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

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

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Mission: How to Embarrass Your Son

1- Go to Costco around noon ... you know, when church gets out so that everyone is there scoring the free samples before heading home.

2- Stop to look at the pretty Karaoke machine.

3- Pick up the microphone, turn the switch to ON, and realize that it's WORKING.

4- Ignore your son who whispers desperately, "Mom!"

5- Sing a note -- ONE NOTE -- as your son melts into a puddle of embarrassment.

6- Mission Accomplished.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Papa Francesco

Cari fratelli e sorelle, buongiorno! (Dear brothers and sisters, Good morning!)

As the Pope’s greeting echoed around St. Peter’s Square, the crowd responded by clapping, cheering, and shouting Viva il Papa! People waved yellow and white Vatican flags, groups held up signs in their native language, and youth groups spontaneously broke into song.
Among the crowd were 23 women from Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, Illinois, and Washington State who had traveled together for an all-girl’s trip to Italy. They had a packed itinerary planned – Rome, Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, and the Island of Capri – and attending the Pope’s Angelus Blessing on Sunday was at the top of their list.
After months of planning there they were, not even 24 hours after landing in Rome, standing in St. Peter’s Square. As they waited they chatted, shared umbrellas when it began drizzling, and put them away again when the sun came out. They wandered around taking pictures of Bernini’s colonnade, of the Basilica’s facade, and of each other.

Precisely at noon, it began. There was no fanfare; the Pope’s window opened, a banner was unfurled, and a figure in white approached the window and welcomed his brothers and sisters from around the world.

Pope Francis. At last.

He spoke for twenty minutes. And for those twenty minutes, as his gentle voice reverberated across stone and marble, you could hear the quiet hum of pilgrims whispering, translating, crying, and praying. And although not everyone could speak Italian, the women in the group nonetheless understood because the essence of what he said transcends the spoken word.

After he gave us what we needed to hear, he blessed us and then turned things around ...

by asking us to pray for him.
A tutti voi auguro una buona domenica. E per favore, non dimenticatevi di pregare per me. Buon pranzo e arrivederci!  (To all I wish a happy Sunday. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch. Arrivederci!)

Papa Francesco

A group from Romania

Nun with an iPad ... videotaping

My favorite postcard I purchased in Rome

Basilica de S. Pietro

Smiling and Crying

Monday, September 21, 2015

2015 Girls' Trip to Italy

Summer 2015. A trip to Italy. All Girls. We went, we saw, we conquered!

Grand Hotel La Pace, Sorrento

Rome, Amalfi Coast, and the Island of Capri

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Part of Something Bigger

*published in the Columbia County News-Times (January 21, 2015)

The Rev. Martin Luther King and Fred Shuttlesworth, speaking on May 3, 1963,  tell a news conference, that massive racial demonstra­tions will continue in Birmingham, Ala.   File photo by Associated Press
File photo by Associated Press

We were living in Vicenza, Italy, when I participated in a ceremony commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event was held at the American school on the military base, and part of the celebration involved students from the two sixth-grade classes reciting portions of Dr. King’s historic I Have a Dream speech.

All the students were terribly excited. Not only would we be part of an important event, but the American television station would be filming the ceremony and then broadcasting it on the evening news. Teachers began assigning lines, and every student raised his hand hoping to get a part. One by one lines were assigned, one by one hands went down as one student and then another was selected, and there I was, still sitting there with my hand raised.

Finally, much to my surprise, my name was called and I discovered I would be delivering the very last line of the speech, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

“Can you do this?” my teacher asked me quietly on the day of the ceremony. “These are important words; when you say them, you are sending them into tomorrow.”

I didn’t really understand what he was telling me, but I thought he meant that I should speak the words loudly.

That night we gathered around the television to watch the evening news, and at the end of the program the story faded out with the camera focusing on me reciting those 14 words.

Thirty years later, my husband and I took our three sons to visit the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, and there, standing next to the eternal flame across from his tomb, I told this story to my family.

They had never heard it before.

“Why were you picked to recite the very last line?” asked my son. “I mean, that’s one of the most memorable lines from the speech.”

Believe me, I have often wondered the same thing; after all, wouldn’t it have been more fitting to have had one of the black students recite the line – someone like Chris, who was tall and had a booming voice? Maybe I was picked because my teacher sensed my desperation, or he felt sorry for me (I was a mousy, timid thing), or maybe, in his wisdom, he knew that those words transcended race, gender, religion, and even time; that those words would always be hurled to the future as we strive to live them today; that the speech was bigger, truer, and more far reaching than any person who delivered it.

Of course, I didn’t understand the scope of his speech as I delivered those lines with all the passion of a timid, sixth-grader; in fact, it wasn’t until I was exploring the museum with our boys, standing in the pulpit where Dr. King used to preach, seeing his Nobel Peace Prize, and walking across the bridge alongside the life-sized statues depicting the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., that the memory even surfaced.

But I’m glad it did.

In my own small way I had been able to participate in something bigger, truer, and more far reaching than I could have possibly understood at the time, and standing with my family next to that eternal flame across from Dr. King’s tomb, we talked about how we are all part of something bigger, truer, and more far reaching.

And it isn’t until we recognize our role and embrace this fundamental truth that we can be truly “free at last.”

Maria Novajosky is a freelance writer and works for Catholic Stewardship Consultants. She can be reached at