An All-American Marriage
A Fourth of July Mediation
On July 4, 1961, Ettore Anselmo Januzzi married Vincenza Jean Giuliani. They were both children of Italian immigrants, one set of parents from Abruzzi, “near Pescara,” Jean would say, the other set from Calabria, “you know the Calabrese,” Ettore used to taut.
They were married on that day because the shoe store that Ettore’s family ran would be closed that particular federal holiday. Ettore’s brother would be married on a New Year’s Day, another holiday that the store was closed.
Their marriage would come to represent the best America had to offer. The union of two immigrant families, whose migration saved them from the impoverished Italy. The families were entreprenuers who created their own opportunities in the shoe repair and bakery business.
When Jean was born, her mother’s friends insisted the baby needed an American name, thus Vincenza became Jean. As children, Ettore and Jean were encouraged to speak the English language, out of respect for their new country. They lost their mother tongue, and only occasionally, as when Jean was conversing with a cab driver in Italy, could either of them slip back into that place of prior ease.
Prior to marriage, Ettore had served during the Korean War. Jean had been a school teacher, then a religion teacher. Then, she was free to choose to stay home with her children. Anyone who knew Jean recognized she would have had a stellar career, but being at home was her desire, and her children and their friends would benefit from her famed ravioli and meatballs, her nutroll and the home she created with care.
They were free to choose the number of children they wanted to birth. No Chinese government stepped in to tell them they had too many daughters (four, gasp!). No Catholic authority figuring telling them to have more (gasp again).
Ettore and Jean choose public school education for their children because that too was the foundation of America. They trusted the government and the good people of the town where they lived would funnel their talents and energy into high achieving schools, that level which is still achieved today.
When it came time to move the family to larger home, Ettore paid cash for the home he would reside in for thirty-five years. None of their children ever wore Jordache jeans, and even though the kids were a from a shoe store family, they often went barefoot anyhow.
Through fifty years, they had access to health care, through which they sought out the treatment of breast cancer, kidney cancer, heart disease, arthritis, appendectomy and now, sadly, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Jean sang in the choir, at church funerals, baked the Eucharistic bread and gave out communion. Together, they worked church fish frys and the county polls every Election Day for twenty years. Ettore would still be working his shift today, if he didn’t feel bad about Jean not being able to do so. With her dementia, she just might throw the election the wrong way. And Ettore still holds a position on the county housing authority, using his time to assist those in need. He may, at this stage, have become a figurehead, but his presence and perseverance is a model to others.
They gardened and canned, and froze and sauced every vegetable and fruit they could get their hands own. They had no expectations other than the one that has recently been tossed out of our society, and that is to work hard. While their lives revolved around their children, with five, it would be difficult for it to be otherwise, the children were never indulged or led to believe that they were deserving of all their blood, sweat and tears, only some.
Though Ettore and Jean, in their hearts and blood, were Italian-Americans, they never insisted upon the hyphenation. They knew who they were.
The weekend of their latest wedding anniversary, they attended a baseball game, were given a rousing Happy Anniversary by a tenor Ettore happened to have worked with a while ago, and later, in church, were called “heroes” by the deacon in his sermon. To which they humbly dropped down their heads in tears and gratitude.
On July 4, 2011, on a starlit cool summer evening within view of the shores of Lake Erie, only blocks from the families’ original bakery and shoe store, surrounded by children, grandchildren and fireworks set to no music at all, Ettore and Jean Januzzi celebrated fifty years of marriage, an American marriage.