“There’s something special about a grandmother’s house. You never forget how it smells.” Fredrik Backman’s character says that in his book, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. Backman* is so much more than a writer. He’s a touchstone for humanity.

My grandmother married quite young and came straight to America.  Her disillusionment was profound.

Happy Mother’s Day, Nonna.  Thank you for buying a return ticket. ♥

I’m more curious than George about these two, wishing I had asked more questions and begged for more stories.

The Ticket

In the dank cellar on Oak Avenue,

she shovels coal into the firebox.

Outside, the hens squawk about their fate.

She misses the hill town in Piemonte,

where the earth drives you mad with the scent of growing things.

Here there is bread to bake and children to bear,

the ache in the small of her back

indifferent to her desire

for purses of gnocchi and fresh butter.

Here there are no clusters of purple grapes

ripening under an apricot sky,

just grey sheets to scrub

and a brown metal bed that lists.

She used to feast on music and laughter,

stories, tart and sweet,

but those days are done

and she is swallowed up

by black stockings, rolled down to just below her knees,

and shapeless dresses skirting hard-looking calves.

With a ragged moppeen,

she scrubs away sin and regret,

kneels on yellowed linoleum squares

in a house grown smaller in size.

She fingers the ticket in her pocket.

Will he remember the feel of her cheekbones?

the line of her hip under his hand?

She packs the one photograph of them.

That and the white silk dress on a wire hanger.

Toni 5/13/17

*Bachman’s books are not to be missed.

“Behind all your stories is always your (grand)mother’s story. Because hers is where yours begin. – Mitch Albom

WHEN ITALIAN EYES ARE SMILING

The Catholic calendar is chock-a-block with saints’ days.  Check out the plentitude just in March.

St. David’s Day, Patron of Wales————–March 1
St. Katherine Drexel————March 1
Bl. Charles the Good————–March 2
St. Chad————–March 2
St. Cunegundes, Empress————–March 3
Pope St. Lucius I, Martyr————–March 4
St. Francis of Assisi—————March 4
St. Casimir————–March 4
St. John Joseph of the Cross————–March 5
St. Phocas————–March 5
St. Fridolin———-March 6
St. John of the Cross————March 5
Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas————–March 6
St.Colette————–March 6
St. John of God————–March 8
St. Thomas Aquinas————–March 7
St. Frances of Rome————–March 9
St. Dominic Savio————–March 9
The 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebast————–March 10
St. Eulogius————–March 11
St. John Ogilivie————March 10
St. Sophronius————–March 11
St. Nicholas Owen————–March 12
St. Gregory the Great————–March 12
St. Euphrasia————–March 13
St. Josaphat————–March 13
St. Rodrigo———-March 13
St. Matildis————March 14
St. Maud————–March 14
St. Clement Hofbauer [Haufbauer]————–March 15
St. Longinus—————March 15
St. Louise de Marillac—————-March 15
St. Abraham the Hermit————–March 16
St. Joseph of Arimathea————–March 17
Saint Gertrude of Nivelles ————–March 17
St. Patrick—————March 17
St. Cyril of Constantinople——–March 6
St. Joseph—————March 19
St. Photina————–March 20
St. Cuthbert————–March 20
St. Benedict————–March 21
St. Catherine of Sweden————–March 22
St. Gabriel the Archangel————–March 24
St. Dismas————March 25
St. Ludger————–March 26
St. John Damascene————–March 27
St. John of Capistrano————–March 28 [Trad.] Oct. 23 [New]
Sts. Jonas, Barachisius and Companions————–March 29
St. Zozimus of Syracuse, Bishop————–March 30
St. John Climacus————–March 30
St. Acacius————–March 31

We just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in style. It’s a day to really whoop it up for the patron saint of Ireland~  wear green, drink Guinness, and belt out killer pub songs between bites of corned beef and steamed cabbage.  All topped off with strong coffee, Irish whiskey, and a generous layer of cream.

 

You saw the calendar of March celebrations. Another day, another saint.

Today, March 19, belongs to St. Joseph.

 

As in Jesus, Mary and…. 

 

Sicilians honor St. Joseph because he saved them from starving during a serious drought in the Middle Ages. Parades are, well, inevitable. “Viva la tavola di San Giuseppe!” Let the feast begin!

They set up St. Joseph’s tables, Tavole di San Giuseppe, covered in food. The bounty of the altar is shared not only with friends and family, but with the needy. Everyone gives thanks for blessings received during the year.

The altar sports a variety of meatless foods like minestrone and pasta with breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs are a symbol of the sawdust on St. Joseph’s floor and, yes, are even a form of protection. (Sicilians wrote the book on protection. They’ll scatter salt on the floor by the front door to ward off the evil eye, or, if necessary, employ more combustive measures.)  I’ve learned to keep some in the freezer so that when a storm threatens, I can scatter them in the yard while saying a prayer to St. Joseph to spare me from harm.  I’m not afraid of any upcoming storms: Theseus, Ursa, Valerie, Wyatt, Xavier, Yuri or Zeno.

All hail the conquering breadcrumbs. (Watch for #conqueringbreadcrumbs on Twitter.)

And always, always, there are fava beans on the altar. They are undeniably lucky because during that Sicilian drought, the fava thrived while all other crops failed.

The table is blessed by a priest and has three tiers, a nod to the Holy Trinity. The top tier is the statue of St. Joseph surrounded by flowers and greenery.

The other tiers hold food, flowers, and candles.

The day ends with each person taking home a bag of bread, fruit, pastries, cookies, a St. Joseph medal, Holy Card and/or a blessed fava bean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That lucky bean is to remind you to pray to St. Joseph. I always pray for zeppole.

 

It’s the most famous indulgence of the Feast of St. Joseph.

Zeppole were invented in 1837 by a Neapolitan cook named Ippolito Cavalcanti. Apparently he was quite the baker as well as Dante’s BFF.

Few saints used to hang out with gourmands and men-about-town.  They were hermits or monks like St Cuthbert, on deck for tomorrow’s feast day. He was all about miracles and healing. And ducks. St Cuthbert  is associated with Eider ducks, known in Northumberland as Cuddy’s ducks. A colony nests on the Farne Islands where the saint had his hermitage.

St. Cuthbert discovered local people liked to eat the eider ducks and their eggs.  So he introduced the world’s first bird protection laws to protect them and other sea birds nesting on the islands.
These are believed to be the earliest bird conservation laws in the world.

There’s a two-day celebration for this region’s beloved Cuthbert. A man of vision. Like the courageous and fervent Patrick.

 

Clearly the heavens are populated with thousands of saints. It’s a staggering task to celebrate them all. The crowd faves are eternally commemorated but what about St. Cunegund? St. Nicanor? St. Carpophorus?

So, pick a saint. Have a frolicsome festival. Make something yummy.

 

Write a note to a great teacher on St. Ita’s Day. Make a donation to a feline rescue organization on St. Gertrude’s Day. Give your dog a special treat on St. Roch’s Day. Take your mother out to dinner on St. Martha’s Day. No matter what saint you celebrate, break out the fireworks!

Toni 3/19/17

 

DON’T WORRY. UNLIKE PI, THIS BLOG POST WON’T GO ON FOREVER.

If you are cringing right now, you’ll know how I felt my entire year of high school geometry.

But, hey, it’s National Pi Day, the nerdiest of days.   It’s the one day a year when we take time to eat pie reflect on the mysterious and endlessly cool constant that circles around us.

It’s a day for fun and frolic. Yes, math phobics, even for us. And, clearly, there’s pie.

 

At first, Pi Day was gimmicky, but now it’s a gone-rampant big deal. Have you signed up for a Pi mile race yet?


Pi is everywhere ~ The Simpsons and Star Trek, The Matrix, and, of course, the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Math games, anyone?

There’s even a new literary form called a ‘piem.’ It’s a poem where the length of each word is the same as the number in the pi sequence. For example, here’s a baudy little ditty, written by British mathematician Sir James Jeans in the early twentieth century, to remember the first fifteen digits.

How I want a drink,

Alcoholic of course,

After the heavy lectures

Involving quantum mechanics.

 

There’s plenty of pi-tunes out there but have a listen to this English singer and songwriter. Kate Bush is known for her expressive four-octave soprano voice…and idiosyncratic lyrics.

 So, what are you doing that’s chic-unique for National Pi Day?

 

  Toni 3/14/17

 

Toni 3/14/17