Some people think that contradictions have a negative context. Yet, having a difference of opinion, seeing the flip side, and even going through challenges (the good and bad) are all contradictions that provide a broader understanding of something. Hopefully, these contradictions make us pause and think as the ‘same old’ or day in-day out routines, although comfortable, can become monotonous or too familiar. If we reach that stage, it can lead to our human nature reacting unfavourably such as risky or out-of-character behaviour; and suddenly, we become an example of those contradictions!
The image I’ve chosen was taken through the week (Australian winter in the beautiful Scenic Rim, recently voted in the top ten regions to visit in Lonely Planet). The left is a ‘sunny’ moon—photographed at 5 pm, as I was driving home; the right, photographed early the next morning, a ‘misty’ sun. The descriptions above can be considered contradictions or even an oxymoron, but I feel, they are most apt.
When I review the two books I wrote about my Italian parents, it strikes me how many contradictions there are … the age difference between my mum and dad was an extraordinary fourteen years, and yet, it worked for them. During WW2, my mum (pre-teens) suffered from famine and freezing temperatures and saw many of her neighbours and friends die or be killed. Yet, my father, in a POW camp in South Africa, was fed daily, and although provided gruelling tasks by the camp leaders, survived in an apparently easier environment. What contradictions!
For my father though—as revealed in his diaries—the mental anguish was extremely hard. Even my father stated that he would rather have been fighting and died honourably than the six-year incarceration, at the whims of the camp leaders. The enforced labour and isolation from everything familiar became too much for several of his compatriots who took their own lives.
Even today, contradictions are rife in every aspect of our life. Voices in our heads can make a mockery of even the happiest person. Nevertheless, for anyone who knows me well, I always choose to look at the positive instead of the negative. It is far easier to give in to doom and gloom; thankfully, it is my contradictory nature that prompts me to always look for a silver lining. It makes me feel much more hopeful and ‘lighter’ when I find it!
The excerpt I’ve chosen is from Goodbye to Italia. It’s early 1945 and my eleven-year-old mum is given a few teaspoons of Nonna’s coffee in her half cup of milk. This will be her breakfast and lunch. If they are lucky, my mum’s mum will bring home a potato or carrot, or both, for them to boil, and share between the three of them. That is, of course, if my mum can manage to find some wood to feed their wood burner stove as she scavenges around the snowy streets of Torino, Northern Italy.
The tanks are still stationed in Piazza Vittorio. The feast of Pasqua, Easter, has come and gone. Despite some far distant memory that Mamma and Nonna talk about of eating chocolate as an Easter tradition, we do not get any. In fact, it is a blessing if we have anything to eat at all! I’m just happy if I can get some hot milk in the morning and, if lucky, a few tablespoons of Nonna’s precious black coffee is added when we manage to find some.
Finally, as the days start to get longer, our moods start to lighten. The spring days hold warm promises of summer. Then we hear the news that in the town of Sicilia, at the bottom of the boot of Italy, American soldiers are landing daily and chasing away the Germans. Everyone is saying that the war is over. Our daily prayers become even more impassioned, as we wish with all our hearts that this is truly a sign that the end of the war is near.
‘Is it true, Mamma?’ I ask when she gets home that night. ‘They have been talking about it out in the street. Graziella said her mamma told her so. Is the war really over?’
‘It seems that is what they are saying, cara.’
‘So where are these Americani then?’ Nonna’s voice is like a dose of cold water. ‘Those German
soldiers are still strutting around out there, filled with their own self-importance! I certainly am not going to tell them the war is over.’