Rita and Emil and their 8 children lived in West Islip, a hamlet in Long Island, NY. Emil was a 1st generation American after his parents immigrated from Italy years before. He worked as a manager at a small hotel in Greenwich Village but when the 60s brought hippies, drugs, flower power and protests to the hotel he lost interest. Finally, when the owner asked Emil to move his family into the hotel, the father of 8 knew he didn’t want his kids growing up in such close proximity to the decadence. Emil took a job with the IRS and moved the family to Vermont.
It was (the summer of) 1969.
Andrew is Emil’s son and the 3rd youngest Motroni kid.
The Motronis lived in Rutland and went to Catholic mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary down the street from their house. The kids trekked to school in the snow (uphill, both ways) and ran the town in sports. The boys bristled with eachother but I’ll be damned if anyone else messed with them. They were a family. And family doesn’t let anyone mess with family.
Great Uncle Ilio and his sister Aunt Ilda (who immigrated to the states with Emil’s parents) would come in from the city for holidays with an Italian rum cake and Italian bread from city bakeries. They brought cold cuts for subs and pastries for dessert. And then there was the Motroni sauce.
Andrew would watch as Uncle Ilio made the pasta sauce. It would sit for a full day on the stove and splatter on the kitchen walls. They had it for every holiday. When Uncle Ilio wasn’t in town, Andy’s mom would make the family recipe as he watched and learned.
Andy Motroni, Emil’s son and the third youngest, is my Dad.
A few weeks ago I asked him, “Is there specific legacy that you hope to leave?”
He responded, “Yes. Your mom and I have tried to leave a legacy of family- how important it is and the relationship between family and food. Mom and I have always spent a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s not just about cooking, it’s about talking. Do you know how many conversations we had about you or your brother when we were in the kitchen cooking something up? It has way more to do with the nuance than with the outcome.”
When I look at my Dad’s life, I don’t see one of glamour or grandiose or passion projects. I see a life that revolves around loving my mom well and creating a strong foundational marriage to build his family on. I see him working his entire life at a job he doesn’t love just so my brother and I’s floor might begin at his ceiling. While my millennial-self wants to push back and say, ‘follow your passion, do what you love,’ my dad understands something I often forget: Legacy is built on sacrifice.
As I reflect on my childhood and my early adulthood, I see constant sacrifice from my parents as they consciously (or unconsciously and blinded by love) chose lives of legacy over lives of fulfilling selfish desires and chasing personal passions.
In a lot of ways I think it’s tough for our generation to understand the sacrifices our parents made for us. We are infected with wanderlust and crave jobs that give us the flexibility and paychecks to support our travel dreams. We pursue passion projects. We want to elect a president who will make college free.
Travel is not bad. Nor is finding/creating a job that you love. And pursuing passion projects is beautiful and can be impacting. Count me in for all three of those. But if legacy is often built by sacrifice, what are you willing to sacrifice? You don’t need to have a family or children or large amounts of wealth to start creating legacy in your life.
Here’s my challenge for you: Think about the legacy you want to leave. Think about how your current choices contribute to the person you want to be and the impact you want to make.
How are you working now to leave legacy? Whether that’s for your future family or in your future marriage or in your community? What are you practicing now to contribute to a better tomorrow for people you love?