Celebrating my Papa on Fathers Day
If you’ve been a customer of Christies Bakery for some time, you’ve likely ran into Ennio Muzzolini at one point or another. It’d be a conversation you’d have a hard time forgetting, as he has a loud and unforgettable voice (double that if you catch him singing) and an even larger personality. While he hasn’t been baking for a few years now, he’ll occasionally make a guest appearance at the bakery. He’s a man that goes by many names: Ennio, The E-Man, E-Unit, The Dude, The Guy, Pops, Dad, Bo. I call him Papa. For Mothers Day I wrote about my grandmother being one of my heroes, so it’s only fair I do the same for him. After all, there’d be no bakery without him!
Ennio Muzzolini wasn’t born in Canada, and the story of how he arrived here is worthy of its own deep dive. He was born in a small town in Italy, and began working at a bakery delivering bread on his bicycle. When war ran through Europe and tore up his home, he left to meet his brother in Canada. He didn’t speak English when he arrived, and it wasn’t even the first language he learned. He lived with a Ukrainian family for a while and began learning their language so he could communicate with them. As Ennio told me, he learned English through a mixture of speaking with them and what he’d see on TV (the way I’m sure we all learned!) I could get into more details of the journey, but that would be too long of a story to tell. His voyage across the Atlantic and his reason for it shows two traits of my Papa’s that have been instilled in every other member of our family: courage and perseverance. I can’t imagine a war ripping through the streets of my hometown and having to leave for a country that speaks a language I don’t understand. But that didn’t stop my Papa, nor did learning Ukrainian before he could speak English. Some days in the bakery are extremely hard, and the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly challenged all of us. But my family has never let anything stop us from doing what we do best, and I think that same determination in the face of adversity came from my Papa and what he went through just to make it to Canada.
Anyone that’s been around the Muzzolini family long enough knows that our conversations can get loud, especially if we’re drinking wine or beer with supper. Perhaps it’s just our Italian roots seeping through. The same goes for conversations between me and my Papa over the world of sports. Countless bets have been made between the two of us and there have been plenty of impassioned back and forths over football, baseball or soccer. While some of these discussions can leave our ears ringing, it is in the quiet moments that he’s passed on some words of wisdom to me. When I turned 16 he took me aside and reminded me of the importance of respect. It was a quick conversation, lasting only a minute or two, but there were plenty of moments in the last year that had me looking back on that time on the staircase. They might not like to hear it at times, but I can see a part of my Papa in every single member of my family. He might not always be right, or even know what he’s talking about (especially when it comes to sports!) but I have figured out when to pay attention to what he’s saying.
The life of a baker is most certainly not a glamorous one. Depending on how you look at it, you have either an extremely late or early start to your day (which begins between the hours of 12:00 and 3:00 in the morning) when most of the city is fast asleep. You have to constantly carry 50 lb bags of flour back and forth and work in front of a blazing hot oven. But on the bright side you get to go home smelling like bread! My papa did this night after night well into his 60’s. When I was younger and visiting Saskatoon, I’d join him on his midnight baking sessions. During those times, he would usually work alone for a while before the rest of the team would come in. I’d never make it that far, falling asleep before anyone else arrived. Those tables have turned now, with it being an early night if I fall asleep before midnight and Ennio usually calling it a day before 10:00. This hard work and dedication to his craft was passed down to every family member. My aunt and uncle put the same blood, sweat and tears into running the bakery now, and for all of us it seems like a short day if we’re working for less than 10 hours. It's something that a lot of people have to learn, but hard work seems to just be a family trait, and it no doubt comes from my Papa.
One of the best things to come out of my move to Saskatoon was being able to spend time with my family, something I didn’t get to do a whole lot of growing up in a different country. It only took a few months to see all the similarities we have with my Papa, and I’m sure the same is true for most families. We might not always appreciate everything passed on from our parents and grandparents, but I’m beyond grateful for everything my Papa has given my family and the impact he’s had in my life.