Monday, December 29, 2008

Carla Capucci

I met Carla Capucci seven years ago, when Andrea's mother, Dina, came from Italy to visit us in New Jersey and we took her to see this friend whom she had not seen in 35 years, since Carla moved from Lugo to New York City. Carla is retired now and has been battling a series of serious health problems over the past years, but getting to know this spirited, generous, crankerous woman has been a real pleasure for me and I smile as I write about her.

This is Carla's story: When Carla was 11, it was Liberation Day, April 25, 1945, here in Italy and the American soldiers were marching through Lugo (which is very close to the Gothic Line, the last major line of defense held by the Germans in the Apennine Mountains at the end of WWII). Carla lived on via Mazzini and as the the soldiers marched down this main street of Lugo, her young, earnest face caught the eye of a young soldier and he approached her with a smile and a number of food items: coffee, tea, flour, bread, chocolates, etc., putting it all into her arms. Carla, shocked, turned and went into her house to deposit these items to her mother who suspiciously questioned her on how and why she received them. Carla, still in awe, explained the non-verbal exchange with the soldier and then exclaimed to her mother how she though America was the most wonderful country and one day she was going to move there.

Carla was in her 30s when, shortly after both her parents had passed away, she bought herself a ticket to New York City and once there, found a job as an accountant and eventually worked for many notable companies and personalities. After our visit to her with Andrea's mother, Carla regularly invited us to Manhattan, taking Andrea and I to the Broadway show of Phantom of the Opera, getting us backstage to meet the cast and then after the show, to an apartment of one of the actors where the leading actress joined in for tea and cookies. When my mother and Lee came to visit, she took us to a Turkish restaurant where she knew the owner and we were treated especially well. My niece Sophia and I caught up with Carla at a designers shop she was working in that day, and so on - it was obvious Carla knew a lot of people and they all loved her snappy (and snappish) personality.

Carla never married, never had a family of her own during her long life in America, but in the short time I have known her I feel as though I have found a kindred spirit (but perhaps this is wishful thinking on my part). This courageous woman serves as an Aunt who doesn't hesitate to tell me to how lucky I am in many ways, who reminds me that the glass is always half full, who always makes me feel she is thinking of me and consoles me when I suffer from the cultural differences while living here in Italy. I know I can call her anytime. Though Carla frequently contemplates returning to Italy to spend her final years, economics has not made this probability and so I look forward to seeing her this summer in New York.

Here are some of Carla's writings that she recently sent.


For America, this limitless notion in which
in spite of human contradictions, everything smells
of "Promised Land", three things seem
to be sacred: Jobs, Family, and Business!

In America, this unequaled Country where,
on every street, Man is flanked by Good and Evil,
thus finding or losing himself it's his constant
choice, three things seem to be inviolable: Privacy, Freedom, and Law!

America, this young world rich
of superfluousness and solitude,
that still confuses arrogance with
freedom, lacks three things: Humbleness, Tolerance, and Wisdom!


From a far gone past
memories are calling me back.

Their muddled stillness
would poison my freedom.

I must ignore them,
and keep on walking
toward every new morning.

Perhaps, one winter evening,
from the cozy warmths
of a fireplace, my mind
will pay a visit to the ones
that did not fade away.

New York City

In the dark, millions of windows are
sparkling, and they are burning,
by day, playing with the sun.

A rigidy, quiet troop of gigantic rectangles
and cubes in concrete is standing
by the side of intertwinable roads.

The stylish, even if geometrical transparency
of the U.N. Palace is telling
Le Corbusier's secret dream: a rough but limpid world!

Then, after the magical forest of buildings;
the subway's dim and grime;
the Bohemien memories of Greenwich Village;
the party-colored crowd;
the omnipresence of gangs, drugs, and violence;
the harmonious elegance of the most high Empire State Building;
the homeless' human degradation;
the vibrant luminousity of Times Square;
there is the resting, greeen immensity of Central Park.

It's hell and heaven on Earth: it's New York City.

My Creed

If our small private worlds
would abolish their frontiers;

If our hands would stretch out,
the palms open, clean to feel
the warmth of others' hands;

If our eyes would gaze
into others without boredom,
then Babel's world would vanish
into the sun and the strengths
of Unity would smooth even
the thorns of sorrow.

The Family of Man

I wake up every morning
happy for I belong
to the Family of Man,
sad because I belong
to the Family of Man:
this indestructible
yet vulnerable race;
yet coward;
the sweetest
yet cruel;
rich of dreams
yet full of nothingness;
lover of Justice
yet unjust;
constantly searching for Truth
yet enslaved by hypocrisy
and, looking at my daily life,
I fall asleep, every night,
happy and sad together.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Holidays

One of the best things about becoming an "advanced-age" mother is that in my mellow state of mind (or rather, a tired state of brain), at the age of 47 I can truly relish the delights of a three year-old on Christmas morning. We left our little plate of cookies under the tree the evening before and lo and behold, in the morning there was a note to Ray from Santa and the cookies were gone. Ray claims to have heard Santa come in during the night, and even saw him in the living room bringing all the presents he promised and that Ray worked so hard for. Lunch consisted of an Italian mother-in-law eating American-style stuffed turkey and apple pie with vanilla ice cream. A visit with some relatives in Lugo capped the day of obligations, and the day after we just chilled out by staying home all day.

Andrea's birthday two days later passed uneventfully - one more step before the big 5-0. We will celebrate more with a dinner here tomorrow night with two of Andrea's friends from childhood and their wives. I bought some filet mignons to cook with mushrooms and scalloped potatoes - an American menu - since one of them owns a restaurant and I am too intimidated to cook Italian (though it is hard to go wrong with all the great ingredients here).

No plans for the New Year - just how I want it. Hope you all have a safe and happy one. May all your resolutions be reasonable.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas, Darling

So it comes, and Ray is ready. I am done with the shopping, will hit the food markets tomorrow for the necessities for Christmas lunch, and in between help Andrea pack and unpack his office. He is moving the program to a larger space in a much more active part of town - off the main roads that leads from the train station to Piazza Maggiore on an old street called "via Malcontente" or "street of discontent" which may allude to it being very close to the old Jewish Ghetto (which goes back centuries - you can go on an underground tour of old Bologna and see the original canals (still with water), a Roman bridge and carved out stones where the knees of the washing women wore them smooth. It is odd to think that a city is so old that original parts of it are buried ten feet underground. But that is what happens when you keep adding on top of roads and buildings. There have also been attempts to build a subway system but there are so many Roman ruins around that it is impossible to excavate without destroying some, and so it hasn't happened yet.).

Anyway, I have recovered from a very active party we threw last Friday - in part to celebrate the beginning of an almost 3 week break for me. We wished a Very Merry to almost 30 friends and fortunately for me, Ray spent his first overnight with James and Philippa's three girls so I didn't have to worry about noise level or him blowing out all my candles. It was great fun and I hope this becomes a Ricci tradition.

Just a couple of photos to to post today - the one of Ray at top from the Thanksgiving dinner with the students. He really looks like my little ragazzo italiano, eh? And here we are at the Christmas party with the students, Ray's first "white-elephant" gift exchange experience. I am glad no one tried to wrestle his gift from him.

Wishing you the best for happy holidays.

Friday, December 12, 2008

December Updates

Christmas is arriving so quickly - I put my tree up over Thanksgiving weekend only because Ray was so exicted to get into Santa's spirit and I was happy to oblige, but still with all my international friends taking off for the holidays in the next week, it feels like a real rush all of the sudden to get in a lot of celebrating. I invited about 40 of them to come toast with us on next Friday at what will be a very tight space here at home. Andrea is moving his office across town on the 29th, so we will spend the holidays preparing the new space by hanging curtains and then arranging furniture in time for the 40 new students arriving in January. School will be closed for two and a half weeks so Ray will get a lethal dose of mom and dad. And of course I can't close without saying I hope we can make Christmas mass at the church next to "the house".

I have learned that Italians don't go for the lights and decorations on their homes and this is something I miss. There are lots of lights over streets in Bologna, but nothing that compares to home. On one hand, it is nice not to feel pressured to decorate our meager exterior, though I do miss driving around to see the lavish decorations that the Americans love so much.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

House Continued...

So, with this posting, all three of my loyal readers will no longer be waiting in suspense for more news on the ruin (or, Il Paradiso is what I call it in my head, or, The (difficult) Second Child). I apologize for keeping you on the edge, ha. We have been to see the Deacon (I think he is) of the church of Faenza (a lovely town to visit when you come see me in Bologna - famous for ceramics) and he was very pleasant and happy to give me copies of photos and floorplans of the house and property. We went to see the house again as he told us to go ahead and break in so we climbed through the window and took some photos. I admit, afterwards, I was completely discouraged as I looked at it from a different prospective, and those huge cracks running on the interior and exterior walls really threw me for a rude awakening. But I got over that in a day or two and so we returned there again this past weekend and I fell in love with the surroundings, the views from the windows and even the rough beams in the ceilings all over again. So if we can rustle up enough cash, I hope we can make an offer after Christmas. Though we won't offer the "non-negotiable" price, I pray that in this economy they will look favorably on anything that comes almost close to it.

By the way, we ate lunch at the agriturismo down the street from the house that I wrote about before, I must say, the meats grilled at the outdoor smoke house were pretty fantastic, as was the bottle of house wine. We plan to stay there with the Hooks when they come to visit in May.