An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Monday, October 28, 2013

And he picked me

When I first entered the blogging world in 2007, there were a handful of people with whom I felt an instant connection, and over the years we've visited each other's blogs, left comments, and exchanged emails. One of those blogging friends is Laura, whose father recently passed away. And as a blogging friend I want to share this: In 2008 when I wrote a very personal post on how a Shakespearean actor once helped transform a terribly shy teenager, Laura left the following comment: As the daughter of a drama teacher (my dad taught classical acting for 40 plus years) this post thrills me. Thank you for sharing it. ~Laura
So, Laura, this one's for you, re-posted and revised. I know the Shakespearean actor in my story wasn't your Dad, but somehow it seems like he could have been ...

I was just a freshman in high school when my father retired from the military and decided to move our family to the Deep South. It was a difficult transition for me because in an environment where best friends are formed in kindergarten and social connections are woven through generations, I felt as if I didn't belong. We had just spent two wonderful years living in Italy, within the loving embrace of my Nonna, and I was now faced with trying to figure out how my Italian-ness fit into our new life on this side of the Atlantic. 

So. There I was. A new student, transferring to a new school one week before the Christmas holidays, and because classes were overfilled the guidance counselor stuck me in a drama class.

Me, painfully shy, in drama class. With 28 loud, enthusiastic students who had known each other since kindergarten. With a teacher who, when I entered his class with the note informing him that I was now student #29, complained that there wasn't room for me, but-what-can-you-do-go-find-a-seat-I-don't-care-where. Every single day I dreaded that class.

One Friday afternoon the drama teacher announced that a professional Shakespearean actor would be speaking to our class. I remembered feeling relieved because a guest speaker meant I could sit there, unnoticed and blissfully at peace. When the actor walked into the classroom all the girls sighed. He was tall, blond, and incredibly handsome. And he quoted Shakespeare.
It was enthralling listening to him. He had a deep voice which just pulled you in, but just when I was feeling that this was turning out to be a good day ... he asked for a volunteer. And just like that my heart stopped beating. Twenty-eight enthusiastic hands shot up into the air while I mentally pleaded, Please-please-please don't pick me. Please, not me. Don't pick me. Please.
The actor smiled as he looked around, then walked all the way to the back of the classroom and looked down at me. With a kind smile as if he knew how I was feeling, he took my hand and escorted me to a small stage in front of the classroom.

As part of his lesson, he wanted to demonstrate the importance of body language and asked the class to help stage/direct us. He had me sit with my back to him and then asked the class for suggestions on how he could get my attention without using words. Following directions from the students he walked around and knelt in front of me; he took me by the shoulders until I was forced to look up at him; he gently put his hand on my chin and turned my head to face him. Because I didn't have to speak, I slowly started to relax until, after a while, the class faded away and I was only aware of him.


At the end of the lesson he took my hand as I stepped down from the stage. He escorted me all the way back to my seat and kissed my hand as he thanked me. Everyone clapped.
To this day I still remember that moment. A handsome actor, teaching Shakespeare for one hour to some high school students, did a miraculous thing for a quiet, lonely, terribly shy teenager. He helped transform her from someone who was pleading, Please, please don't pick me, to someone who later walked out of that classroom thinking, He picked ME!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Jonathan in the Middle

Dear Jonathan,

Stuck in the middle, you often don't get the attention you deserve.

Your older brother has all the firsts, leading the way in being the first to graduate, first to drive, first to get a job.

Your younger brother is the baby and gets everyone's attention for having the lasts: last to go through kindergarten, last to lose a front tooth, the last to still leave cookies for Santa Claus.

And there you are, bookended by your brothers.

But today is your birthday and we celebrate your passion for sports, your independence, and your cute dimples. Although sometimes quiet, you are charming and witty. Most importantly, you have a good sense of who you are, Jonathan, which is a real blessing.

We love you and we celebrate you.

Mom, Dad, Nicholas and Timothy

Remember to always proclaim your rarity and celebrate your uniqueness; to use wisely your freedom of choice; and to go the extra mile by doing more than just what is expected.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Life Lately: G-rated, R-rated, and other Quick Takes.

~1~ Let me tell you what I want, what I really, really want.

Me: Dad, what do you want  for your birthday?

Dad: I don't know. I really don't need anything.

Mom: I know what he wants. He wants a wind chime.

Dad: I want I wind chime?

Mom: Yes, don't you remember when we went to our friends' house and they had a wind chime. It sounded so beautiful.

Dad turns and looks at me.

Dad: I guess I want a wind chime.

I look at him. I look at my Mom. And I keep my mouth shut.

Later that evening I get a phone call.

Dad: I've been thinking. I really would like a wind chime.

I guess Nonno is getting a wind chime. For his birthday. For Nonna. Or something.

With Nonna's help.

~2~ Welcome to Arby's, may I take your order?

When Jonathan got a summer job at Arby's this summer, we thought he'd stop once school started. But no. Evidently Jonathan really likes getting a paycheck. Since he only works 3 evenings a week, and since his grades are all good and he seems to like it, we agreed to let him continue. He's a great worker. He's courteous, takes his job seriously, and knows how to stay busy. And I think he's pretty cute behind that counter.

 Love that kid.

And this weekend it's his birthday, too, but he's not getting a wind chime. I promise.

"Will you be dining in?"

~3~ Home is where you can do laundry for free

Tomorrow I'm going to pick Nicholas up from Clemson. With Nonno's birthday, Jonathan's birthday, and his cousin Ethan's birthday I don't think he wanted to miss out. It's the first time he's been home since leaving for college, so can you say spaghetti with clams? It's one of his favorite meals, and how can I do anything but oblige?

Can you also say dirty laundry? Let me clarify ... college student's dirty laundry. But wait, let me be even more specific ... male college student's dirty laundry.

I think you get the idea ...

One care package headed to Clemson.
~4~ Nonna, in her own words. 
(The following could be G-rated, or R-rated.
It all depends on how you look at it.)

Nicholas coming home reminds me of this interesting conversation ...

We're sitting around the dinner table on a Sunday talking about this and that. We're at my parents' house, which means Nonna is running back and forth to the kitchen, bringing in plates of food and telling everyone to mangia, mangia! The topic shifts to Nicholas, who is in the middle of college applications.

Nonna bustles in.

"Who are you going to sleep with in college?" Nonna asks Nicholas, as she grabs a plate and heads back to the kitchen.

We all freeze. No one says anything. At all. Then someone giggles, and before you know it we're all giggling because, really, what else can you do with such a question?

And Nonno -- who has been married to Nonna for a long, long time -- clarifies things.

"Uh, Nonna? You might want to watch your word choice," he calls. Then he looks at Nicholas. "She really wants to know who is going to be your roommate in college."

Oh! Roommate. Right.


~5~ The Nutella Legacy

When Timothy was in Kindergarten he was star student for one week, and as star student he/we had to do a food activity with the class. Since I had already taught the class how to dance La Tarantella the day before, I decided to keep with the Italian theme and introduce them to Nutella. So I brought two loaves of bread and a jar of Nutella to class.

Sixteen students went through two loaves of bread and the entire jar of Nutella. I mean, I was scraping the sides of the jar.

That night the phone calls started.

Can you tell me what you fixed the class today?
My son can't stop talking about it whatever it is you made in class today.
What's the chocolate sandwich you made?
Can you give me the recipe?
Where can I buy this Nutella?

Later that year I drove on a field trip, and when I introduced myself to one of the dads he said, "Oh! I know you! You're the Nutella person!" He then called his daughter over and showed me how she could recite the entire Nutella jingle of roasted hazelnuts, skim milk, and a hint of cocoa.

Then, this past Saturday at the school carnival -- which, let me remind you, is FOUR YEARS after that Superstar Week -- a mom mentioned how we were the first to introduce them to Nutella and that life has been great ever since.

Wow. At least I am good for something.

~6~ I ask for a cold pack and you put frozen vegetables on my head?!?

A call from the school nurse is never a good thing. One bambino home with a fever and a headache. Rather than using a cold washcloth, I did this ...

"I'm not going to have to eat this, am I?"

~7~  This really is a G-rated blog ...

But tell that to the pizza dough I left to rise on the counter. The older boys snickered, Joe grinned, and Timothy looked confused.

"Why is everyone laughing?" he asks, in all innocence. "It looks like a heart."

Of COURSE it's a heart, and if you thought otherwise ... SHAME ON YOU!!

*For  more quick takes, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Down for the Count

I don't know what's more funny ...

Timothy dressed as a sumo wrestler,
Timothy circling the ring as a sumo wrestler,
Timothy knocking over his opponent,

or  ...

Timothy unable to get up in his sumo wrestling gear. I mean, he couldn't stand up. He couldn't roll over. He couldn't move at all. It took two teens to heft him to his feet again.

Once down, neither sumo wrestler was going anywhere.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Life Lately: Funny noises, a new gig, and college food ... in 7 quick takes

~1~ Today my husband starts a new gig. Oh, he's still a respectable engineer by day, but this weekend he will trade in his security badge for a golf scorecard as he starts an apprenticeship to rate golf courses for the USGA. This will involve measuring the rough, greens, and hazards. Then, next spring he'll take a class and get his certification.

He's a happy man. This will involve his two favorite things, golf and math.

And free rounds of golf. There's that, too.

~2~ Saturday is a big day. All of us (including Nonna and Nonno) are headed to Clemson to visit Nicholas. We haven't seen him since we dropped him off in August. I've been compiling a list of things of things we need to bring him, but here was his official list which he texted earlier this week:

When you come can you bring some Ramen noodles and some soda?

Not the healthiest request, but since he doesn't ask for much I will bring him what he asked for ... along with some granola bars and a HUGE tub of freshly made fruit salad.

~3~ Boys. This morning I was making sandwiches, and the squeeze bottle of mayonnaise made a you-know-what kind of noise.

WHY do they find this funny?


~4~ Camping + Gale Force Winds + Two Sleepless Nights = One Chest Cold. Bleck.

~5~ Question: What are those straw-like things sitting on top of the delicious pork tenderloin?
Answer: sweet potato fries.

Dinner at the Santa Fe Café, Hilton Head Island
~6~ Look at this magazine which I picked up in Hilton Head. There is something about the cover that just makes me smile. I think I'm going to frame it and put it in our rec room.

Really, doesn't it make you smile?

~7~ Finally, referring back to Quick Take #1, I have a correction to make. My husband has THREE favorite things: golf, math, and me ... not necessarily in that order. Just thought I'd make that clear.

Now, go visit Jen  over at Conversion Diary for some more Quick Takes fun!