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

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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Big Brother, Little Brother

When Nicholas was home for Christmas he had a little shadow, for wherever he went and whatever he did Timothy was glued to his side. Timothy sat next to his older brother on the couch, during dinner, in church. If Nicholas was working on the computer, Timothy would play with his Legos nearby. When Nicholas came home from work, Timothy would be waiting for him at the back door.

It was so sweet to see -- older brother mentoring, humoring, teasing, playing, and talking with his little shadow. Needless to say, baby brother blossomed with all that attention and felt a little lost when school resumed after the holidays.

But then came yesterday's letter from Nicholas, addressed to Timothy. A letter ... just for him.

And not just any letter.

It was three typed pages in which Nicholas, who knows how much his little brother loves Britain's Top Gear, described how he used the Forza video game to create his own Top Gear challenge. He sent a photo of the three cars he selected (a Ferrari California, a Lotus Evora, a Mercedes SLS AMG), a map of the virtual racetrack, and the rules for the challenge:

1- Two laps around a German racetrack, fastest time wins.
2- No using the rewind button.

And just like the show, Nicholas then went over the results: the Ferrari California had the best handling, but was the slowest; the Lotus Evora was faster, but harder to control; the Mercedes SLS AMG, despite a 360 degree spin, managed to come in with the fastest time.

It was the perfect letter from a big brother to his little brother, who couldn't stop smiling the rest of the afternoon. Of course, after dinner Timothy set up his own Top Gear challenge, and his results (in a three page typed letter) are already in today's mail heading to Clemson.

The smile was there for the rest of the day.

A letter ... all for Timothy.

Nicholas' shadow.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Trials and Tribulations of an Out of Uniform Day

Last night

Timothy: Tomorrow is out of uniform day and I don't have any clean clothes.

And he's right. I have totally neglected all laundry duties this week. Since he has to wear something that is NOT his school uniform, I do the laundry.

Later last night

Me: Timothy, come pick out what you want to wear tomorrow.

We discuss the weather (no shorts), we go through several options (no to the Adventure Time t-shirt, yes to the college sweatshirt), and he finally settles on an outfit that I approve.

This morning

My bambino takes a little longer to get ready, and when he comes downstairs he is not wearing ANYTHING that we had discussed. He's wearing shorts (did we not discuss the cold temperatures?) and a Minecraft t-shirt (didn't I say no to the graphic t-shirts?).

Timothy: I changed my mind.

I give him the Mom look.

Later this morning

All this occurred before cappuccino when I am not at my best. In the end, Timothy walked out the door wearing ... well, I can't remember. All I know is that he wasn't wearing what we picked out last night, and he wasn't wearing what he had chosen this morning. I'm sure he was wearing something, though.

At least ... I'm pretty sure.

I think.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Children's Hour

Children grow up. Who knew? And as we are about to send yet another son off to college, I am missing these days ...

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations
That is known as the Children's Hour.

This is the first stanza of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) called "The Children's Hour". It's a tender poem about Longfellow's three daughters who visit him in his study at the end of the day. When I was in the sixth grade I had to memorize all ten stanzas, which is probably why it popped into my head the other day. You see, we have a "children's hour", too, and it goes like this:

Between the dark and the daylight
When the light is beginning to lower,
Comes mayhem in the day's occupations
That is known as the Pre-Dinner Hour.

You know, that period in the late afternoon when everything seems to happen at once. One son is complaining about having to read "The Island of the Blue Dolphins". The other son is humming while doing his math homework. I'm on the phone because THE WHOLE WORLD seems to call during this time. My toddler, oh! my goodness! He wants to do school work, too, and a coloring book alone just won't suffice. He wants a science book, and his own spiral notebook, and an erasable pen because, you see, he thinks he's in 7th grade. He's also recently given up his naps and anything can set him off at any given moment.

No, our "children's hour" is a little different from Longfellow's, but the sentiment is still the same. In a couple seconds of peace I observe my oldest son stop humming as he concentrates on a problem, my three-year-old draw a smiley face in his "science notebook", and my middle son bent over his book, finger twirling his cowlick and his legs swinging. There is the comforting aroma of minestrone bubbling on the stove, and the autumn daylight is just "beginning to lower".

I stand there and take it all in. Quietly I whisper the next to the last stanza of Longfellow's poem, which says it all.

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

File:Longfellow children's hour.jpg
Portrait of the three daughters of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The original still hangs in the dining room of Longfellow's home in Cambridge, MA. The image was used during the children's lifetimes to illustrate the poem "The Children's Hour," which refers to "grave Alice" (top), "laughing Allegra" (right), and "Edith with golden hair" (left).

Friday, January 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Disney

Disney World is the magic of being a child again, and that kind of magic is a gift at any age.

There is magic in that ride on the monorail as it whisks you on a journey to imagination and adventure. There is magic in that first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle, in the whimsical landscaping where a bush is never just a bush, and in the oom-pah music and swirling lights of the nighttime parade. There is magic in a toddler’s eyes when he meets his first Disney character, in the smiles of people coming off Space Mountain, and in silly Mickey Mouse hats and Goofy t-shirts.

There is magic in that tired but good feeling at the end of the day.

And then there is this: I have visited the Magic Kingdom as a little girl, as a college student on spring break, as a young bride and, in recent years, as a mother. With each visit I’ve changed in big ways and in little ways … but you haven’t, and there is magic in that, too.

The lamp post on the corner of Main Street, the one that I leaned against while eating my first Itzakadoozie? It's still there. The Venetian gondola at the beginning of It's a Small World? Still there. The Hall of Presidents? Tom Sawyer Island? Liberty Tavern? Those, too, are still there.

The sameness of it all is truly magical.

We live in a world that changes at a breathless pace, so the fact that you are constant through the years is comforting. I like that you are the same now as when I first visited the park at age twelve. I like it that my sons have experienced exactly what I experienced, and that one day they will share this same experience with their children.

So most of all I thank you for the magic of constancy, for with it we are reminded how we  fundamentally stay the same no matter how much we may change.

And sometime soon I look forward to seeing you again under that lamp post on Main Street … I know you'll be there.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jonathan is in T.R.O.U.B.L.E

Over the holidays Jonathan learned a horrible, no good, very bad thing.

It seems that at the end of the month when he will be traveling to Orlando for his senior class trip, Nonna and Nonno will be there, too.

You should have seen the looks around the Christmas dinner table when this little fact came out. Nonna and Nonno were excited, Jonathan was horrified, and the rest of us were laughing.

Nonna and Nonno gather information: exact dates of Jonathan's trip, his itinerary, and the name of the resort in which he will be staying. Then Nonna whips out her cell phone to make sure that Jonathan's number is in there.

"We'll stop by one evening," Nonna says. "We'll just say hi."

"No we won't," Nonno says. "We're going to come and hang out in your room."

Jonathan looks horrified.

"We'll buy you and your friends some ice cream," Nonna says.

Jonathan looks a little better. But still ...

Nonna and Nonno. In Orlando. During the senior class trip.

It's a horrible, no good, very bad thing with ice cream.