This is the first in an occasional series of interviews in which we ask older women to look back on their lives and pass on some words of wisdom to younger women.
AnnaRosa Ludergnani, 75 years old (aka camparigirl’s mother)
At age 7, my mother found herself hiding under the kitchen table with her sister, which is where her mother pushed them the moment the Partisans entered their house in the countryside near Bologna, where the family had gone to live out World War II. That particular corner of Italy was subsequently dubbed “The Triangle of Terror” as, with the Fascists and the Nazis in the throes of imminent defeat, the local Partisans who had done so much to free the country also exacted personal revenges and dutifully eliminated many people who were deemed “powerful”: doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and the like were randomly killed despite no political connections. On that particular day, with my mother hiding under the table, the Partisans were looking for her uncle, who was not in the house. They made do with my grandfather, who was loaded on a truck with other local townsmen, never to be seen again. No body was ever recovered and the truth of what happened never revealed. Ten years later, my grandmother died of cancer and my mother found herself, barely 18, an orphan in the booming ’50’s and was taken in by an aunt and uncle, where she stayed until her marriage a few years later.
My mother would tell you that her mostly happy life was marred by the same unfortunate events that touch most people’s lives: a miscarriage, the death of my infant brother, a bitter divorce in her late ’40’s that left her not only alone but also in need of work. Yet, my mother’s glass is not just half full, it’s always at least three-quarters full. I often wish I had inherited her optimism gene in the face of sorrow. My mother doesn’t make lemonade with lemons – she makes lemon curd.
Here are some of her words of advice, as told to me while sitting on a beach in Malibu on a recent Monday morning.
When in doubt, follow your instincts. Nobody is given a manual on how to navigate life, I didn’t even have a mother to explain to me the basic realities of growing up. There were no books on how to raise children or, if there were, it certainly wasn’t fashionable to read them. Yet, I managed to find my footing, I savored my experiences and even my mistakes and I raised two girls who have gone on to find their place in the world. In times of uncertainty, I had no therapist, parent or book to tell me what to do – I followed my gut.
Don’t let go of your moral compass. Life will present you with many choices, some more difficult than others. Sometimes it all boils down to doing what you know is the right thing. It might not be the easiest choice or the most lucrative but it’s the one who will not rob you of sleep at night.
Which brings me to honesty. If your personal and work interactions are always based on honesty, your path will be clearer and the outcome the most desired one.
Let yourself suffer. No life will be spared suffering, and at times it will feel unbearable. Don’t deny it and wallow in it for as long as it’s healthy. Then find a way to move on.
Do not skimp on accessories. While it’s perfectly acceptable to wear inexpensive clothes, always glam them up with good accessories – no cheaply made handbags and shoes. They will drag the whole outfit down. And good accessories last forever.*
*which is how yours truly has finally understood how she justifies her Prada shoes and handbags.