Making Thanksgiving an Italian job in Selma

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 27, 2003

The Giampietros are celebrating Thanksgiving.

Nico is entertaining guests on the pool table out in the garage.

His wife Kelly Sue is in the kitchen, putting the final touches on a turkey so large it barely fits in the oven. She had planned on cooking the hapless bird on the grill outside, but rain has forced a few last-minute changes, and she is running a bit late.

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She jerks a thumb over her shoulder in the general direction of her guests. &uot;This is their first Thanksgiving,&uot; she is saying. &uot;They don’t understand why we can’t eat until the turkey’s done.&uot;

People are milling about the kitchen. They are laughing and exchanging holiday pleasantries. Glasses clink. From somewhere a radio plays classical music.

Carmen, Dino and Anna Maria are seated in the breakfast nook, sipping wine and smiling and stealing discreet glances at the clock. It is nearly 2 p.m.

Carmen Giampietro (&uot;I am the one who lives here in Selma&uot;) moved here from Chicago in 1980, shortly after her husband was mugged and severely injured. &uot;They said the warm weather would do him good,&uot; she explains.

Dino and Anna Maria are from Italy. And while they have both been to America before, this is their first Thanksgiving in this country. Frankly, they are puzzled by some of the customs surrounding the annual festivity and about life in general here in America.

Neither speaks English well, so Carmen provides a running translation.

Carmen nods in agreement. &uot;What can I say?&uot; she shrugs. &uot;We are dreamers.&uot;

Nico, Carmen, Dino and Anna Maria are brothers and sisters. &uot;We all have the same parents,&uot; Carmen says proudly. &uot;It’s not like it is in America sometimes, where brothers and sisters sometimes have different parents.&uot;

Shortly after Carmen moved here, she convinced Nico to join her.

He was immediately drawn to life in the South. He owns and operates Nico’s Custom Woodwork.

Adds Carmen, &uot;They used to call him ‘Carmen’s brother.’ Now they call me ‘Nico’s sister,’ because he’s so famous and all. He makes furniture.&uot;

The visiting Giampietros, Dino and Anna Maria, are impressed with the sheer vastness of America, where almost everything seems much larger than in their native homeland.

They are especially impressed with how large the local Wal-Mart is.

The Giampietros are puzzled, though, by the lack of public transportation.

And while Dino and Anna Maria enjoy the emphasis on sharing Thanksgiving with friends and family, they wonder why such things seem to be reserved only for special occasions.

The turkey is at last ready, and everyone begins drifting toward the table. It is a quintessentially American scene.