Eli began his first day of Montessori School without any reluctance. I wrote my check and hoped that it wouldn’t be deposited before my husband’s paycheck made its way to the bank. I drove home to my strangely, silent house and prepared for my first lesson. As I put on my headset I realized that I was absolutely scared to death. My hand trembled as I dialed the access number, I panicked wondering if I’d entered the overseas phone number correctly and my call was answered with a cheerful male voice saying, “Pronto”.
“Pronto” the voice on the other end of the line repeated. Pronto? I was no longer a wise, child of the world. I was suddenly a Kansas girl wondering what made me think I could do this for a living. Pronto - the Italian equivalent of answering the phone with “Hello” means “Ready”, as in “ready to listen”.
Stefano put any of my fears of having 30 minutes of awkward silence to rest. He began and ended our conversation by telling me in great detail about the beautiful handmade ravioli his wife was making. He described the pasta making process, the preparation of the pork that was being used. He explained that Columbus had introduced mais or corn during a time of famine in Italy and from that introduction polenta was born. I could feel the warmth of the kitchen, smell the aromas floating through my phone receiver and in my mind’s eye I could see Stefano, one hand holding the phone to his ear, the other placed on his eager belly. I ended the lesson feeling certain that it was time for lunch; in fact it was only 10:00 a.m. His description had provided many opportunities to correct his English, if only he would allow me to get a word in edgewise.
Gradually I was given more and more lesson time. The lessons that I performed took me to France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Russia and Poland. Little by little I gained strength as a trainer. I learned how to cease the locomotive of Italian conversation long enough to make a correction. I learned how to humble myself to the French, patiently decipher the speech of an intoxicated Pole and ease the words carefully from a terribly, timid Spaniard. Each encounter was intensely rich with lovely connections and experiences. After each lesson one fact was confirmed; I would gain much more from these experiences than I could ever give.