Two Teens

I thought this blog would be about the ins and outs of having an Italian AFS girl in our family for a year. I could cover the many granular bits of our daily life with Caterina, nearly four weeks in. I could write amusing anecdotes about our two cultures rubbing elbows — but really, there are many such AFS intercultural tales online already.

What strikes me the most about this AFS experience is the era in which it is happening. 2017 is a strange year to host an international student, because the international situation is so unstable, as is the domestic situation in America. It is my view that the world is in the middle of a catharsis, brought on by so many things — technological, political and environmental.

I was anticipating all the differences between our American household culture and Caterina’s Italian culture. But those differences are minimized by the times. I see a teenage child from Italy coming from one island of relative safety in Tuscany, to another little island here in small town Massachusetts. Mostly, I just see a kid, far more than I see an Italian.

My American and Italian daughters have far more in common than the differences their cultures engender. Their ‘teenageryness’ gives me solace that the differences between people in the world are far less than we imagine. There’s so much angry drum-banging on the social networks and the media — but everyone seems to be banging different beats on the same drum, judging by their kids.

Kids are kids — they just want to learn, have fun, go out on dates, listen to cool music, and dream of their future adult lives. They hear the drums beating too. Much of the time they phase out the noise; but the drums are always there. They hear them, but do not speak of them.

Perhaps the best way to express how I feel about having Caterina here with us is in a poem:

Two Teens

two teens
one from here, 13
one from Italy, 17.

safe in our home
a little white cape
behind a little white picket fence
in a little Massachusetts town
beneath the vast, green September canopy.

two teens
concern themselves with volley ball
and gymnastics
with friends and enemies
with boys
junk food, sleepovers
and nail polish.

this little island I must tend
I secretly listen to the dark news at night
while they slumber
so not to disturb their dreams
of volley ball
and gymnastics
of friends and enemies
of boys
junk food, sleepovers
and nail polish.

I love their big plans
I love their determination
and lack of calibration.

their two nationalities melt 
into pop music
on their tinny phone speakers
they sing to it while putting on makeup
while dishwashing and room cleaning
during sleepovers and pasta dinners.

two teens
from two worlds
they dream the same dreams
on this little island
I must tend.