Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Writers Workshop

The Prompts:
1.) For your birthday a sibling has decided to have the first six months of your blog printed and bound. Write a forward for the book
.2.) Write a 26-line poem using all the letters of the alphabet, where the first line starts with the letter "A," the second "B," the third "C," etc., culminating with the final line starting with "Z."(
3.) Start your story with, "In retrospect, I wouldn't say it was my best idea." And end it with, "And that's how I attempted to make this world a better place.(
4.) What would the truth have done? Write about a time when honesty was NOT the best policy.(
5.) What made your childhood bearable? Write about it.(
I choose number 5.
Why I loved my childhood
By Saundra Shaver
Grade 40 1/2
Teacher: MamaKat
What made my childhood bearable? I know I say this all the time... but having immigrant parents. My parents weren't like all the other parents I saw and knew...
Mine were... different.. and I thought... better.
First of all, My Papa had this cool accent. Of course, I didn't even KNOW he had an accent until he came to school to pick me up one day in Kindergarten, and my friends heard him say...
"Hi a Sandra... Youa readya toa goa homea?"
The next day, the kids said my Daddy talked funny. I said it's because he was new to our planet.
(I kinda got my countries and planets mixed up)
My Mom came to America when she was 17, married my Papa at 18 and had me at 19.
She was waaaaay younger than a lot of my friends Moms.
My Mama cooked and cleaned all the time, with records on. Not American records.
All Italian recording artists.
Cool ones.
I know every word to every Italian 50's, 60's and 70's songs.
What made my childhood special really...was the culture that my parents brought to America with them. I was immersed in the European way.
Fine crystal every Sunday.
Dinner was an event, to be eaten with your family and friends around a table,
wine flowing, loud banter, hands banging on tables, arms flying every which way.
Every week, we took a drive to Upland to the only Italian Store in the area back then, and
we would buy imported goodies that made my parents feel like they were home in Italy.
First pressed olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, sardines, tuna in olive oil,
dried figs, rock hard salami, aged provolone cheese,
iron cheese graters, pasta in 5 lb boxes with only Italian writing on them,
Olives so dark and bitter it would curl your hair.
The smell of that store, which is STILL in business 40 years later, to this day, hits you like
you are on a gondola, eating fresh cheese and grapes.
Mama cooked everything fresh... all the time.
We have never... to this day... purchased a bottle of spaghetti sauce. To us.. .it doesn't exist.
To us, grated cheese first comes in a block... and you fresh grate it at home.
I still do this in my own home. No jarred sauce here either.
We were eating sun dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, exotic cheeses and all that frou frou stuff everyone eats now... 40 years before it was cool.
Italian was the language spoken. It was like someone was constantly singing to you.
The rolling r's, the accentuation of the words when passion is needed.
Oh! I adore it!
We jarred everything. Our own tomato sauce. We picked and jarred our own olives, artichokes, mushrooms, truffles, we made our own jams.
We had over 100 fruit trees on our property. Pomegranate, pear, cherry, orange, lemon, lime, plum, nectarine, peach, 5 varieties of grapes, apricots, olives, you name it!
Papa grew and still grows every vegetable known to man.
Every time he comes over... he has a huge bag of goodies straight from his garden.
We made our own wine.
We had chickens, rabbits, ducks, dogs, cats, goats..
We would attend Wine Festivals and stomp grapes with our feet.
We would ask local grape growers if we could have a stem of vine so he could graft it to his own.
My Papa once had a tree that grew Apricots, plums, apples, nectarines and peaches...ON THE SAME TREE! He grafted it himself.
No, we did not have a farm. Just a 1/4 acre in Fontana.
My childhood was filled with laughter, loud family members, passionate people that loved deeply, demonstrative relatives, great food, parents that were from another world.
Sometimes I feel like my boys are cheated out a little bit.
I was born here.
First Generation.
I don't have a cool accent.
We do grow a grip of trees and have a great garden... but
no canning, and such.
I loved not living the typical American lifestyle.
It broadened my sense of self.
I knew there was more than just America... from a very early age.
Although I love America, Italy feels like home to me too.
Each time I've been in Italy, I've never felt out of place.
When we took the kids a couple years ago... they were very comfortable.
I do try to incorporate what I know into our life. I can't help it... it's in me.
They say they 'feel' more Italian than anything else.
My childhood rocked my socks off.
Thanks Mama and Papa!


  1. I really enjoyed reading that!! What a blessing to have been able to grow up w/ your culture!!!

  2. That is so cool! I am jealous! I got my culture from Reading Rainbow.

  3. This is a wonderful story. When I was little, we lived above my grandmother and when I was in first and second grade, the school sent me to speech therapy because I had a German accent from being around her and her friends so much.
    What a gift your parents gave you. So many Americans think the U.S. is the center of the world and everything from anywhere else is not as good. I lived abroad for several years, so I realize other countries are no better or worse, they are just different. And to have that Italian culture to pass on to your children is wonderful, too. I bet they don't always appreciate it now, but they will as adults.

  4. God I love Italians :) I grew up surrounded by Italians, my best friend's name was Lisa Donato and her cousin, Tania Del Monte, and the Pergolettos were our arch enemies :) All the bottling, accents, and immigrant attitude were the best part of my childhood too, Saundra :)

  5. Parents and family can make growing up so great. Coming from a polyglot line of horse thieves, I still liked the culture. An Italian one sounds even better.

  6. Visiting from Mama Kat's...

    This was wonderful! I loved reading it and I wanted to become part of your family. I love how you said your dad was from another planet! I love the family life you described! I love reading about the food! And it is so nice to hear about someone with a happy, loving, interesting childhood! Ciao, Bella! (I hope that is right!)

  7. Culture and traditions are treasures to family. You are very lucky.

  8. That is such a great story! I can smell the store and all it's yummy food as I read.

  9. What a great story. I loved it. Sounds like you are lucky and very blessed.

  10. You have to submit that for print publishing somewhere. I'm craving olives and loud company. Chardonnay got me through my childhood. Explains a lot, yes?

  11. What a great home you grew up in.

  12. That is the coolest thing ever. I so wish I could meet you! I wish I had that kind of heritage with traditions and customs to pass down but it just isn't so. This was a wonderful peek into just what made you as wonderful as you are!

  13. Sometimes I feel jipped becasue the only culture I got to experience was American.

  14. What a wonderful story. I loved the fact that the little italian store is still in business. That is wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing.

    P.S. Did you get your pure sleep? Is you hubby still snoring or did it work for you? I've been dying to know.

  15. Ahhhh! I loved this post!! And I love hearing about people who had such outstanding childhoods like yours. You are so lucky and blessed because not everyone does!!!!!

    And you're making me want to go to Italy more than I did before, and that's reallllly saying something, lol!

  16. Very jeaulous!! That's awesome you grew up in such a positive awesome environment. The italian store sounds like so much fun!!

  17. I saw it all. The whole story...I could picture it perfectly. Of course I included myself in it! That is exactly what I want to have. I even want the accent.

  18. Sounds like a fantastic childhood!!! And yummy food...MMMM!! I love food and you guys sound like you had some of the best!!

  19. FABULOUS story. I'm so jealous. I have an inner Italian just screaming to get out. I do everything loud. And with cheese. LOL

    Clearly, I need to marry into a family such as yours. Got an older brother for me???

  20. It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood! What fabulous parents you had!

  21. Wow! What an amazing childhood you had! Lucky girl...I wish I had more heritage to hold onto like that!

  22. Wow what a wonderful home to grow up in! That is too cool!

  23. Awesome Saundra! Even though I am a third generation California Italian, we were much the same as you. Gardens are a big thing for us Italians... My grandma (Noni) made the best Rosemary chicken, homemade gravy, Ravioli's Gnocci... and LOL We had Polenta way before it was trendy! Like Noni said, its poor mans food in Italy! Your family sounds wonderful. I hjope I could meet you someday!

  24. My uncle had the most amazing grape vine. It was so thick, full, and huge that he made a patio out of it. He put in a cement floor and lawn furniture. We had all the summer picnics under that grape vine. The grapes were so sweet. They tasted like candy. Every time I eat a concord grape I think of my uncle.

  25. What a special time Saundra.

  26. I'm having trouble posting a comment so please forgive me if it shows up a dozen times!

    What a special story!

  27. What a great blog and what a great story! I too was brought up in Australia but in a Polish family with a dad with the same accent as yours ;) My husband and I have been living in Florence, italy for the last year so I can really relate to your post. In Australia, I grabbed the first olive oil i could find in the supermarket. Now we go to a specialty store and take an hour mulling over which one to get!

  28. This post was freakin' awesome! You perfectly described MY childhood while describing your own. ;-)


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