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Jerry Buccilli joins us for his fourth guest post with An Italian-Canadian Life. We love his writing, memories and recipes and this is another great addition. Thanks Jerry!

My Dad will be celebrating his 80th birthday this May. He’s had a good, long and colorful life. Sometimes there were dark periods (as when mom passed away) but for the most part no regrets. Since his children began having children of their own we all began calling him “nonno”….even his own children. He’s proud of this reference and often says that his best accomplishment in life was to raise his family.

As with most Italian men of his generation he’s also incredibly proud of his garden. As far back as my memory takes me I remember my father working in the garden during the long summer months. He’d work there so much that we often had lunch outside so he could quickly return to his “work.”  There’d always be something to do: a tomato plant to tie so it wouldn’t fall over; zucchini to pick; herbs to cut, trim and hang up; watering, shoveling, cleaning, etc….There was always something.

Sometimes, when the garden was in full bloom and it was having a good year he would whistle or even sing. My mom would be sitting a few feet away near the patio and she’d ask him to sing to her. At first he would hesitate but then he’d begin to belt out some old tune and mom would smile.

Life was good. He was always the happiest in his garden with his wife by his side.

Often I would sit with him in the middle of the garden and we would talk. My father would tell me stories from his youth. Or his days in Venezuela when he and his father and brother travelled across the Atlantic to find work when WWII left Italy in economic upheaval and work were scarce.

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Often when he was trying to teach me or advise he would speak in proverbs. Italians are very fond of their proverbs and my father was no different.

L’amore domina senza regole – Love rules without rules (When I asked him about marrying my then girlfriend.)

A carne di lupo, zanne di cane. – An eye for an eye (When I was being picked on at school. This meant I should fight back. Don’t go looking for trouble but if trouble finds you stand up for yourself)

O mangiare questa minestra o saltar da questa finestra. – Either eat this soup or jump out the window. (When I asked him about some problems I was having at work with my boss.)

As the years go by the garden becomes a bigger burden. Age has set in and Dad’s arthritis is worse than ever. Still he goes back every summer and does his best to maintain it as best as his body will allow. I help too but it’s becoming increasing difficult to do so while balancing family and work. One day the garden will be gone but the memories will linger for a lifetime and I will never forget those quiet moments, sharing ideas, telling stories and being together – deep in the garden, without intrusion, just me and my Dad happiest as can be.

Jerry Buccilli, is a 2nd generation Italian living in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He currently owns and operates Zeppoli’s – Italian Comfort Food, a catering company specializing in Italian regional cuisine.

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