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  • Dall'amico al Nemico
    Page 2 of 2

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    Nobody knows for sure what happened, but my dad and his next door neighbor stopped talking. Occasionally we've all encountered neighbors we don't see eye to eye with but this went beyond your average neighbor dispute. If you know anything about how the old-fashioned Italian male thinks, you also understand that one small disagreement can turn into a full blown war of sorts which has also turned into something of a competition between the two. It's all about proving who's right and the Calabrian pride in winning.

    So when the neighbor expanded last year's garden, my father had to add several more tomato plants to prove his was better. Or how about the day I stopped at my dad's house and saw my son standing in the tree in the backyard hanging bird decoys in the branches because the neighbor had done the same thing the day before. Even though these two men were born in Italy, for some reason they take great pride in the American flag so my father has one in every flower planter on his property and the neighbor decided to one up my dad by putting a bigger flag in the highest branch of his tree in the yard. When my husband saw this, he chuckled and commented "...can't wait to see how Peppy's going to top this!" But the most ridiculous competition of all is what my family and I refer to as the garbage can wars. You see, my dad keeps his garbage can in his yard. He says it's easier for him because he puts all the grass clippings in this can to save for the garden compost. My experience with my dad tells me he does it just to aggravate the neighbor, but what do I know? In retaliation, the neighbor chained his own garbage can and a wooden post with about 50 pounds of concrete on the end of it to the fence. Needless to say, this is not a very pleasant situation in Chicago's recent 90 degree weather.

    Being an American girl, I did the unthinkable and spoke to both my father and the neighbor, in the hopes of getting them to let go of this grudge – all to no avail. And then in yet another retaliatory move to prove who was going to be more right, the next day the neighbor also chained an old bicycle to his garbage can. I guess the moral of this little story is that if the patriarchs of the family aren't talking to each other– neither should anyone else in the families. Dad's sage words of advice – stay out of it, this is how we handle these things where I come from. If this is how things are handled in the old country, who knows what will be chained to the fence next????

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    Article Published 5/18/2011

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