Growing up with a Dad in the military had its perks. Notably, the overseas travel we enjoyed on a couple of different occasions. One of my most memorable seasons abroad was spent in Italy, where I attended an Italian preschool run by Italian Nuns. Despite the fact that is has been well over 34 years since I ran around in my little pastel smock, giggling and speaking Italian to my little friends on the playground, I distinctly remember several snapshot moments from my days immersed in another culture, speaking another language, as if it were my native tongue.
Of all the memories of my time in the care of those Nuns, the one that my sister and I can sort of laugh about now, as we recall it with razor-sharp clarity, is the experience of being force-fed some variety of foul smelling cheese. And when I say “force-fed” I do not mean the kind of coercion American mother’s might practice, by which a child is relegated to remain at the table until their dinner is eaten.
When I say “force-fed” what I am talking about here is having cheese forced into one’s mouth, while having one’s nose plugged, and being held in such a state until one swallows purely out of the sheer necessity to breathe. Clearly, despite being a mere four years old at the time of said incident, I distinctly remember the experience as if it had occurred last night. When I say we laugh about this incident, the laughter is not the kind that reflects the humor of the situation, but more the horror of it. We shake our heads in wonder at the differences between cultures, and acceptable child-rearing practices.