The book rang a bell

Deacon Blog


My book club in Winston-Salem is reading “97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement” by Jane Ziegelman. It reveals the social history and culinary heritage of immigrant families of various ethnicities who lived at 97 Orchard on the Lower East Side. When I reached the section about the Italian immigrant family, I was struck by Ziegelman’s description of how newcomers felt abiding, strong connections to their native villages in Italy. As they settled into New York, they tried to recreate the geography of home, from establishing regional restaurants to holding festas that honored their village’s local saint.

“Italians have a word for the special connectedness felt among towns people,” Ziegelman writes. “Campanilismo, from the Italian word for ‘bell,’ describes the bonds of solidarity felt among people who live within hearing distance of the same church bell.”

What, you might ask, does that have to do with Wake Forest?  Only this: One of the delights for me in my year back at Wake Forest has been listening once again to the bells of  Wait Chapel. According to Wake Forest history, the first 47 bells of the Janet Jeffrey Carlile Harris Carillon were given in 1978 by the Very Reverend Dr. Charles U. Harris (’35) in honor of his wife. In 1981, Mrs. Harris gave the final bell, a bass E-flat, in honor of her husband.

The early years of the carillon coincided with most of my undergraduate days. It always seemed the bells tolled especially for us, the students of the time. In truth from the beginning, they tolled for all of the Wake Forest community, and they have rung out, with precision, ever since. Campanilismo.  There is a bond of solidarity that links all of us who stopped for a moment at the sound of the first chime, looked up at Wait Chapel and listened to the bells. And our spirits lifted, not unlike the spirits of Italian immigrants remembering their village church bell. This is what it feels like to come home.

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