Surely no one loved Italy more than my mother.
We swore she must have had Italian blood in her. She flourished in Italy. She laughed with abandon, she talked with her hands, her eyes sparkled with joy, she knew no strangers. She acquired Italian words by talking with everyone without a hint of shyness or reserve.
It didn’t hurt that she was as gorgeous as a movie star. Men gravitated toward her and woman adored her.
I was fortunate to be her beloved daughter. She brought me with her to shop the outdoor markets. I watched her pick out lovely ceramic pieces or artwork, then bargain with great enthusiasm.
She took me down winding streets of Florence, just to explore. “Look at those pots of geraniums on the balcony, and the string of white laundry behind them. Can’t you just see that as a painting?”
“Look at this fountain on the corner of the building. Everything Italian has to be beautiful, as well as useful. What animal do you think it is?”
In Rome, she stood in front of the Pieta and cried for a long time. Mary held her beloved son Jesus Christ in her lap just as he had been taken from the cross. I waited beside her, maybe a little impatient, maybe a little embarrassed. But in the waiting I looked longer at the statue and entered into the meaning and emotion of it. One afternoon we were driving through the Tuscan hills. I was playing around in the back seat with my brother.
“Look!” my mother said. “Look at the gorgeous sunset!”
I took a quick glance and said, “Isn’t that marvvvvvvy,” and collapsed into giggles with my brother.
My mother looked at me through the rearview mirror. “Maybe I can’t share anything beautiful with my Jeanie anymore.”
That stopped me in my silliness instantly. I couldn’t bear to be without my mother’s influence.
She gave me eyes to see the beauty around me.