1st winner Christiano | TheUnion.com

1st winner Christiano

Cristiano Montalbano

First place

What happens when a woman who never wanted children meets a boy who always needed a mother?

“It’s a boy,” I can see her telling my “father” Tony, “and he has a beard.”

At the age of 17 I met Sandra Rockman, and her husband Tony Giacalone, 55. I didn’t find them after years of research. They didn’t appear one day on the doorway of my house to tell me that they had always loved me during the childhood I did not spend with them.

Actually, I learned of them in a letter that arrived in the mailbox of my home in Livorno, Italy. You see, I am an AFS foreign exchange student.

For Sandra (mom is her nickname) things haven’t always been easy. Her “yewt,” as she jokingly says in her New York accent, didn’t last too long: her dysfunctional family forced her to grow up faster than her peers.

In her early adulthood she faced the suicide of both her father and brother. In retrospect, she came to understand that they were both bipolar; this only reinforced her decision not to have children.

Always nurturing, her friends couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to be a mother. Sandra, picturing motherhood, could imagine only raising a male who might be cruel or violent to her, to others or to themselves.

In such a difficult world, theater has been a means of escape for her. She started as an actress, became a play director and a playwright, to bring to the stage a truthfulness that might heal others. She directed many plays with Foothill Theatre Company, and now is also a freelance director and writer.

Sandra Rockman believes in volunteering, and has contributed much to this community. In addition to the AFS organization, she volunteers at the low income health clinic. She just directed a play called “Tea,” in collaboration with the Community Asian Theatre of the Sierras.

But there is just one reason that makes her more special than any other woman in the world for this teenager. Accepting to host a foreign exchange student, Sandra faced her fears and accepted a 16-year-old boy who was ready to leave his home town just to find a mother somewhere in the world.

My mother died nine years ago of a heart attack, and since then I felt I would never again experience the tenderness, the unconditional love of a mother. I am extremely thankful, incredibly proud of the woman Sandra is. That’s the reason why I chose to write about her. I’m her unexpected son, and she fully loves and accepts me. I wouldn’t find anyone more special to write about.

For the last six months a miracle has been taking place in our lives. I am rediscovering the gifts of maternal love and Sandra has discovered the mother within.

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