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The Making of Tre Donne ~ by Elizabeth Colantoni

Tre donne


Uprooted at 34 with a husband and two children.

Canada was a land of opportunity –
I was excited to see what it had in store for my family.

The language was always difficult.

Making friends on Facer St. was easy –
most of the people living there were Italian.

English wasn’t necessary on the job –
all the women were Italian.

Every morning the shuttle would come to pick us up
and take us to the farm.

I liked where I worked. Most everyone was Italian.

We really get paid every week? It’s not just a running tab of hours? I actually get paid a steady wage.

The language was always difficult.

When you’re surrounded by Italians all the time, you don’t pick up on as much English.

Understanding was much easier than speaking.

Dynasty –
I never missed an episode.
The language barrier didn’t matter when it came to American TV.

Grocery stores don’t carry Italian foods.
How am I supposed to cook?

I can’t go grocery shopping alone –
my three-year-old daughter comes to translate for me.
I would be lost without her.

I always have fully stocked fridges and freezers.

The language was always difficult.

Canadians aren’t as tidy as Italians –
their houses are a mess.

The wives don’t work like I do. They don’t work because they don’t have to.

I am able to provide for my family.

My children will have opportunities I didn’t have.
We made the right decision coming here.


Disjointed and displaced.

I gravitated towards my Canadian friends at school –
their home life didn’t look like mine.

Both my parents worked 7 days a week.

Forced to be independent at a young age –
“latch-key kid”.

Providing for the family was their number one goal.

Food and shelter is more important than toys and extracurricular activities.
All I wanted was an Easy-Bake Oven.

My best friend had every toy but was more interested in coming over to my house to eat.
Mom bought herself a sewing box, wrapped it, and put it under the tree –
that was my Christmas “gift” to unwrap.

It’s hard to feel cool when you’re the only one wearing homemade clothes instead of

No such thing as summer vacation.

The farm was my babysitter.
When I was 8 it became my employer.

Walking home for lunch to have leftovers.
Forgot my key…I’ll just climb in through the milk box.

My mom always bought the best food.
Good food defines success in the immigrant household.

Today I want what everyone else eats for lunch; a bologna sandwich –
please make fried pepper sandwiches again tomorrow.

Translating for my parents was second-nature –
most of the time.

It was embarrassing to see people staring.

What language is that? What are you speaking?

Sometimes things would be easier with English-speaking parents.

Mom sent me to buy milk and I spent the change on candy;
(change = 1 hour’s wage)
I was in a lot of trouble that night.

Why wasn’t I allowed to do that?
My best friend’s mom let us do it.
Why can’t my parents be more Canadian?

How do you explain this parallel universe?

I’m stuck between two cultures –
living in Canada but with Italian values.

Neither fully Italian nor Canadian.


My heritage defines me.

Molise, Le Marche & Abruzzo.

I am very connected to my culture.

I feel more Italian than Canadian.

People at school make fun of what I bring for lunch…
The joke is on them because my food is way better than theirs.

Summer means making sauce together in the garage.

Day trips with mom and the nonni to Fortino’s.

Baking cookies with Nonna by the dozens
so she can have them for the year.

Having divorced parents makes you stand out at family functions.

It’s pronounced the way it looks –

Mom calls me Pupetta (with a) Tuppetta –
Nonna is worried that people at school will make fun of me and start calling me that.
If they can figure out what it means they’re more than welcome to.

Let’s go see Eros Ramazzotti in concert.

Finding rolled up tissues in my coat pockets…
I’m already turning into my Nonna.

Now I’m the translator for my grandparents.

Is it truly a family dinner if it didn’t last a few hours
and no one is talking over one another
or shouting across the table to each other?

I can’t talk without my hands –
they’re an extension of what I’m expressing.

Nonna, can I have your pasta maker?

“Felicità è tenersi per mano andare lontano…”

Al Bano & Romina Power

I know I was a Florentine in a past life.

Quarter-life crisis –
I want to change degrees.

From now on I’m focusing on Italian Studies
and Medieval & Renaissance Studies;
and I’ve never been happier.

Dante and Boccaccio belong on my book shelf.

I think I want to keep my last name when I get married.

Male non fare e paura non avere.

I am proud of where I come from.