I think of my stepfather often, but today being the 4th of July, he is especially on my mind.
When I was five-years-old, my mother married a man with eight children (yes, eight) named Bruno Bacchetti. Bruno came to America as a young boy (I am thinking around 11 or 12) with his father from Bologna, Italy. He and his father worked, saved money and then his sister and mother joined them in America.
I became the youngest of ten when my mother, sister and I joined this very large family.
Every morning, Bruno made me breakfast and served me a little cup of coffee. Our kitchen table was designed to seat 12 and had two long benches on each side with a chair on each end. As I sat on one end of the table eating my breakfast and sipping my coffee, Bruno, was at the other end, reading an encyclopedia. He did this every morning. I can still see him so clearly sitting there.
He read an entire set of encyclopedias. I have no idea how many years it took him. I just know that he did this every morning until I went to college. He read from A to Z. And then he read other volumes that had specific years on them. This set of huge books was as long as a room stacked side-by-side and what is most amazing about this story is that they were written in his second language.
He was so grateful to be in America. He built a successful imported tile business with a childhood friend that he came over from Italy with. He worked hard everyday. He believed you could be anything you wanted to be in this country.
And everyday he came home at noon to have lunch with my mother. So civilized. So European.
He loved knowledge. He loved this country. And he loved me.
Although Bruno and I were not blood related, he was my other father and I was his daughter. We both knew it.
I so wish I still had those encyclopedias that his fingers paged through.
But I have his spirit. And his belief that I can be anything I work hard enough to be in this great country.
I think he is looking down on me and saying something softly in Italian.
Something about how in America you can build an art business from reusing materials that people throw out. And he is smiling.