- CRITTER TALK
- SCI/TECH/OTHER STUFF
This is a story about some old Italian men who misjudged the skills of a small girl and so, re-learned about not judging a book by its cover.
My grandfather loved to play Bocce Ball on the Asbury Park boardwalk because of its need for concentration which leads to relaxation. The object of the game is to get as many of your bocci (bigger, weighted balls) as close to the pallino (smaller, target ball) as possible. If you are successful in getting the bocci closer to the pallino than your opponent, you accumulate points.
One spring, grandfather built his grandchildren a Bocce Ball court. He told us we should learn the game of our heritage. His back yard was long and narrow with a garden on both sides. And, if you have followed my posts, you know what he buried in his garden (A Life Lesson: Never Trust the Banks). He built up the four sides of the court with bricks and filled it in with hard packed sand. When it was done, he gathered us and said, “My grandchildren, I built this court for affiatamento (togetherness), but also so you can sharpen your focus and learn about teamwork. If you win points in the process, fine….if not, you will still have learned the most important things about any game.”
Grandfather showed us a beautiful set of bocce balls. He had asked grandmother to make them from old leather clothing. She hand sewed four black and four brown balls, approximately four inches around; each one weighing about two pounds. She used a piece of yellow oil cloth to make the smaller size pallino, about the size of a pool ball. I would give anything to have that set today.
Anytime the weather allowed, we were in the back yard learning the finesse of the game and having fun together. Since there were so many grandchildren, we always had at least four players; the standard requirement for two teams. So, after several summers of playing, a few of us got really good at the game; the others had given up and moved on to something else.
As a result, one summer, grandfather allowed me and one of my cousins to accompany him on Sundays to the Bocce Ball courts at the boardwalk. It was a great honor and a nice way to learn Italian since the men he played Bocce with spoke very little English. After a full summer of Sundays, one day, the men were short a player. Grandfather offered me as a player on his team, and the opposing men laughed as hard as they could and one said (in Italian), “Anthony, if you want to lose today, we will be happy to let your little folletto (pixie) be your partner.” My grandfather replied, “I have taught Carolina it’s more important to have fun together than it is to win. So now she will teach that to you.” They nodded their heads sheepishly and pointed to the four red balls that we would use. I probably don’t have to tell you who the big winners were that Sunday: grandfather and his little pixie! Those men were in disbelief everytime I carefully focused and aimed my red bocce ball, bumping their green balls from the marker while getting mine closer. We collected quite a little crowd to watch a nine year old and her wise grandfather beat the other men…..with teamwork and focus.
So, the lesson I learned that day was from listening to grandfather tell the men, “I miei amici, se si fanno ipotesi basate sugli sguardi di qualcuno solo, sarai sempre sbagliato. - My friends, if you make assumptions based on the looks of someone only, you will always be wrong. You can’t judge a book by its cover.” They all laughed and said he was right and his “foletto” was good enough to play against the Pope himself. I smiled as I imagined what it would be like to play Bocce Ball with Pope John in his beautiful robe, red and gold stole, and tall Mitre on his head.
I thank my grandfather for that lesson which has saved me from making assumptions based on details trying to distract me from what is “real”. But I am also grateful to him for teaching me to keep my eye on any target, stay focused, and play “nice” with others.
And because of those Bocce Ball lessons, I still surprise people when I shoot billiards, bowl, or play archery. I guess I just don’t look like I have those skills. They too have judged the “foletto” by it’s cover.
So, is anyone up for a game of Bocce Ball? Or do any of you know where I can find a Bocce court and some Old Italian men in Alabama? I could use a few extra dollars of fun money.