Put on a Little Accent, Ace Medical School

Steve and Marcia, Venice, ca. 1967 to 1969

Steve and Marcia, Venice, ca. 1967 to 1969

[Steve]: When I got out of the military, I finished up my degree at Boston University. Then I started to do some graduate work in psychology, also at Boston University. I then met Marcia on that blind date. You remember that story? Perhaps.

[Eric]: No, I don’t.

[Steve]: Well, Marcia.

[Marcia]: You want me to tell that story?

[Steve]: You want Marcia to tell that story? It’ll be her turn to tell the story.

[Multiple Voices]: Yeah! Tell it. Tell it.

[Steve]: She’ll probably tell the truth. Yup.

We dated for four months. I asked her . . . to marry her and then I went off to Peru. To escape.

[Virginia]: To get away from that.

[Eric]: You got cold feet.

[Steve]: I got cold feet, yeah. [Laughter.] In fact she got a little bit of cold feet while I was away in Peru.

[Heidi]: And we just found out Aunt Polly—the whole time—was like, “That was the worst mistake! He shouldn’t have done it!” And was praying fervently during the whole time he was in Peru.

[Virginia]: Is that right?!

[Stephanie?]: Praying about what?

[Heidi]: Aunt Polly was like, “Oh, yeah, when he left for Peru, I just thought ‘What is he doing?’ so I prayed and I prayed and I prayed because they should get married.” That’s what Aunt Polly said.

[Virginia?]: Oh, oh, oh, I thought she was praying against them.

[Heidi]: No. No. No. Because she just thought. . . .

[Virginia?]: I thought, “What’s she have against you that . . . ?”

[Marcia]: Bob and Aunt Polly always said they were Mr. and Mrs. Cupid because they got us together and so she was probably worried that it was going to fall apart.

[Virginia?]: They set up this blind date?

[Heidi]: Yes.

[Marcia]: Yes.

[Steve]: Oh, yeah.

[Marcia]: I’ll tell you the story when you pass it to me.

[Steve]: When it’s her turn.

So then when we did get married in December of 1966, we were married for—I don’t know—six months or seven months. And then I had applied for medical school here, but at the time there were 15, 14 applications to get into medical school for every person that got in. So it was very difficult to get into medical school. I went to try to get into Italy, of all places, a historically medical area and got in. So we went to Italy, Marcia and I. It was there that Dawn—no, Dawn was born back in the States and we came home.

[Mary Lynn]: How’d you learn enough Italian to do that?

[Steve, puts on Italian accent]: It’s a-just-a talkin’ about what-a you talkin’ about in English, but then you put on a little accent and you all set.

[Victoria]: He looks like Italian. He really looks like Italian.

[T. J.]: I’ve always been impressed that he was able to pull that off.

[Mary Lynn]: Can you both speak Italian?

[Stephanie]: Only when he’s trying to speak Portuguese.

[Steve]: Only when I’m trying to speak Portuguese, that’s right. We had to learn Portuguese, so it became very difficult to maintain the Italian. In fact, the Italian did come out when I was speaking in a group.

[Mary Lynn]: Did you go to language school before you went to medical school?

[Steve]: I learned a little bit of Italian before we left, before I left, and when I got there, before I started medical school—just a couple of months, I learned some more Italian.

[Mary Lynn?]: So you went to Italy with Dawn?

[Marcia]: No. Dawn wasn’t born. We had only been married for a few months when we went.

[Steve]: So it was three years [before Dawn was born].

[Marcia]: We were married December ’66 and went to Italy for September of the following year.

[Steve]: So we stayed in Italy and it was more than four years. It was six years total with internship there. Pardon?

[Heidi]: So they were there and then came back to the States to have Dawn and then went back to Angola. I mean Italy.

[T. J.]: All the classes were taught in Italian, right?

[Steve]: Italian. Actually, there was one of the first classes, the guy wanted to show how much he knew of English and he spoke to some of us in English, but the rest—no, it was the exam. He called the exam—I would give the exam, or take the exam in front of four or six professors and a class full of students behind me and, but one of the first ones was in English. He was trying to show off how much he knew of English, so that was a help.

[Virginia?]: Were there other students, then, that were American?

[Steve]: American, yeah. There were about 20.

[Marcia]: 30.

[Steve]: 20 or 30?

[Marcia]: Maybe 20. With the spouses there were 30.

[Steve]: In that area. And there were many in Italy, in Bologna, a place in central Italy. So Dawn was born back in the States—we went back—and Heidi was born in Italy. She says she was born in a boot, like ‘course the shape of Italy is a book, so that’s her little poem.

[Marcia]: I just wanted to add about the language. You were asking about the language. In addition to him taking those 6 weeks of language study before he left, he always said that the advantages were that they used American and British texts for medical school. So he just bought his texts in English. They had to buy them, the Italians bought the translated copies. Then everything is Latin-based. You know, the medical language is Latin-based, so that made it easier also. He used the medical terms that were Latin. And then the exams were all oral. There wasn’t that much written material, so and it’s easier to speak than to write it out if you’re living in the culture. As he said, there were several, you know, professors that wanted you to know that they could speak English; then they would let you do your exam in English. There were a few, you know, that were saying, “This is Italy, so you do it in Italian.” There were some advantages that we had that way.

story told by Steve, Marcia [Steve’s wife], and Heidi [Steve’s daughter] to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014; recorded and transcribed by Dawn [Steve’s daughter]

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Somebody tell the story of the letters going back and forth to Peru? Dad sending Grammy MacGregor a blank letter and all the missionaries tuning in to listen to Lee read Marcia’s letters to Dad, when he was out in the jungle.
  • Dad/Steve or Mum/Marcia, do you want to tell more stories from Italy? The hungry times when a bag of groceries were left? Sleeping under your coats? Teaching English? Balancing grocery bags on the bicycle? Going to the symphony for cheap and the audience yelling ‘piu’? Shopping at the PX? Traveling to the Swiss Alps? Harley and Betty and the peanut butter? Dawn’s diapers in the trunk at the border crossing? Going to your exam after Heidi was born?
  • Any other Italy, speaking Italian stories?
  • Anybody else have language learning difficulty or goof-up stories to share?
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