Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I think I've told you a bit about my long-dead Italian grandmother. Noni was a stereotypical southern Italian peasant who knew how to cook anything but who couldn't read or write. She believed fervently in Mussolini and the Pope and the sanctity of her sons (she had three and two daughters, but they didn't count as much). She was superstitious, insanely so and rarely acknowledged when anything good happened -- in case the good was jinxed by the bad. Her genes must run thick through me because I feel terrified to acknowledge the good, especially when it pertains to something really, really BIG. Like Sophie.

The photo above is from the front page of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, probably over a year ago or so. It's a picture of the ladies of a village whose name I've forgotten -- a village famous for its mafioso. There's been a sting and many of these guys have been killed and the women are watching, I think, as their coffins are carried down the street. Maybe I've mixed up the details, but the picture speaks to me. I see myself in these women and though separated by thousands of miles and a generation, as well as education and a culture vastly different, their placid anxiety and stoicism are echoed in me. Without backsliding into irony or sarcasm, I'm only a step away from wearing black every Tuesday (the day Sophie was diagnosed) and tightening my lips into an ever-thinner line.

Sophie's seizures have decreased dramatically with the homeopathic remedy -- and I mean DRAMATIC.

Now, go knock on wood three times and pretend you didn't hear it.


  1. You have me thinking about my own Italian grandmother, who worried constantly about everything and anything..she was fabulous.

    When my sisters husband left her with two small children, my grandmother left my sisters wedding photos up, BUT...put a piece of black tape over her husbands face.

    I see my grandmother in that picture..and my Aunt...what a great photo.
    And what GREAT news about Sophie..
    off to knock right now

  2. I was so touched by your Hopeful Parents post - have been thinking about it on and off over the past day. The image of Sophie's physical maturity combined with the relationship of care between you and her is a very powerful one, very evocative.

    I am pleased to hear the good news about her treatment.


  3. I did. I knocked three times.

  4. I am so glad to read this. Praise and thanksgiving to God and the new treatments! Thank you for posting it, and the photo.

  5. Love the photo...VERY happy for your Sophie. Hate the jinx...I get it all the time. The day after I posted my "knock on wood" piece, off she went into the whole crappy affair again. My husband and I now just give each other knowing looks and keep our mouths shut.

  6. How we view the half empty/half full glass is very cultural. As an Italian, I must admit to quietly viewing it half empty most of the times, and often getting annoyed at the upbeat attitude I see in my husband's US family: why loudly declare a glass half full when it's clearly half empty?! This, really, has nothing to do with your post, and I'm so very happy for you: even I can see it's a half full glass!

  7. I will knock on wood. And perform any other ritual you suggest.
    Love to you and your family.

  8. I knocked...and now I can't remember why.

  9. I knocked three times just now. Hoping it helps!

  10. Elizabeth dear, I too remember my grandmother she from Pavia not from Reggio Calabria, but I guess superstition is in the water in the old country or any some such. The evil eye, (il mal d'occhio)only to be frustrated by making Mano cornuto where the middle and ring fingers are held down by the thumb and the index and little fingers are extended outward like horns. In many parts of Italy this however has another meaning but you can find that out.

    My great-aunt used to rub our chest with garlic - which may explain my love for the stinking rose - to prevent il mal d'occhio when we were visiting. My well educated parents knew better than to say anything, or denied her the pleasure to protect us. I like to suggest that you read to Sophie Strega nona (shouldn't it be nonna?) so her magic will rub on her and for you to hang one in the kitchen to keep your food good, the hearth warm and a piece of wood always at hand for you to knock on it.

  11. My grandmother believed that acknowledging something good brought malocchio in, which was to be avoided at all costs. That mindset is part of what my non-Italian husband calls my Italian voodoo approach to life.

    But damn, it does seem like malocchio lurks; so I'll just say, so as not to stir it up, that I was happy to read your post.

  12. I knocked...and then I danced. Sorry, I couldn't help it!

  13. Congratulations to you all on Sophie's improvement!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...