I have not cooked a Thanksgiving dinner in a quarter of a century. Yet, here I am, in a country that doesn’t even celebrate the holiday, getting ready to do just that. I have a wedding registry’s worth of brand new serveware and cooking utensils for the occasion. A Calphalon roasting pan, a set of 12 Fiestaware place settings, and several polish pottery serving dishes. I’ve got table full of Thanksgiving dinner appropriate adornments right down to the ever-so-important gravy boat. The problem is, all of those goodies are boxed up in storage 4,000 miles away. So, what do I have to prepare my very first Thanksgiving feast? A random collection of pots without lids, a 13 by 9 baking pan, and an oven that’s practically the size of those easy bake ones that were the Christmas craze when I was a little girl.
Despite the fact that I am inexperienced and ill-equipped, I am excited for the holiday feast. Afterall, the celebration is about your haves and not your have-nots… Though I don’t have the knowledge of how to cook a turkey, I do have the help of two other wives whose expertise in that arena far surpasses my own. While Butterball turkeys are not overflowing the refrigerator section of Italy’s grocery stores, I do have a duo of butcher-shop friends that are hooking me up with a fresh bird… puliti and senza la testa, thank you very much. Even though we don’t have cranberries, I do have an interesting recipe for a raspberry-based alternative. And though I won’t have the company of my family, I will share the table with my husband and twelve new friends.
Tomorrow, I will certainly be thinking about the yearly Norwood feast with the Patsos family pickers who have been known to leave un-cut cakes unfrosted and Papa’s salads de-cucumbered all before the saran wrap as been removed. I will miss the Cape Cod edition of the holiday where it’s clear that you can take the Regan’s out of South Boston, but you can’t take Joseph’s pies off of the dessert menu. I will think fondly of Thanksgiving Day’s past, but I will look forward to the memories from my first Italian Turkey Day. As I sit down on Sunday to eat the belated but delicious meal that I will somehow miraculously prepare, I will be grateful for my loved ones back home who have given me so much to be grateful for. Who have, therefore, made this holiday into one that is important enough to carry overseas.
Theresa and Stephanie, you can obviously have the wishbone this year…
A couple of days before we left for Venice, I was researching various options for how we would actually get there. We were planning to carpool with another Venice bound couple from the team. Mapquest reported it was a little more than a four hour drive. However, cars are not permitted onto the majority of the island, and, therefore, we needed to find a place to park from which we could utilize some means of public transportation to get to San Marco, the portion of the island containing St. Mark’s Basilica, The Rialto Bridge, and our hotel.
Luckily, we live in the age of the internet. And, with a few keyword combinations in the google search toolbar, my computer screen was covered with possibilities as provided by travel-savvy backpackers and Euro-travel website publishers. We could drive as far as the Santa Lucia Station on the island in Cannareggio, but parking there comes at a price. The alternative would be to drive to the nearest mainland railway stop, Mestre, and continue onward by train to the Santa Lucia station. From there, we would have to walk the whole way or take a vaporetto (water bus) part of the way to the hotel. Since we would be arriving after sunset, I decided that less navigation by foot through the maze of canal-side waterways would be a good thing. The final verdict: we would park in Mestre, ride the train to Santa Lucia, take the vaporetto to the Ponte De Rialto stop, and walk the few blocks to our hotel from there*. Done!
Satisfied, I motioned to close my internet browsing windows. But, a headline caught my attention. “Protesters Invite Venetians to the ‘Veniceland’ theme park in bid to save the city”. I’ve attached a link to the article below, but the gist of it is that the soaring cost of living in Venice is pushing locals out. Meanwhile, the city’s supposed transformation to a Disneyland-like amusement park continues ushering tourists in. The protesters would be gathering to denounce this trend on Sunday in Piazzale Roma. This just so happened to be the day we were set to leave Venice at the train station we were set to leave from. Interesting concept, and somewhat ironic timing, I thought before clicking the red x at the corner of the window and packing my backpack for the weekend’s adventure.
By the time we arrived at the Santa Lucia station on Friday evening, the scheduled protest was long forgotten. The railway station exit fed directly into the water stop where we boarded a boat and headed in the direction of the Rialto Bridge. In addition to giving us a much-needed headstart to finding our hotel, the vaporetto provided us with a spectacular first impression of the lagoon city. As it chugged along the Grand Canal, we were absolutely mesmerized by the silhouette of historic buildings rising up from the water and into the night. I quite literally couldn’t believe my eyes. Spellbound, I struggled to wrap my mind around how such beautiful architecture could be emerging right out from the sea. It appeared that the illuminated structures stood in graceful defiance of the laws of physics!
After checking into Hotel Caneva, we headed back out onto the streets with three objectives. Find a place to stop for dinner, explore the city, and sample a little of Venice’s highly acclaimed gelato. And that’s the pattern we followed for the remainder of the weekend. Food, walk, gelato, and repeat. All in all, this turned out to be the perfect routine for our 2 night, 1.5 day stay. We were able to see the main attractions as well as many of the lesser-known charms of the city and the neighboring island of Burano. And, we were able to do so from two perspectives, day and night.
As suggested by nearly every travel website, the top 3 priorities of our visit were the following: Visit Saint Mark’s Square, walk across the Rialto Bridge, and experience the general atmosphere of the city by getting lost within it’s countless side streets.
As for the square, I thought it was remarkable. The Basilica, the Campanile Tower, Doge’s Palace, and a continuous row of historic columns were the boundaries of the stone-covered piazza. Whether it was flooded with water in the morning or with lantern-light in the evening, I couldn’t imagine a spot with better 360-degree views. And the Basilica was phenomenal! Like it’s exterior, the interior was breathtaking. Gold and marble mosaic tiles covered every square inch from the floor to the ceiling, and the terrace provided beautiful views to the canal or the center of the square.
Maybe the Basilica was just a tough act to follow, but when it comes to the Rialto Bridge, I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed. At one point while we approached the white marble archway, I may have even said aloud “Is this it?”. I guess it deserves points for being something I’ve never seen before, a footbridge with little souvenir shops on it. It does have a nice view. But, then again, so does every other spot along the canal. Call me a bridge-snob, but I’m just being honest when I say I think this tourist spot is slightly overrated.
In the scheme of things, my disappointment in the Rialto Bridge was more-than-compensated for by my delight with the third item on our tentative agenda. Exploring Venice. No maps allowed. (Not that a map would have helped). Travel experts recommend that you “get lost” in the city to truly experience it’s charm. It’s certainly not difficult to get lost when you are never exactly sure where you are to begin with. In the hours we spent navigating through the maze of San Marco, Cannaregio, and Dorsoduro, I was almost always geographically disoriented. And I loved every second of it! Even though we tried to avoid taking any street twice, I doubt we covered even the smallest fraction of the streets in the city.
During our exploration of the tiny alleyways weaving through the island, we found little surprises everywhere. Suppose you were in the U.S. and you needed to know how to find some particular hotel or restaurant. If someone were to say, “it’s over the bridge and across from the church”, you would think you were receiving very descriptive directions to your destination. This is soooo…. not the case in Venice. With more than 400 bridges and upwards of 100 churches scattered throughout the city’s six sestiere, or borroughs, there is a church or bridge or both at nearly every turn! And, I can’t decide what is crazier…. The fact that no two are the same or that all of them are beautiful! That’s not to say I didn’t have my favorites. Of the bridges I crossed, I loved the wooden Ponte dell’Accademia. And, in the church category, I was especially fond of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute.
It wasn’t until the drive home from our weekend getaway that my thoughts returned to the scheduled protest. First, it was a simple acknowledgement of how we didn’t notice anything going during our Sunday stroll through Piazzale Roma on our way to the train station. Had there even been a gathering to inaugurate the opening of a satirical “Veniceland”? Then, I started reflecting on how my perspective on the protest changed after having seen Venice for myself.
On Thursday, as a prospective tourist, I was somewhat annoyed by the fact that locals were essentially protesting against people like me. However, having concluded my visit, I realized that I shouldn’t have taken the protest so personally. The Venetian residents probably aren’t upset about the tourists, but about how the city caters to the tourists. And, quite frankly, I can see where they are coming from. Afterall, as much as I loved Venice for it’s natural beauty, it did not make for a culturally stimulating vacation spot. Sure, it was nice to see a menu written in English (and eight other languages for that matter!) for the first time in three months. But, at the same time, I’ve always appreciated the sense of adventure that arises when I place an order off of an Italian menu and don’t know exactly what I’m going to get. And while it was comforting to find fellow English-speakers within earshot for the weekend, I’ve always loved walking through the streets or Torre Pellice with the background noise of conversations in Italian. And who couldn’t do without the high prices of a popular tourist town? 17 Euro for a sandwich, coke, and an apple… seriously? (Lesson learned: Read the small print before you sit down for a quick bite. Most spots have a cover charge per person plus a fixed percentage service fee. It adds up fast!)
Don’t get me wrong, Venice was well worth the tourist traps. Even if there were an ornery troll under every bridge in the city, I would still say it is a worthy addition to everyone’s bucket lists. But, the concern of high prices driving residents out is a valid one. The locals, afterall, keep the culture in the city. And, since I’ve arrived in Italy, learning the culture has been my favorite pastime. In a city full of so much history, why change to meet the demands of tourists? It would be devastating to see the integrity of such a unique island community sacrificed for the sake of tourism. Venetian chefs don’t need to develop a tourist menu for their restaurants; shop owners don’t need to be fluent in several languages. What makes Venice such a popular destination is not what drives families to book vacations in Disneyland. It’s not bells and whistles, but sheer architectural beauty that brings people flocking to the lagoon city. It’s the fact that while we can barely build an efficient tunnel in Boston in the 21st century, Venetians constructed an entire city around a complex system of canals hundreds of years ago. This is what puts Venice into it’s own category of amazing and makes the city one of the most beautiful places I have ever and probably will ever see.
* This method of getting to Venice worked marvelously, and I would recommend it to any Venice visitor arriving by car. The train ride was only one Euro and ten minutes from Mestre and we spent half of what we would have on parking had we driven all the way into Santa Lucia.
|St. Mark's Square|
|The front of St. Mark's Basilica flooded in the morning|
|A leaning clock tower in San Marco|
|A typical alleyway in Venice|
|Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute|
|Facing the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute with San Marco behind us|
|Some of the colorful houses in Burano and, yes, another leaning clock tower|
|From the Ponte dell' Accademia looking down the canal|
|A view from the Rialto Bridge|
|Another shot from the Rialto Bridge|
|On a bridge in front of another bridge|
|Doge's Palace is to my immediate right with the side of St. Mark's Basilica in the background and the Campanile Tower to the left.|
|A busy shopping street at night|
With three of the top four teams in the league separated by two points, it came down to Saturday’s match-ups to determine who would be participating in the 2011 Coppa Italia tournament. The tournament is held in January and features three teams from the Serie A League and one from the Serie B league. It would have been a first for the Bulldogs to participate in the weekend’s games.
To see more about the team and to have a laugh at what gets lost in translation, visit the team website: http://www.hcvalpellice.com/index2.php
Going into the Saturday, the standings of the top four teams were:
Val Pusteria 38 points
Coming after Thursday’s convincing 6-2 victory over first place Brunico, the town was abuzz with excitement for Saturday’s home game versus Bolzano. Three points for a win would bring one team in and leave the other one out of the race for the cup. Tickets sold out and the rink was packed to the brim with fans decked out in their home-team gear. The puck dropped and the game ensued with the chants of an enthusiastic crowd narrating the pace of the game.
During the first period, Bolzano kept the Valpe scoring squad at bay. They used controlled plays to break up offensive and carry the puck out of the neutral zone. Bolzano scored first, leaving fans even more anxious for a goal. Finally, midway through the second period, Valpe’s captain issued a slapshot from the point that evened the score. For the remainder of the game, both teams played defensively. Valpe couldn’t capitalize on a 4 minute power play, but they stayed strong during Bolzano’s power play opportunities.
At the end of regulation, the game was tied at 1. Valpe fans celebrated, reasoning that a tie would be enough to secure their spot in the Coppa Italia. An overtime win is 2 points and an overtime loss is 1. Even if Valpe lost, the two teams would be tied at a cumulative 33 points. And, since Valpe had beaten Bolzano in their previous match-up, they would come ahead in the tiebreaker.
What many failed to recognize, however, was the condition that Renon also lost their Saturday game. In that case, there would be three teams at 33 points each. And in that tripling of tie-breaker points, Valpe would fall to the bottom of the bunch for having suffered two consecutive losses to Renon during the course of the season. Unfortunately, this statistically unlikely combination of Valpe’s loss in overtime and Renon’s loss in regulation, was the one that sealed Valpe’s fate. Bolzano scored in overtime, and the resulting three way tie for second left Valpe technically in fourth.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on what would have been the first Coppa Italia for the organization, the crowds were visibly pleased by the team’s performance. And rightfully so! Coming out of an eight place finish in the in the team’s previous season, they are excited to be competitive with the top teams in the league. Their next home game begins the third of five cycles through the regular season. Valpe will face Fassa Thursday before having Saturday off.
To see more about the team and to have a laugh at what gets lost in translation, visit the team website: http://www.hcvalpellice.com/index2.php
Before I proceed with this week’s post, I want to thank everyone for your thoughtful responses to Post #16: Domani, Domani. The sole intent of that entry was to pay tribute to an all-around wonderful man. It means a lot to me to know that my objective was met, because he deserves nothing less than to be remembered for his genuine kindness and unfaltering love of life.
You know you are settled into a new place when daily occurrences warrant being called ‘typical’. Here, there is the 7:00 airing of Who Wants to be A Millionaire. The howl of the neighbor’s Beagle following the drone of a passing car. The way the sun passes through the dining room on its way behind the mountain. The inevitability that, upon entering or leaving the apartment building, I’d cross paths with Giovanni. Giovanni, the vibrant old man, the “master-gardener of this estabishment”, the generous grape-giver… my friend. That is why, two Saturday’s ago, it was no surprise when, on my way out the door I met him in the stairwell.
I was carrying five bags of recycling from our second story apartment to the streetside bins around the block. Coming out the door to our apartment, I heard someone whistling a happy tune. The notes bounced off the granite steps, echoing upward and outward from the basement. When I descended the final flight, I nearly collided with the jubilant Giovanni. He wore his trademark smile and held a basket full of tomatoes and greens. With my arms clenched awkwardly around three too many bags of plastic bottles, the conversation was shorter than usual, but fulfilling nevertheless.
He told me about his day’s work in the garden, and how much he loves being outside. He talked about the changing weather, the chilly mornings and warm afternoons that are characteristic of the area. Then, as usual, he asked about Kevin’s progress with learning Italian. This goes back to one of our first conversations…
Kevin and I were headed to our car and we met Giovanni in the street. With a friendly wave, our welcoming neighbor launched into a stream of greetings, began talking about Luserna, and asked us our thoughts on our new home. I only understood a fraction of the man’s words, but was able to formulate a somewhat relevant response. Giovanni smiled adoringly, but not at my fragmented statement. He must have noticed Kevin’s expression during our exchange, a facial contortion signaling his being overwhelmingly confused. To his credit, had I not spoken to Giovanni several times already, I would have felt the same way. Giovanni smiled in my direction as if he and I had shared a secret. Kevin acknowledged that he “No capisco”. We all laughed, and Giovanni gave Kevin a reassuring pat on the back that he would learn Italian soon enough.
Back to our entry-way meeting, nearly two months later…
Giovanni asked “Tuo marito impara Italiano?” and I assured him yes, he’s getting better every day! And we both laughed, after which he reminded me to keep working with him. This segment of our daily interactions could have been scripted. It is probably the closest I’ve come to sharing an inside joke with any of my Italian speaking friends.
After a few more minutes of conversation, Giovanni set down his basket and helped me out the door. “Ci vediamo domani”, he offered before closing the door behind me. But what neither of us knew is that we wouldn’t be seeing each other tomorrow. Giovanni passed away that night.
Giovanni was old, and had lived a healthy, happy life. He had even told me that! But these facts didn’t soften my sadness and surprise when I learned he was gone. Our conversation from Saturday illuminated the fact that life is a delicate entity. Someone can be here in one moment, and gone the next. The enormity of that realization pummeled me, as it always does when I learn of someone’s passing.
I felt somewhat guilty that I was so upset by his death. There were surely others that would be more directly affected by the news. This wasn’t about me. Who was I but a transplanted American in this little Italian town? But then I reasoned that the degree of someone’s influence on your life is irrelevant in their death. My sadness was not a product of some selfishness generating from within me, but it was a testament to Giovanni’s kindhearted nature. Afterall, he, like the church bell chiming at 5:45 for the evening mass, was one of the predictable pieces of my daily life that made the apartment feel like home.
The following Wednesday, I attended his funeral. And with more people in the church than I thought lived in the entire town, it was clear that Giovanni had the same affect on all those he met as he did on me, his non-Italian speaking neighbor. During the eulogy, I did not understand what the priest said about Giovanni’s life. I was standing at the back of the church, and what little Italian I may have been able to translate was absorbed from his voice by the swelling crowd seated in front of me. If I were to guess, he probably spoke about Giovanni’s generosity and how the lovable old man was an indelible fixture in this community. How Giovanni was always the first to help a stranger in need and to visit our ailing neighbor who lives downstairs. He most likely testified that Giovanni was gracious for life and family, and surrounded everyone he knew with love.
Following the ceremony, I walked the two blocks back to my apartment. I thought about the time Giovanni and I shared talking in the stairwell, the garden, and the street in front of our apartment. He had even fixed our water heater on one of the many occasions it had stopped functioning properly. In all of those cases, Giovanni had awarded me his undivided attention. No matter where he was headed, he always stopped to say hello. And it wasn’t just the “Hey! How are you?” that I customarily offer to acquaintances that I’m walking past too quickly to even hear their reply. He genuinely cared about how my day was going. He was visibly excited to talk to me.
I am ashamed to admit that, before coming to Italy, I sometimes dreaded running into people when I was shopping for groceries or walking the dog. In the circumstances that I did, I often hurried through the customary verbal exchanges. But why was I in such a hurry? If I was worried about wasting time, then I had it all wrong. One minute spent rushing is the waste, not the three minutes it takes to live in the moment and show someone you actually care. I just think of how in less than five minutes a day over the course of two months, I developed a meaningful relationship with Giovanni. And we don't even speak the same language! I learned about his family, his interests. I looked forward to talking with him, and appreciated that he looked forward to talking with me. It’s something simple really, but yet, I hadn’t noticed before. It’s what made our seemingly inconsequential interactions into something more. Something that I will miss.
So, in memory of Giovanni and in the hopes that I will someday be as vibrant, warm, and welcoming as he was, I have decided to take my “life is about the little things” philosophy to the next level. Next time I ask someone “How are you?” I will ask it because I care to know and wait for them to answer. Next time, I will be truly present for the walk to the car from the grocery store. Instead of thinking about how I will pack my groceries into the backseat or which route home I can take to minimize the number of lights, I will admire the color of the leaves in the trees at the perimeter of the parking lot. Because the fact is, I do care about establishing and developing relationships. I do appreciate the little things in life like the smell of autumn and the smile of a friend. It’s just that for whatever reason, I get caught up in things that seem more important and I forget to notice all of the wonderful things along the way.
“Mangiato Tutto!” exclaimed a little blond-haired boy as he flipped his plastic yellow plate over and slapped it on the table with pride. He then proceeded to snatch the plate of a younger, more timid boy seated across from him. He dumped his neighbor’s uneaten pasta shells on the tabletop. Then, with his hands behind his back like an Apple Bobber, he put his face to the table to consume the shells, licking clean the olive oil residue that was left behind. The boy whose food was taken looked on with an expression I know too well. This food thievery happens to me on a nightly basis when Kevin’s fork sneaks onto my plate five seconds after we’ve started eating because his serving is already gone. The pasta-deprived observer looked surprised, forlorn, and impressed simultaneously as his older playmate slurped up the remaining contents of his lunch from the table top. Just another pranzo spent in the company of toddlers…
When I started volunteering at the day care in Luserna, I felt like I was walking into alien territory. Babies, let alone Italian ones, were unfamiliar creatures and so I entered the play area as one would a distant planet… cautiously, reservedly. I did not want to unsettle the controlled chaos of the playscape, a colorful spread of toys amongst a collection of chubby-cheeked, runny-nosed mini humans. No fewer than 14 pairs of eyes registered the presence of their new visitor before returning to their respective agendas. It was a continuum of human development in the first 36 months of life captured in one room, and I was coincidentally fascinated and terrified.
In previous encounters with babies in this age group, I was always intrigued by their adorableness. But beyond oohing and ahhing on their behalf, I simply didn’t know what to do with them. I held them, and pretended I was comfortable doing so until my cover was inevitably blown when the baby sensed my deceit and started crying in response. I wasn’t overly concerned by my confusion on the baby front. I reasoned that secret codes to understanding their needs and wants were distributed exclusively to members of Club Motherhood. I am not a member, and so I dismissed my bewilderment as a normal affinity to the little bundles of joy. But even considering this rationality, my apparent lack of baby skills was somewhat baffling. I had endured 25 years of exposure to social norms for females in society. I had spent 18 years under the same roof as a Super Mom. Despite it all, my “motherly instincts” seemed about as developed as my criminal ones. And anyone whose read about the Rosemary incident knows that isn’t saying a lot.
Considering I’m a high school teacher, there is a definite inconsistency here. How is it that a classroom of thirty teenagers is less intimidating than a circle of a dozen waddling babies? How can I instinctively interpret complex emotions of my students, but cannot distinguish between the smaller spectrum of basic emotional needs maintained by a baby? I think it all comes down to two factors. The first is fragility. Babies are physically helpless. So, I’m not going to deny that the fear of accidentally hurting one is an inhibitor to my growth in the baby-whisperer department. The second factor is relatability. Though I wasn’t a melo-dramatic adolescent myself, I can atleast empathize with a teen that has a broken heart or an aversion to mathematics. I cannot, however, relate to a baby that has a dirty diaper or a non-verbalized longing for a certain tangible object.
Judging by these aforementioned preconceptions, a daycare seems like the last place you would find me volunteering my time. But when the opportunity presented itself through one of the Italian girlfriends who works there, I gratefully accepted. Afterall, I’d scoured the entire northwest region of Italy for everything from English teaching positions to gelato making jobs, all of which turned up dry. Helping out with the bambini of Luserna seemed like a fulfilling option for my weekly schedule. And so, I go downtown twice a week to help out with the feeding, holding, entertaining and nose-wiping of Italian toddlers. And, as it turns out, babies aren’t intimidating after all!
Beyond teaching me about the early stages of human development, my time at the daycare has another unanticipated educational benefit… vocabulary. The babies are just learning how to talk and, technically, so am I! As such, I’ve acquired from the friendly staffers very important baby-appropriate terminology such as piano, mettere a posto, vieni qui, and siedeti, commands which mean, careful, put away, come here, and sit down respectively. (Please excuse any spelling errors… the curriculum doesn’t cover that for a few more years). From children’s books we read together at the local library, I’ve learned about colors and animals and opposites. Even the babies themselves are teaching me new and important phrases. They are perhaps my favorite educators seeing as baby talk is absolutely precious, especially when it is delivered in a different language. The most popular phrases from the babies in the group that can talk are the following:
Mangio tutto io ~ I am eating everything
Let’s just say that italians learn young that food is an important part of the culture. Pranzo, even for the babies, is a three course meal. At 11:30, the toddlers retrieve their bibs and take their seats around the large rectangular tables while the babies are situated in high chairs. Meals commence with a meat plate served with a vegetable. The second plate is a pasta dish whether it be buttered shells or miestra, a delicious soupy pasta alternative. The final element of daily lunches is a slice of fresh pane. The babies take great pride in their abilities to consume the entire contents of their consecutive dishes. Enter the mangio tutto io phrase, delivered between bites with nothing less than sheer pride. The meal lasts about 45 minutes from start to clean-up where the babies put their spoons in a bin and return their plates to the food cart. As impressive at it is watching the kids clean up after themselves, it is even more so astonishing that they can sit through a 45 minute meal without getting restless! Like I said, they learn young.
Prende mi ~ Take me
I’m a sucker for this one. Picture a knee high, wide-eyed two-year old looking up at you with arms reaching for yours and a little voice beckoning for you to pick him up. Prende mi, Prende mi. Do I even have to tell you how this scenario plays out?
e mio ~ it’s mine
Whether it be the toy of the millisecond or the sock of a playmate, the little children will grab at anything that anyone else has with the justification “e mio”. The book is mine, the rocker horse is mine, the boob of the daycare worker that is changing my diaper is mine. Mine. Mine. Mine.
Guarda! ~ Look at
Look at this! Look at that! Look at me jump! To provide a more specific application of this phrase, allow me to elaborate on a situation from last week. I was helping to herd the bunch towards the tables for pranzo. I had one of the seven-month olds on my right hip and was looking for his chu cha, or pacifier, on one of the shelves. I felt an urgent tap on my leg and heard a tiny voice say “Sarah, Guarda”. I turned to see the blond-haired boy from the opening passage with his eyes fixed on his pointer finger which was raised up for my inspection. And there it was. A booger. An impressively large booger, I might add, considering it originated in such a little nose. I shifted the baby to my other hip, grabbed a Kleenex and snatched the mucousy orb from the other boy’s finger. I even complimented him on coming to see me. Sometimes the kids take the mangio tutto io phrase a little too far if you catch my drift. I think I will conclude my vocabulary lesson with that.
All in all, despite my former discomfort with babies and their runny noses, I have come to find their company increasingly enjoyable. I look forward to discovering the unpredictable ways they'll find to make me smile as I continue absorbing an important piece of toddler culture... simplicity. In their wonderment of bubbles, story-time, and the jack-o-lantern we carved for Halloween, they remind me to relish in the little things that life has to offer. But I guess that’s a piece of Italian culture too.