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"America is, of course, my home now, but I have always felt like a stranger here. And in Lucca, I am the Americana, which is painful for me, because I am Lucchese."
Tina Scopazzi couldnt be expected to have many fondmemories of her birthplace in Lucca, Italy. Yet, she has many.
Fortunately, the rest of her family was present and loving. Because young people did not wander out to play in Lucca in the 1930s and 1940s, Tina and her brother were escorted by their grandfather to the grand mura, the wide boulevard with great trees, where Luccas majestic walls implied protection.
"He would point out birds nests, tell us stories, buy us candies. Sometimes he would make me comb his hair or shine his shoes to get a piece of candy," she laughs. Wistfully, she adds, "I can still smell his pipe."
He was a stubborn man who, on his way back to Italy from his home in Brazil, was robbed of his life savings because he had refused to trust a bank, or the safety of his wifes corset, with it. Tinas family, then, subsisted on the modest rental income they received from the house in which they occupied one of three floors. Tinas aunt, who also lived with them, worked as a seamstress to help supplement the familys income.
Mealtimes were not raucous, noisy forums where the family vied for attention, Tina says.
"The adults did most of the talking, and they did so quietly. Children were not encouraged to participate. They were taught table manners," Tina explains.
Tinas childhood was cut a bit short when she was called upon to help raise her cousins, whose mother became ill when they were toddlers. After school, she would rush toher aunts house to tend to the needs of the children, not returning to her own home until they were put to bed.
In 1948, when the travel restrictions imposed by the war began to dissolve, Tinas family could finally emigrate to America to join her father. Tina's aunt passed away, leaving the youngest cousin to be cared for by Tina. Additionally, Tina's visa was delayed. So, her family left for America without her.
A year later, when her visa was approved and a loving home was found within the family for her cousin, Tina joined her family in America. She sent her fiance' the necessary papers to facilitate his own passage, but never received word that he got them. Years later, she learned that her efforts had been sabotaged by his parents, who did not want their son to leave Italy.
She attended dances and picnics sponsored by Casa Fugazzi. She dedicated herself to learning English and at night school, met the man she eventually married. She has raised her family, including comedian Dan Scopazzi, in the Bay Area.
"I feel lucky to be from Lucca," she continues. "The Lucchese are independent and strong. You get six Lucchese together, you get seven different ideas."
What does she miss most in between her visits every couple of years? "The mura," she says without hesitation. "As soon asI arrive in Lucca, I must walk the mura. It calms me."
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