A speech I used to illustrate the Belonging component of the Australian year 12 syllabus
|To begin, I would like to introduce myself to you. I am the daughter of the son of Arcangelo, the daughter of Antonio and I am the next link in the legacy that is my Italian family.
Last night, two of my relatives arrived in Sydney, for the first time in forty-six years. Tired and jetlagged as they were, it made no difference when the whole Australian contingent of my family sat around a plastic covered table together, stuffing our faces with feratelle, continental cake, and probably too much red wine. I sat around this table feeling completely in my place, even though to be quite truthful I had no idea what the hell they were speaking about, or how I was supposed to react. In a place where I should have been disconnected and isolated, I felt welcomed. The language barrier made no difference to me, because being there surrounded by the quintessential aspects of Italian culture, food, wine and noise, made me realize how closely connected I can be with my ‘italianality’, as it were.
Let me preface this by saying, I am a freaking awesome Italian. The only thing is, I look nothing like one. I have never been referred to by the *charming* nickname of ‘wog’, nor have I ever had anyone suspect my heritage before hearing my last name. I am fairly short, ghostly pale and thankfully have not yet developed the pasta belly that my Nonna has cultivated beautifully. The Italian stereotype, made prevalent in movies and pop culture is one of a somewhat portly greasy man with a predisposition to tan, wearing disproportionate amounts of tacky gold jewellery. To be fair, this is one instance where I’m glad I skipped that gene, and being the only pale, short practically Aussie girl at the table I discovered that whilst this may have bothered me before, it didn’t any longer. I don’t convey my Italian heritage ostentatiously, nor do I have any need to. MY link is internalized, private, and whole, regardless of my outwards appearance.
There are things, however, that make me thank god that my mother is an Aussie. First and foremost, my name. Stefania Luisa Rosa. Yes, it’s a hell of a mouthful and quite frankly it’s a pain in the ass when I have to fit it in the little boxes on exams, but it could have been so much worse. One of the weirder things about my family is their tendency to give their children bizarre names, often related to various parts of the body. They range from just a little bit weird, Palmina (palm-ee-nah), to the funnier Tiziana (tits-ee-ah-nah), and then the just plain wrong, Croccia (crotch-ah). One of the many things I can thank my mother for, as well as the obvious not having plastic on OUR furniture, and no statues of naked, fat angel babies all over our front lawn.
Belonging has been discussed as a feeling of safety, interconnectedness and being accepted, contrasted with the feelings of isolation, exclusion and disconnection that come with not belonging. Of course, there are elements of both of these concepts within myself, and all others, however I can say truly that this connection I have with my Italian heritage leans me way more to the belonging side of the spectrum.
In writing this speech, I realized a few things. One, you don’t always have to look the part to be the part. Aspects more important than aesthetics have shaped my understanding of belonging. Two, belonging to something doesn’t necessarily have to mean showing it. The link to my Italian heritage is internal. It sometimes gets fractured, and there are always splinters, but it will remain intact for the rest of my life. So tonight, I’m going to my Nonna’s house to eat homemade spaghetti on a plastic covered table, once again, drink too much red wine, start to get louder, gesture more frantically, argue with Nonna over her ridiculous portion sizes, and start the whole process over again.