Meet Me in the Middle

I’m interested in the in-between spaces. It’s because of my upbringing.

My mother was French-Canadian and my father was Italian-American; growing up, I was taken to Canada in the summers to speak French with the cousins, while the rest of the year my dad, my aunt, and my grandfather all spoke Sicilian in the house.

The languages and the cultures swirl around in my family. On Christmas Eve, dinner includes purpu—which is Sicilian for polpo, which is Italian for “octopus”—while dessert includes sucre à la crème, which is a sweet, French-Canadian delight.

Though we all speak English together, we say “I love you”—je vous aime—in French, but we say “wait a minute”—aspetta!—in Italian. Our word for “conch” is the Italian scungilli, but a flyswatter is a French tue-mouche. 

And for some reason, though spoon is always “spoon” and knife is always “knife,” fork is always fourchette.

Being immersed in this cultural stew teaches you some interesting lessons. For one thing, it teaches that it’s absolutely possible to create a space where different cultures can come together in a positive way. In that space, you can learn a great deal about the cultures involved—and then you can take the best bits from everywhere and shape them into something else—something uniquely your own.

For another, it teaches that knowing other languages opens other worlds. You see the world differently when you approach it in a different language. When we borrow words or phrases or concepts from another language, we enrich our own language, we expand the horizon of what’s possible.

That was my childhood. And that’s my life. And that’s my fascination, my passion, that I indulge when I travel, when I write, when I read, when I cook…I peek into, I roam through, and sometimes I even create those in-between spaces where cultures meet. What happens there is what I write about here. In the middle of everywhere.

Igor Mitoraj’s monumental sculptures were exhibited among Pompeii’s ancient ruins in 2016-17. When you’re able to communicate, even a little, in Italian, it makes the trip to Pompeii a little smoother, and a lot more fun.    Photo © Cora Bresciano 2017