Chapter 1

"The extraordinary journey of an ordinary woman"

by Anna Carera

A happy and inspirational youth

I was born because of the immense love my Mother nourished for me.

All parents love us, of course. This is a commonly accepted truth.

But my Mother did something great and inspirational for a 22 year old beautiful woman; because of some health issues, she was told it would have been rather difficult, quite impossible to deliver a baby. Nevertheless, she stayed in bed for 6 months until I was big enough to have a chance to survive. I can only imagine the pain, the uncertainty, the sorrow, the despair she must have felt in herself for so many months.

I had a beautiful, peaceful, happy youth. Being an only child, and you can well realize why, I never ever felt lonely for a second. I had beautiful friends around me since a very early age; the most extraordinary thing is that they are still around.

I loved my family, my parents, my grandparents who lived next door, which is where we have been living since we got married. I loved my friends, I loved my school and my primary school teacher.

Signora Maria passed away only a few years ago and she reached the extraordinary age of 100. She was that type of teacher who knew everything. She had me as her pupil in her last cycle of teaching. She was in her 60s. Strong, very determined with a great knowledge of the basic subjects every pupil should study. She taught me everything I know : the Italian grammar, geography, history, science, math, and all basic subjects , some of which unfortunately are not taught anymore.

She made one mistake with me and I will explain it in a minute.

When I was 7, my parents suggested I do some courses besides what was offered at school at the time. They proposed me French classes, because my father was a passionate traveller and adored foreign languages and understood at that time we were going to live in a global world. I was not born gracious, gentle and thin enough to take classic dance that some of my girlfriends took and I was not inclined to do any sports , unfortunately.

I did not enjoy French or at least the way it was taught and stopped after a couple of classes. In those days my Mother had met a very different, Dutch, divorced lady – imagine in the 60s in Italy to be a foreign and divorced. Signora Annette married a very respectable and noble man from my town , they had a beautiful life together and to give you an idea of their strong relationship, when she died in 1996, he committed suicide a few days after that considering unbearable to live without her.

I started taking English classes twice a week, 1 hour each Monday afternoon and 1 hour each Thursday afternoon. I studied in a group of pupils from age 8 to 14.

I learned not only basic English but lots of grammar rules and structures, learned often English rules first and later the Italian ones.

The most important thing she taught me was deep and unconditional love for the English language, world and culture. I started loving everything learned at class and dreaming about travelling to England.

In 1976, it did happen and my parents and I had an adventurous first holiday driving from Italy through Switzerland and France into England. We caught the over-craft in Calais and arrived in Ramsgate where we spent our first night in a lovely B&B where I was , well I should say, we were immediately charmed by its décor, kindness of the owners and quality of their welcome.

We visited London and walked in every little corner my Father could take us. Visited Buckingham palace, saw the changing of the Guards, the tower of London and admired the jewels of the Crown. Ate in Portobello, took a small cruise on the Thames, visited St Paul’s, even the War Museum because of my Father’s passion of anything historical.

We spent a few days in Stratford-upon- Avon so that I could get familiar with Shakespeare, his Theatre, his wife Anne’s house.

We visited Warwick Castle. Loved an adorable boat ride on the river and walked for hours in the beautiful English countryside.

That holiday opened my mind for the first time, not as much as it happened ten years later living in the States but enough to understand that in this part of the world live amazing and warm people I wanted to be close to.

I was saying before that my primary school teacher, Signora Maria, made one mistake with me and now I want to tell you about it.

Because of her background and culture, she thought that in order to learn our mother tongue it was wrong to learn a foreign language. Many people who were born at the beginning of last century shared this view in my Country. She called my mother after a few months when she discovered that I was studying English – and that happened because I knew the personal pronouns in English before I learned them in my own language – she was very cross and told my Mother that if I continued, she would have stopped me with bad marks for one year.

As I said, she was very determined.

My Mother told her I would never go back to the English classes. Of course, we did not follow her “strong advice”. My parents and I decided I would never show her I knew more rules or make her understand I was taking those classes.

When I graduated from the University for Interpreters and Translators in Bologna in 1986 , I called her and asked if I could visit her. She was thrilled to see me and welcomed me in her cozy home and offered a beautiful afternoon tea.

I showed her my Thesis, one in English and one in French and she was very moved. At some point, she started crying and told me that she had always known I was studying English but decided not to say anything because I was very good and somehow she was realizing that what she told my Mother was wrong. She asked me to forgive her for her mistake, how could I forgive her? She was the most extraordinary teacher I could have had! She only belonged to a different era and thought differently from us.

That afternoon was very moving and I was lucky enough to see her for the last time before she died. I was driving in town and saw her with her care taker. She was almost 100 years old and much more fragile than I could remember. She had some difficulty in recognizing me, I think in the past years of her life she suffered of dementia.

Nevertheless, she smiled at me and I like thinking she did recognize me and was happy for me. That was such an extraordinary day for me, meeting her before she passed away was so important.

Friends and English classes were my youth, until I went to high school in 1976 and took Greek and Latin and French instead of English.

I have never felt sorry for my choice, my classical studies became very helpful in my years as a translator and were an excellent start for the development of my culture.

When I was 14, I stopped English classes but tried to keep reading English books whenever possible.

At that time there was nothing available and I was essentially relying on Signora Annette’s books, she had so many because she used to buy them when in Holland.

I smile now when I think that it is so easy to have English books, English movies and even study online on our own.

My high school times were not my most favourite ones.

I am convinced I was not able to develop my personality in those years and always felt in the wrong place.

I think I am a very extrovert, happy and optimistic person but I wasn’t at that time. I think I was not confident in myself. I was not sure of whom I wanted to be.

These years are the only ones in my life I did not feel to belong to anything or anybody.

I only have great memories of my two trips in the UK, the first one in 1979 in Cambridge and the second one in 1980 in Oxford. Those months spent in England were amazing, I could speak, study and learn English as I wished. The other youngsters were having fun while I was studying but that was my dream.

I decided I wanted to become an interpreter when I received a book regarding a young girl becoming an interpreter in Switzerland. I was fascinated by this book and never changed my mind.

I knew it would have been almost impossible to pass the Entry Test we had to do before the University started.

I did not have any year of regular school behind me but I was too determined not to give up. I spent these years concentrated in my goal: succeeding at the Test held in September which would have determined if I could get enrolled at that University.

I vividly remember how unsecure I felt towards every issue, every person or every situation ; yet I felt very determined in my desire to learn English well enough to become an interpreter.

I only had one boyfriend during high school, I think it was a real love story but I was not mature or confident in myself enough to make it a good and happy one. Or maybe he was just not right. I frankly don’t know. I have seen him again after twenty five years and I can state now he was not the right man for me. He is a very good person, I am not judging him as a person, but he was not right for me. He is a surgeon and a very successful man. Just not what I would have needed later on in my life.

I think he will remain in my heart forever as a young first love but I want to stress with great determination that it was good that he broke up with me. I don’t think I would have ever broken up. Looking at my life now and looking at him now, I can honestly state we would have never been happy together.

I like to mention him because I think it is honest to recognize every single person or event we have had in our life. I think when I am honest with myself, I do myself a great favour. This is one of my most important rules and I treat every situation with the outmost honesty.

He broke up with me and I can say, now, 35 years later, that this event broke my heart and killed my attempts to gain confidence in myself.

But it became the turning point of my life.

I found in myself the absolute determination to study and get ready to pass that test, get enrolled at that university and succeed in my dreams.

After visiting England for three times, I became obsessed with the idea of visiting the United States of America. I tried to find a way to travel, study and live with an American family.

When he broke up with me, I also decided that I would never give my heart to any other man. I would have studied hard to build up a strong career as an interpreter and there would not have been any room for love.

But what we decide after a strong disappointment or love despair not necessarily turns out to be true in our life…