Mr. and Mrs. Menotti celebrated Valentine’s Day 70 times

"Tio Amo”, Two Words that Lasted a Lifetime for my Grandparents

By —— Bio and Archives--February 10, 2018

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Ti Amo
Pietro Menotti stood on a ship’s deck among throngs of weary, penniless immigrants like himself. Staring into the haze of a hot summer day, he saw the first of two women who would determine the course of his life.

She was the mighty lady with a torch whose message to foreign lands had attracted millions: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Mother of Exiles brought tears to Pietro’s eyes. Another woman brought his heart into his throat. She was the petite, raven-haired beauty standing next to him on Ellis Island. The name on her tattered suitcase was Videlma Zepponi. In his eyes, she was an angel sent to earth by the God they both worshipped. 


Before these young Italians truly breathed free, they spent years toiling under the blank and pitiless gaze of a torrid sun, tending cotton crops on plantations in the Deep South. 

They fell in love. She called him Pete; he called her Mae. Each morning, as they climbed aboard mule-pulled wagons, hoe or cotton sack in hand, and headed their separate ways, they waved to each other. “Ti amo, Mae,” he would say. “Ti amo, Pete.”

Both squirreled away what they could of their meager earnings. Pete bought a ring, and on one knee, asked, “Ti amo, Mae. Lei me sposerà?” Translated, “I love you, Mae. Will you marry me?”

My grandparents became man and wife, settled in the Mississippi Delta, and bent to the task of making the American dream come true. They learned to speak English, and became naturalized American citizens. They bought a few acres of land, built a home, became highly respected church members, raised four children, and paid for their educations.

Mr. and Mrs. Menotti celebrated Valentine’s Day 70 times. During their last years together, Mae watched television while preparing Pete’s favorite evening meal, a salad garnished with crisp green leaves of radicchio, a type of chicory Italians have relished for centuries.

Pete preferred spending the late afternoon hours in the back porch swing, gazing across fields he tended for many years. 

So that Mae wouldn’t have to walk the length of the house to summon Pete to supper, their children rigged a speaker on the back porch attached to a microphone near her chair. When his meal was ready, she called Pete by saying the same words to him that she had said for over seven decades: “Ti amo.”

Their marriage was made in Heaven, where these two Christians would join their savior, Jesus Christ. When Pete died, Mae buried him, and bought herself a gravesite beside his.

On a bright spring morning, one of her sons found his mother, slumped in her favorite chair, one lifeless hand clutching radicchio, the other, the microphone.

He had no doubt what her last words had been: “Ti amo.”


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Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran, former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer, and retired college teacher.

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Jimmy’s latest book, One Hundred by Five Hundred is available at Amazon.

His collection of short stories is available via Squarebooks.com, telephone 662-236-2262.

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