We know him, we love him… Mr. David Braden, Casady’s long-time fifth-grade math teacher. Upon mention of Mr. Braden’s name, images of bow ties and impressive facial hair instantly come to mind. However, while his trademark appearance is well-known across campus, it’s safe to say that most of us have little knowledge of Mr. Braden’s life beyond the classroom.
I was able to uncover some past memories from Mr. Braden’s young adult life and learn of his time in Europe a few decades ago: specifically, a few months he spent in Italy during his late twenties.
His European escapade began with a month-long visit to Rome where his cousin had been living. After spending a month in the Italian capital, Braden decided to explore the rest of Italy. It just so happened that a woman he knew from his childhood was residing in Italy at the same time, working in a violin-making school. Braden remarked, “I thought I’d go visit this [violin-making school] and see what it’s like. It turned out that the students there were actually paid to attend the school, which is unusual.”
“[The woman’s] mother and my father both taught English at the same university, and so we were faculty kids together. But I hadn’t seen her since we were ten… I re-met her in Europe.” There, he reunited with his childhood friend. Soon after, the two fell in love and decided to marry.
After a marriage in the States, the newly-weds returned to Italy. The pair embarked on their first adventure as a married couple: a hitchhiking trip from the Italian countryside all the way to Berlin, Germany. Both Braden and his wife were used to making daily hitch-hiking trips to and from work each day in Italy. This, however, proved to be a much bigger project than expected. Braden admitted, “Hitchhiking in Italy is really easy, and it’s not easy in Berlin. Nobody wanted to pick us up in Germany.” Thankfully, a generous truck driver allowed the two to sleep in the cab of his vehicle for a portion of the trip. In total, the commute lasted three days. Braden and his wife successfully arrived in Berlin, and the two drove back to Italy using a borrowed car from a friend.
During the couple’s time in Italy, they lived in an Italian house called an agriturismo. Braden described it as “a sort of hotel where people come and stay, but they also participate in the agriculture of the area. So, there’s the olive groves and the vegetable garden, wine, grapes… people can come to either work, or just have a vacation there.” A German artist ran their place of residence. According to Braden, the artist was “crazy, but very nice… and full of life.” Braden chuckled as he reminisced on the German artist who had offered him board many years ago. In fact, years after Braden and his wife left Italy, they returned with their young children to the revisit the same artist.
Mr. Braden expressed that given the opportunity, he would like to re-visit Italy. This brief story about Mr. Braden is just one of many that he has to tell, so I encourage you to stop by the middle division and have a conversation with him about his life outside of Casady— you will undoubtedly be fascinated by what you learn!