkets. I wondered, ‘Where would he rest? Where would he eat?”

Moved by the monk's empty attempts I sensed a longing for food and rest, and I invited him to come home with me. Once up the stairs, I looked at my mom, who was washing clothes, imploring (knowing that we did not have much to offer), "Puo' restare a mangiare con noi?" "Can he stay to eat with us?" With a surprised look, a tender voice, and a patient gesture, my mom showed the monk where to sit, "Accomodatevi!" "Accommodate yourself."

We sat and talked about the long walk to the village. I could see the satisfaction stretching on the monk's cheeks. In less than 15 minutes, my mom had steaming plates of spaghetti with pan-fried Zucchini staring at us. We ate them with immense satisfaction and talked more about the daring trip back to the monastery before dark. I could see a smile glowing out of the monk's eyes. More than anything, I was proud of my mom. I could always rely on her on making things happen. She had turned my wish into a reality. She had materialized her teachings: whatever you have, share it with people in need.

Two decades later and on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, still surviving a cultural shock, and impulsively working toward maintaining the values of my heritage, the name Montessori caught my attention. It was an announcement on a university bulletin board, a lecture about Montessori educational philosophy and teaching methods. 'Wow!" I said to myself. A teacher from Italy and an internationally respected pedagogy. Yet, there I was, a few days away from getting licensure for teaching in traditional public schools in Massachusetts. The churning by the Deus Ex Machina of American Society and its values was beginning to shape my future. “Someday,” I whispered to myself, “I will follow my compatriot’s footsteps!”

Half a century later, the churning went on, and I was blessed with the rebirth of my daughter and the birth of my grandson. My life was recapturing a meaningful existence. I could rekindle my childhood values and share them with my grandson. As he grew up to attend school, I knew the right fit for him: a Montessori School, where children are revered, the soul is nourished, and a place where the practice of 'grace and courtesy' is more important than getting a perfect grade.

I drive along the Charles River from the Watertown Square river bend toward the 'Riverbend' in South Natick, where my grandson and I have shared much of what we are and what we do. It is a place where I have reconnected with my childhood values, my mom's teachings, and what's really important in life. In the end, one just needs 'pasta and zucchini' to make somebody happy. When things are over, it is the hospitality, the joy of giving that adds 'life' to our human existence.

Post Scriptum

1. The Zucchini is a Mesoamerican squash brought back to Europe (and Italy) by returning immigrants from the Americas.

2. Spaghetti and Zucchini is a delicate way to satisfy your palate with a bittersweet culinary experience.

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