Dinner Party

A couple of days ago, my blogging pal at Half-fast Cycling Club posted about the three people he would most like to have dinner with at a dinner party. I remember writing that very thing a looooonnnnngggg time ago and thought, “That’s even more interesting now.” Back then I think I said “Goethe, Voltaire, and T. E. Lawrence.” I realized it would be a different dinner party this time, different guests and a very different party.

Why Goethe back then? There’s the proverb that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That’s what happened to me with “Wolfie” back in 1998 when I read Italian Journey. Goethe had struggled with and written about one of the most persistent problems of my life (personality?) Later I saw a photo of the lantern he gave his guests after they visited him so they could find their way home. I printed out the photo and framed it. Voltaire? The endlessly useful reminder that all we can do is tend our garden; not only is it ALL we can do; it is exactly what we SHOULD do and it’s enough. And Lawrence? Strange as it may sound, he was my childhood hero.

This wondrous dinner couldn’t be at my house. For one thing, I only have two dining chairs, and then there are my absurdly friendly dogs and my basic lack of furniture (thanks dogs). I decided I would take my guests to Ninos, one of the half dozen local Mexican restaurants but the one that has been voted “Best Green Chile in the San Luis Valley.” That’s how we spell “chili” down here. Live with it. Considering that we are between the two biggest producers of green chile in the world (Hatch farms in New Mexico and Pueblo farms 100 miles north of me in Colorado) green chile is a serious business here and a staple of our diets. As it happens, I even made it when I lived in China.

Then I thought of all the people who might appreciate it, and I decided to invite my dad, my former boyfriend, Peter, and my Swiss medievalist historian friend, Rainer Hugener. I picked them because I’ve had dinner with them before and we always had a good time with very interesting conversations. I’d have to fly Rainer (and his awesome girlfriend Kirsten) over from Zürich and resurrect Peter and my Dad but so what?

My dad would be incredibly happy to see where I live and he would love the chile, after nearly 50 years in the cold ground, especially. I remember eating green chile burritos with Peter in Denver, so I think he’d be fine, though what we have down here is a little more old school and authentic than 1970s Denver. It’ll be new for Rainer and Kirsten, maybe, but I ate at a Mexican restaurant in Baden, so who knows?

Naturally, my dad and Peter would be liberated from the health problems that sent them to the Netherworld.

I think my dad would find Peter, Rainer and Kirsten very interesting to talk to and, as one of the pioneers in computing (I have a paper he wrote in 1957 — using a UNIVAC, which means punch-cards — for a presentation at a university in Alabama on the future of computers in education), he would be totally fascinated by our phones. I might bring along my laptop, but I would definitely have to bring a phone for him; luckily, I have my old iPhone SE. He would want to do EVERYTHING. The rest of us use it without being particularly in love with it, and that would make it wonderful to watch my dad. The three of us alive now would probably get a new appreciation. I can hear him say, “See, MAK? What did I tell you! Even SMALLER than toasters.” When I was a little girl, my dad told me that someday computers would be as small as toasters and every home would have one. I would have to tell him that my “toaster” has a computer IN it. He’d love the chile, both red and green, and having a Modelo or Dos Equis.

Peter (who would drink Tequila shots) would not care at all about the new technology, but that’s OK. He might be interested in my books — certainly surprised by them — and maybe fascinated by the whole “Indie” publishing options we have now. If he learned I evolved into a Swiss medievalist historian — and that is how I know Rainer and Kirsten — he’d be REALLY surprised. I’d give him a copy of the book I wrote about “us” — a story he’s already read both as our lives and as a draft. I’d tell him that part of one of his letters hangs in my studio because his words are inspiring, and that I knew him still very important. He’d say, “STILL?” as if how could it be any other way? And we’d laugh.

I know my dad was never in Europe, but Peter was, many, many times and studied at the Sorbonne. I don’t know if he traveled to Switzerland — it doesn’t seem like his kind of destination, but who knows? In that conversation I would learn. There wouldn’t be much small talk because none of them are small talk people. There would be a lot of joking around because they’re all intelligent and funny. The misery of talking politics might be eliminated since my dad clocked out in 1972 and Peter in 1987.

Rainer and Kirsten would (maybe) experiment with the food and drink Margaritas. Historians make jokes (yeah, really) — medieval historians tend to have a rather “medieval” sense of humor which I know my dad would appreciate and probably Peter, too. I love being around Rainer because I can totally relax, and it was the same with Peter and my dad.

My plan — rather than gathering the wisdom of historical and literary greats (who might have been total assholes in real life) — would be just to have a good time with people I like. I would not want the evening to end. Rainer and Kirsten could stay with me and we could spend the next day seeing the timeless wonders of the San Luis Valley — which (even my small town) still looks kind of like the old west — and, who knows? Maybe my dad and Peter would find a way to come along?

Hell on Wings, Part Two, Parigi (Paris…)

Once we landed at Charles de Gaulle, and I was rid of my two extremely annoying row-mates. Each gave me a cordial good-bye and growled at each other.

I exited the plane to see a young man holding a wheel-chair while the mink-clad Nonna sat down in it. “Are you my savior?” she said to him in heavily accented English, accented with Italian. Her fifty+ years living in Las Vegas with the man who’d fallen in love with her after the war, an Army boy liberating Genova, hadn’t smoothed a bit of that away. “And you! Goethe! Dove vai?” I’d met her on the flight from St. Louis to New York. I carried a large biography of Goethe. She’d greeted me on that flight with, “Goethe LOVED Italy!!!” and we had become traveling friends…

“Genova.”

“Oh that’s RIGHT! Andiamo insieme!” She took my hand and somehow I felt privileged (do not ask me why — I couldn’t begin to answer that question).

“Can you carry this for me?”

“Sure.” I took her brown-paper wrapped package, and only later wondered why, as she was on wheels, she didn’t just set it in her lap.

“It’s jelly.” Like hell it was jelly. It was a mink jacket.

The good thing about accompanying one’s Italian grandma as she is whisked through an airport in a wheelchair is that you are whisked through, too. We were taken directly to the Alitalia desk. “You talk to them. You’re young, and I’m not sure I can communicate well.”

Again, mysteriously, I felt honored. I didn’t think, “Whoa, you’re the native speaker. I’ve just learned a bit of Italian from friends in Switzerland and a CD rom!” Completely confident, I went to the desk and explained our situation. I was answered in Italian and all went fine. Finally our ordeal was over…but not really. We had not gone through customs. We did not appear to be international travelers, in spite of our American passports. Our marginal but adequate French, her flawless and my adequate Italian, our appearance (mother and daughter?) provoked no questions. We appeared to be just another bi-national family returning to the home country. Later we would pay for these moments of fluidity and ease, but for now? We got nice seats on the next plane out.

All the seats on the small Alitalia flight over the Alps were equipped with what I’d call “mandatory” entertainment. We had to watch Mr. Bean whether we wanted to or not. By then La Nonna and I had been traveling for 22 hours. We were hungry and dehydrated and had reached a higher plane of human understanding by that point — or much lower. Hard to say. “Non me piace. What ever happened to peace and quiet?” La Nonna grabbed the steward and said, “Si prega di spegnere la nostra televisione.” (Please turn off the television)

Mi dispiace, signora. Non posso. Lei vuole qualcosa di bere?” (I’m sorry, Missus. I can’t. Do you want something to drink?”)

Si, si. Grazie tanti.” She thanked him but with an edge in her voice that said clearly, “You cannot pacify me with wine or Coca Cola.”

We flew over Mont Blanc — it was amazing — and then over Monte Rossa. The plane soon began its descent into Malpensa. We got off the plane and walked across the concrete (no wheelchair for La Nonna this time; she was strengthened by the air of her home land). “See, Goethe? La terra di Garibaldi! The air of liberty!”

Who was “La Nonna” you are no doubt asking, and what happened then?

Wind

Sometimes you go out for a walk only because your big white dog is yammering at you from the back yard yelling, “Human! It’s time! It’s time!” You agree, it is time, but the winds are gusting at 40 mph (64 kph) and it’s not all that warm. Not all that cold, either, but combine the wind with the 36 F (2 C) degree temps and it’s not Key West.

So you put on your fancy new wool and fleece mid-layer and your ultra-light semi-puffy jacket. You grab your new Buff, because, dammit, the wind in your face walking north isn’t going to be fun OR healthy. Your little fleece hat is in the pocket of your ultra-light jacket.

Things go OK until you get out in the open and you and your dog are blasted sideways, but you walked to school uphill both ways (actually, it’s true…) in the snow in Nebraska as a kid and this is NOTHING.

The wind has scoured the air and the clouds are low, bringing the sky within reach. Only a couple of undaunted ravens attempt to surf this wind. Un-trapped dead leaves dance past your feet. The patches of snow have not so much melted as evaporated.

You hope to see “your” herd of deer. You regret saying to them that you’re not friends. You’ve thought about it in the meantime and you think you might be. You hope you’ll see them, but the usual place is a mile straight into the wind the whole way. It doesn’t sound at all like fun, so you turn, resolving to take a Bear walk which is slow, rambling, lacking direction but revelatory of animal visits to your dog, anyway.

The fierce wind blocks out all sounds except the cry of a surprised raven. You stop while Bear does a thorough examination of the ground around a cottonwood. You look toward the train cars to see if your deer are anywhere around, but they aren’t. The walk continues when suddenly you notice someone has tagged the tank cars with the word, “Wild.” You love it.


You go on with no destination, stopping often for your dog to examine the ground. The sun has gone behind a small cloud, and the wind and light have brought a mountain close. The world has emptied of humanity and nothing remains but you and your dog, the immense Wild! beyond the train cars, the light and the mountain. In the strange solitude of this “ordinary” walk, you remember what you love and that it loves you.

For the Birds

When I’m not working on a novel, I have had a project, a piece of “creative nonfiction” though when I started it in 1978 or so I don’t think the term existed. It’s autobiographical fiction or fictionalized autobiography or autobiography about learning to writer fiction. Maybe it — like one of the protagonists — defies labels. 

It’s a strange piece. The speaker (it’s a first person story) is at that moment in life where she doesn’t know what to do, who she is. She has a lot of abilities but no direction. She’s poised for flight but doesn’t know if she has wings.

So I ended up titling it “Fledging.” It’s had several titles in its long evolution, but from this promontory, looking at it from the distance of forty years and knowing how the stories turned out, I can see what she was doing. And writing this book was part of her attempt to take wing. Who and what was she? Painter? Writer? World-traveler? Wife? No clue…

I don’t think it’ll ever be for sale. Maybe it’s just a thing I had to finish for myself. It’s got lots of bad writing — which makes sense because it’s about a person learning to write and only starting to discover her voice and understand the importance of refining skills.

I wrote it with a typewriter, retyped it innumerable times on my original Smith/Corona and then on my Smith/Corona correcting typewriter (replete with a small memory card), retyped it on my Amiga and then again on my Mac Classic and again on my MacBook Pro. This one? The one before? The one before that? I don’t know. 

Anyway, I love it and I’m proud of it — and her. That girl survived, endured and kept writing thanks to her plasticity and resilience. If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here in Heaven on this gorgeous blue and powdered-sugar snow day. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/rdp-sunday-plastic/

Mom’s Illogical Demands

“We spent all that money on raincoats for you two! You didn’t even take them to school!”

“We didn’t know it was going to rain.” Wasn’t that HER job, to say, “Take your rain coats it looks like rain”?

“Get in here. You’re drenched. Get in the tub.”

“Me first,” says your brother, knowing there are cartoons.

OK now that made sense. Come home from school with your little brother, you’re both soaked from the rain storm and she tells you to get in the bathtub.

“Why?” you ask.

“You’ll catch your death. NOW!!!!”

You both run to your rooms. You wonder what you’re supposed to do while your brother is in the tub avoiding death.

“Get out of your wet clothes!!” yells your mom. “Throw them down the basement stairs!”

You take off your school clothes and run through the house in your underwear, open the basement door and throw your dress, slip, and socks down the basement stairs. Now you’re more or less naked in wet panties. This is madness.

“Billy! Get out of the tub, dry off good! It’s your sister’s turn!”

You hear the water begin its journey down down the drain.

“Dry off good! Maureen, get in there.”

Dry off and then get wet. You’re cold now, but you were fine before. Shivering, you go into the bathroom, turn on the water and get into the tub. “Can I have bubblebath?” you yell.

“I don’t care!” she yells back. “Just get into that tub.”

Your brother passes by the bathroom door in his pajamas. His red-blond hair spikey from being dried with the towel. He makes a face at you as he goes by.

“Stop looking at me!” you yell.

After a while your mother yells again, “Get out of there and get dried off. I need you to set the table.”

Life is an unsupportable burden. First you’re in trouble for getting wet in the rain you couldn’t predict or prevent. Then you’re yelled at for not getting into the bathtub already peopled by your brother. Then you’re yelled at for being IN the bathtub. You heave a sigh reflecting deep world-weariness as you let the water out of the tub. You drag your legs over the side, take your leaden towel from the rack and endure the effort of drying off your skin.

“I’m coming,” you yell back.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/27/rdp-saturday-drench/

Whedahfukahwee

I’ve been watching the film Longitude because, well, I like it and second to get a better sense of the 18th century. I can see me watching Mutiny on the Bounty next.

The story in Longitude is about John Harrison who was a carpenter who loved clocks. He devised four different (the first one was immense!) clocks that could be used to determine longitude at sea. This was a very big deal because there was no way to do this. Harrison’s clocks worked, but did not turn out to be the tools that would ultimately be used onboard ships.

It became Harrison’s obsession to develop this clock — for several reasons not the least of which was the prize of 20,000 pounds. It was also because ships were lost at sea and people died AND such a tool would give the British fleet a competitive advantage.

This must have made a huge impression on me because, last night, I dreamed I was in a car with my friend L and we were lost. In the dream I looked down at the place where I often put my cell phone. There was Harrison’s clock. “Siri,” I said, “Whedahfukahwee?”

John_Harrison-Mechanisms_Systems_Devices01

What’s funny about that is that I have never talked to Siri. Where I live — the uncharted waste of Southern Colorado — I have no data. I set sail into the the immense emptiness of the San Luis Valley with a paper map and  written directions.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/impression/

Rainbow Girls — Going to Billings with Hank, Mom and Kirk

It’s a summer night in 1957 and I lie on the back seat of the 55 Ford with my three year old brother. Together we about fill it with our sleeping bodies. The car has stopped. I wake up. “Where are we, mom?”

“Wheatland, honey.”

My Uncle Hank says, “I’ll go see if he’ll open up and sell me gas. The store lights are on. He can’t have been closed long.” The green neon Sinclair dinosaur in the window lights the parking stalls in front of the station. Pink and white neon lines the roof-line.

Once the car has stopped I sit up look out the window at the Wyoming night. Beyond the gas station, the city park, soft, summer darkness, out across the plains forever.

Suddenly there is a burst of girls in long frothy dresses, running and laughing. They run past us, their dresses lit momentarily by the neon of the gas station lights.

“Rainbow girls,” says my mom, thoughtfully. “The Lodge must be nearby.”

“What are rainbow girls?” I ask.

“It’s a club for teenage girls, honey. Your Aunt Dickie was a member.”

“They’re wearing long dresses!” I am five and in love with long dresses.

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“Formals. They wear formals at their meetings.”

Uncle Hank comes back with the service station owner who unlocks the pumps and fills the tank. We’ll make it to Billings. My grandfather has died and my dad flew up that morning to be with his mother. I’m sure my uncle explained all this to the man.

Life prophesies itself.

1965, Bellevue, Nebraska. My dad has become a Mason and I am about to become a Rainbow Girl. My mom and I go to a Rainbow Installation of new officers. Installations are open to the public. I like the ceremony. I’m surrounded by girls in long dresses. I haven’t forgotten the night in Wheatland.

“An international Masonic organization for girls of teen age,” says the booklet I take home with me that gives me information about the group.

The Installation is beautiful. Each color of the rainbow represents a quality of life and of the spirit. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet are the names of the first seven offices and then there are three more that are white — the color made by all the colors together in the light spectrum.  Red = love, orange = religion, yellow = nature, green = immortality, blue = fidelity, indigo = patriotism, violet = service. The white ones? Faith, Hope and Charity.

I hold two offices before I move away. I am yellow, nature, and violet, service. Oddly enough, the qualities represented by those two colors will describe my life as it turns out to be. My frothy dresses? I only have two. I sew one of them during my Gone With the Wind phase. It is white dotted Swiss with a big skirt and a sash. My mom makes the other, white lace fused on pale green backing. Very early 60s.

I loved it. I loved the pageantry and the colors and the ritual — and I learned something about music. The processional march we used was the March from Aida. Years and years later, at the Arena in Verona, I saw Aida and when the march began I was, for a moment, a girl in Bellevue, Nebraska watching the officers enter the room in their long dresses while a record played.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/roy-g-biv/

Advice — If You Need It, Take It…I Hope You Don’t. St. V’s Calls Me Daily to Tell Me about Kirk and to Tell Me Not to Come To Billings

“Is this Martha Ann?”

“Yes.”

“Oh good. You’re hard to reach!”

“Yeah, I’m teaching all the time.”

“I’m Donna Rausch. I’m the social worker up here at St. V’s Hospital in Billings.”

“Hi.” My god, what had happened to my brother?

“I want to talk to you about your brother, William.”

Oh no, another person blaming me for neglecting him up there in Montana. I’ve already tried over and over to let him live with me until he got on his feet. It never worked. It… I think of him throwing lighter fluid on the walls of my apartment and then tossing lit matches at it. I think of many other things.

“OK. Uh, we call him Kirk.”

“OK. We’ll do that. I’m making a note. Martha Ann, you know your brother is an alcoholic, right?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Many family members of alcoholics don’t know. They just won’t see it. For YEARS they just don’t look at it straight on. Half my battle is getting the family to see it for what it is. I’m glad you already know about your brother and I don’t have to give you the news.”

I could imagine the rage this woman must have had to deal with trying to persuade families in denial that their loved one was a drunk. This woman had courage.

“The main reason I’m calling is to tell you NOT to come up here. Don’t come up here and get him. I know you want to. I know you want to take him down there to San Diego and help him, am I right?”

“Honestly, I have mixed feelings about that. I’ve done that before. More than once. I feel like I should come and get him, but I don’t want to.”

“So you know how well it works?”

I could swear she was chuckling ruefully on the other end. If she WERE, well, she wasn’t going to blame me. “It doesn’t work.” I was about to cry.

“No. Here’s what we’re doing. We’re keeping him here in the hospital until we’re able to collect from the state for his care. That will be about a month.”

I wondered what I would have to pay for this. I didn’t ask, but I wondered. I was sure that I would find that out. In the end, it was nothing, that time. “He’ll check himself out,” I said.

“He can’t. We’ve taken his clothes. Unless he wants to walk around Billings with his bare bottom, he’ll stay.”

“His friends will bring him clothes.”

“No visitors. We allowed him visitors at first, but two very seedy Indians came by. Later they came back and sneaked him a bottle of vodka. No visitors. Does he have any money?”

“He should, but I don’t know. Our mom died in March, and we got our inheritance last month. Last I heard he took his out of the bank and put it under his mattress.”

“Well, that’ll be gone. I have a hunch your brother sent them to his place to get money for booze.”

“He would do that.”

“That’s water under the bridge. If they took it, they took it. Do you have any family up here?”

“My aunts.”

“You might tell them about the money. They could go have a look. It would help us out a bit if he could pay for part of his care. I don’t expect that, though.”

I did not know if I wanted to do that — but I did. They offered to go to his place and look and I told them to go ahead if they thought it was a good idea. I was so beaten, I thought $20k was irrelevant. They must have thought I was nuts or careless. Or both, actually. In fact, I thought the last thing my brother should ever have was money. The second thing he should never have was a car. My mom had left him both.

“We have to get him sober and healthy and then we’ll see. It’s likely we’ll be sending him up to Havre to a good rehab facility.”

“HAVRE??? In December?”

“Yeah. Your brother’s timing wasn’t the best.” She WAS chuckling. “I’m going to call you every day until this is over to make sure you’re all right and that you don’t come up, OK?”

“I won’t come up.” I did not yet know the pressure I would get from family to do just that. When I told them about the social worker at the hospital and her calls, they thought I was lying. I was in for a couple of hard months and painful phone calls. My brother’s “situation” would divide the family.

“Your family is going to make it hard for you to stay there,” she said. “You have to stand your ground. You cannot help your brother. You have not succeeded in the past and you will not succeed now if you come up here. If you really want to help him, you’ll leave him where he is. We’ll do our best. I’ll call you tomorrow — is this a good time to reach you?” (This was in the 90s, before I had a cell phone, thank god. I only had to worry about this when I was in my actual house. I could not be molested by my brother’s stuff if I was not home.)

“Yes. I’m usually home until 10 am your time and now, except on Wednesdays. I have a night class.”

“OK, I’ll call you tomorrow around 5 your time. I’m here from noon till eight, so if later is better. You can call me back, too, if you’re not home. I just want to be sure I speak with you every day. You need an ally right now and that’s what I’m here for.”

By then, I was crying. “OK,” I said.

“It’s going to be OK, honey. But remember. This is not your fault. It is not your responsibility. Live your life and I’ll stay in touch with you until your brother is on his way to Havre, OK?” I nodded, a pretty useless response in a phone conversation, but I think she heard me. “Take care of yourself, Martha Ann. And remember; don’t come up here. You’re important, too. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/not-for-thee/

Not All Your Tears Can Bring it Back

 

“Professor, is there any way I can pass this class?”
“Well, Jonathon, you’ve missed more than half the classes, you’ve done no homework, I don’t know if you’ve read any of the books…”
“I did. I read them all. Honest.”
“That’s good, but it’s a writing class and, you know, you kind of have to write in order to pass. So what’s your story? You haven’t made sense to me all semester. You’re smart. You like to write, You’re a good writer. Did I mess up somehow?”
“No, professor. You’re cool. I just don’t want to be here.”
“So why ARE you here?”
“My mom made me come to college.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know.”
“So you’re teaching your mom a lesson by failing your classes. That’s good. That’s going to set HER straight. Dude, I have a secret to tell you. You’ve just lost four months of your life. YOUR life, not your mom’s. You’re getting an F in this class.”
“There’s nothing I can do? I could take the final.”
“Finals are next week. It’s just a small part of your grade, anyway. Why sit here for two hours writing something that’s not going to change anything?  There’s nothing you can do. The lesson you needed this semester might not have been writing or bio or comm or anything. It might be not to waste your time. Opportunities don’t come twice.”
“Can I take you in fall?”
I knew in my heart — though I was still months from formally deciding and more months from telling anyone — I wouldn’t be back. “I’m scheduled to teach two sections of this in fall.” That was true. Whether I’d be around to teach them? Another question.
“I’ll do better, professor, I promise.”
“Don’t promise me, Jonathon. It’s not my life. I honestly don’t care. You’re not here for me. Come to school for you, for what you can learn. You want to write songs? Come to school to be a better writer. Do it for your songs.”
“No one explained it to me that way before.”
“Maybe you just weren’t ready to hear it. Just do better next time, OK? Don’t short change yourself. There are plenty of people in your life who will be happy to short change you. Don’t do it to yourself.”
“What should I tell my mom?”
“I think the truth might be useful, Jonathon. Just tell her you weren’t ready for college, but now you are. Maybe you’ll get a second chance. Anyway, you have all summer to figure that out, right? Are you getting a job?”
“Yeah. I got one already. Thanks professor, thanks for talking to me. Can I give you a hug?”
I smiled and nodded and stood up and we hugged and I knew I would never see him again.

And that’s life for you.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Omar Khayyam trans. Fitzgerald
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/no-time-to-waste/

Hell on Wings, Part Two, Parigi

Once we landed at Charles de Gaulle, and I was rid of my two extremely annoying row-mates, who said good-bye cordially to me and growled at each other, I exited the plane to see a young man holding a wheel-chair while the mink-clad Nonna sat down in it. “Are you my savior?” she said to him in heavily accented English, accented with Italian. Her fifty+ years living in Las Vegas with the man who’d fallen in love with her after the war, an Army boy liberating Genova, hadn’t smoothed a bit of that away. “And you! Goethe! Dove vai?”

“Genova.”

“Oh that’s RIGHT! We can go together!” She took my hand and somehow I felt privileged (do not ask me why — I couldn’t begin to answer that question).

“Can you carry this for me?”

“Sure.” I took a brown-paper wrapped package, and only later wondered why, as she was on wheels, she didn’t just set it in her lap.

“It’s jelly.” Like hell it was jelly. It was a mink jacket.

The good thing about accompanying one’s Italian grandma as she is whisked through an airport in a wheelchair is that you are whisked through, too. We were taken directly to the Alitalia desk. “You talk to them. You’re young and I’m not sure I can communicate well.”

Again, mysteriously, I felt honored. I didn’t think, “Whoa, you’re the native speaker. I’ve just learned a bit of Italian from friends in Switzerland and a CD rom!” Completely confident, I went to the desk and explained our situation. I was answered in Italian and all went fine. Finally our ideal was over…but not really. We had not gone through customs. We did not appear to be international travelers, in spite of our American passports. Our marginal but adequate French, her flawless and my adequate Italian, our appearance (mother and daughter?) provoked no questions. We were just another bi-national family returning to the home country. Later we would pay for these moments of fluidity and ease, but for now? We got nice seats on the next plane out.

All the seats on the small Alitalia flight over the Alps were equipped with what I’d call “mandatory” entertainment. We had to watch Mr. Bean whether we wanted to or not. By then La Nonna and I had been traveling for 22 hours. We were hungry and dehydrated and had reached a higher plane of human understanding by that point — or much lower. Hard to say. “I do not like that. What ever happened to peace and quiet?” La Nonna grabbed the steward and said, “Si prega di spegnere la nostra televisione.”

Mi dispiace, signora. Non posso. Lei vuole qualcosa di bere?

Si, si. Grazie tanti.” She thanked him but with an edge in her voice that said clearly, “You cannot pacify me with wine or Coca Cola.”

We flew over Mont Blanc — it was amazing — and then over Monte Rossa. The plane soon began its descent into Malpensa. We got off the plane and walked across the concrete (no wheelchair for La Nonna this time; she was strengthened by the air of her home land). “See, Goethe? La terra di Garibaldi! The air of liberty!”

Who was “La Nonna” you are no doubt asking, and what happened then?

But to answer the prompt; after 29 hours of travel all I wanted was food, a bath and sleep. Then I might be human again. But as things turned out, I’m not sure.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/back-to-life/