Monday, October 04, 2010

Life's Little Pleasures

Today my school teacher neighbor, the man I share a classroom wall with, came into the lunchroom carrying a large sack from Whole Foods. Al is known for bringing little treats to us -- usually a pie or a cake. Today he had a lovely banana layer cake which helped make Monday just a bit more palatable. But his huge sack contained another surprise.

Al is old school. An Italian immigrant, his parents brought him from Southern Italy when he was 12 years old. Not knowing a word of English, they immediately threw him into public school -- way before the days of ESL classes. From a family that never believed in complaining or failing, Al made his life a wonderful success. He raised three children with his beloved wife. He has taught school for over 40 years. Three years ago his wife, who had been the provider of fabulous homemade treats for our lunchroom, caught the flu. Within 19 hours she was dead. Al, never complaining, carries on. Now his treats are store bought. Every time he brings them we fondly recall the delicacies his wife used to make us.

At 67 years old Al can still beat his soccer team up the four double case flights of steps. They've learned not to challenge him. He agrees that on the straight away the boys can beat him -- but not charging up those steps. Some nights he's at school until 11 p.m., head coach of a group of immigrant boys struggling with English and in love with soccer.

Two summers ago, his son flew him back to Italy first class to reconnect with his relatives. We're still sitting through the picture shows of that trip. This past summer, with his mother now 92, Al spent the summer in Omaha learning how to make his favorite Italian dishes. He came home the master of spaghetti sauce.

Over the weekend, Al went to Whole Foods and got all the freshest ingredients. Then he made his mama's sauce -- organic tomatoes, fresh oregano. He also bought two packages of Italian pasta and pretty good sized wedge of parmigiano reggiano. Then he spent four hours making mama's sauce.

In that lovely shopping bag was dinner for Hubby and me. All homemade. All fresh. All made with love. Pasta, cheese, and a gleaming, fragrant jar of real Italian spaghetti sauce. What a pleasure!


Margaret said...

I love this Al--his hard work, his attitude, MAKING IT 40 years in the classroom and his determination to make his and everyone else's life richer. I so admire him.Yummy food too!!

Donna said...

What a wonderful man; he sounds like someone I'd love to meet. Your description of the food makes my mouth water.