My sister asked me about the people we used to live near as a child, the Iannis. We never knew much about them but they always seemed really cool and mysterious. Every now and then they’d drive down our dead-end street in their Land Rover (They had a Land Rover waaay before it was cool to have one). Mr and Mrs were both very fair skinned with white hair. I sometimes envisioned them as vampires holed up in their castle or some-such but the reality was that they were always very nice, if private. Their home certainly held terrific fascination. At the end of our dead-end street, the blacktop changes to cobble stone. The beginning of the driveway is saddled with stone pillars that hold hinges to what used to be a gate. About 15 yards down the road, there was a small house that looked in disrepair; a peep in the window showed a rustic interior. I couldn’t ever tell if it was a storage place or crazy crowded guest house. Go down the road another 20 yards and you come to the house. I only remember going in once… it was with my folks. They had all kinds of cool adult stuff. There were stuffed animals (a bear? My memory fades), an indoor waterfall fountain, lots of dark hues. I remember that the two of them always looked like they were going off on some awesome, grown-up adventure in that Land Rover of theirs. They both had a smile that conveyed intelligence, worldliness, and adventurousness.
I did a little research and found a couple things. Mr. Ianni wrote, among other things The Search for Structure. It’s curious that the first words of the book are “The lives of adolescents hold a fascination for all of us.” In a manner, we were those adolescents.
The Teachers College website reports, “Dr. Francis A. J. Ianni is Professor Emeritus of Education at Teachers College Columbia Univesity. He earned his degrees from Penn State, completing his B.S. in 1949, his A.M. in 1950, and his Ph.D. 1952.”
Most curiously, the Teachers College article mentions:
Dr. Ianni suggested that immigrants from Italy and their children lacked an ethnic identity based on their common national ancestry when they came to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. In his view, when they eventually acquired the consciousness of being Italian, such an outcome was “an invention of the new world” (202). Ianni’s interpretation of the changes in Italian Americans’ ethnicity resulting from their interaction with the adopted society can be easily placed in a broader perspective with implications for other immigrant communities in the US as well.
Yes, I understand and feel that. But it’s ok.