Growing up in an Italian household means a lot of food, loud chatter, drama, and a lot of religion…preferably Roman Catholicism. In my family, not only did we have all of the above, we had il capo dei I capi, Sr. Lucy Sabatini, or in the more demonstrative for me, Aunt Lucy.
When your mother’s sister is a nun, and since life began, you know nothing else, you find it odd that nobody else lives in the sea of fire and brimstone, nor clergy in their family. I knew more about the do’s and don’t’s of my religion by the time I was in nursery school. Aunt Lucy was not a wishy-washy cosmo-nun with no veil and cute shoes. She was what you would find on Wikipedia when you looked up “nun”:
Unwavering Religious GI who follows Jesus and his teachings to the letter of the law without renunciation, hesitation, or modern guidelines. Black and white, whether describing apparel or thought are the only colors that exist. They believe priests are too liberal and live lives similar to civilians, which defies the law of marriage to the church.
And, married to the Church she was. Her love was the Lord. The same commitment a good wife has to her husband, her provider, her mate for life is the same servant she was to Christ. Unlike a husband and a wife who hopefully communicate through verbal transactions, my aunt only communicated through prayer, faith and trust. Her only responses came from the spiritual world, and she believed always in that communication. God had her back, and she certainly had his.
As a kid, I would get annoyed that a half hour before Mass, she would be waiting at the door wondering why we were not piling in the car to get to the Church BEFORE mass started. Like a teenager going to a concert to avoid the crowds. Once we got there, she would leave us far behind, and find the very first pew, the one that got her closest to the altar. If she could sit on the altar with the priest, and was invited to do so, without reservation, she would. There was no embarrassment, no hesitation. She was worshiping our Lord in her dedicated trance and like Bernadette in front of the Blessed Mother, she stayed.
She liked to remind me of the time she asked me, after I had all my eight children, that when I was about ten, she asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said “Get married and have a lot of kids.” She responded, “Do you think maybe the Lord wants you to be a nun?’ Now, you are talking to a kid who was taught by nuns since the first grade and wanted nothing to do with this lifestyle at all. She told me later on that I just stared at her and ran out of the room asking for my mother. I can laugh now, and she laughed then, but I was mortified.
When she was around her family, she kind of let her habit down, we did have some laughs…especially when she was with her sisters and her brother. I would love hearing stories of their life in the Bronx, with my grandmother and grandfather, their really cheap landlord, Mr. Fillipone, and so many other tales that pulled her out of missionary zone for a few moments, enough to laugh and love. She did have a good sense of humor. She came with us to Italy many times, and those memories were indelible. Especially the time I went with her alone…I was about 20, and when the plane touched down at Fiumicino, instead of a clap, this little nun who was pinned to her Rosary for eight hours rallied for a Baptist like “Praise the Lord!” shout out to her man. I wanted to dissolve with the life vest located under the seat in front of me.
But, as I got older, I understood her better and better. I was privy to her life steps thanks to my mother, her sister, who would tell me how she entered the convent as a novice at age 17, and it was a good thing she was cloistered because my Nonno, her father, wanted to kill her. She could only communicate by letter, and was not able to attend my mother’s wedding. That dedication only comes by a special calling to a limited few who are staunch believers with no other mission in life except to spread the word of the Lord. If you consider yourself a good Catholic…don’t buy yourself a trophy t-shirt until you consider the life my aunt lead.
I remember when my mother passed away in 1996, instead of being riddled with grief, which maybe deep down inside she was, she looked at the bright side when my mother was passing away, “she is going to the Lord.” Everyone should embrace that goal. At that moment, I was like, “Seriously, this is my mother. Stop. Bring her back.” But, now I can comprehend she felt my mother had achieved the ultimate..
She was steeped in her love of children and education, earning a Masters Degree in Spanish and becoming principal of St. Francis School in Poughkeepsie, NY for many many years. She used to give me a piece of chalk and waltz me into a classroom while class was going on, and let me draw on the board. I loved it! However, that visit was probably because my mother was taking cooking classes at the CIA nearby, and she would drop me at the school, and then the convent for an overnight..I was creeped out as I remember, but it was etched in memory, and today, if I had the chance I would go back and do it again, I would, realizing the privilege to be in the presence of the Lord’s servants.
She grabbed me and my friend to work in an anti-abortion clinic. Her adherence of Right to Life was staunch and solid. There was never, ever any excuse to end life unless the Lord chose that time. I learned patience and understanding, and how to be less judgmental of those who may not know better. I became an unshakable Right to Lifer myself. I also found out during that period that Sister Lucy Sabatini had a criminal record…for refusing to unbarricade herself from the front of an abortion clinic. She was arrested and proud of it. The police sweetly let her go, but those tiny embroidered feet always clad her habit until her final days.
After Poughkeepsie, she was stationed at Nazareth Nursery, on W. 15th street in Chelsea (New York City). Nazareth was the only Catholic Montessori school in the state, and for over thirty years, she ran it, with love…love of the Lord, love of children, love of education. With that, she never oscillated in her stringent laws of the Lord. She said a lesbian couple had come in to register their child. In the most eloquent yet directly centered way, she told the couple, “The Catholic Church does not support same sex unions. We are happy to have your child, but only one of you can register as a mother.” End of story. If they walked, they walked. She would not fall victim to a test of what she knew as right and wrong.
When Nazareth Nursery abruptly closed in 2015, life as my aunt knew it changed. The zest, the rhapsodical life she lead for the Lord and His children would ultimately be defeated. In those five years since it’s sale, I saw a decline in my Aunt I would never have imagined. She deflated like a balloon losing its helium, and I believe, in my heart, she pushed for her final goal, the final prize… meeting the Lord. It took five years, and thanks to the buoyant genes on the DiCicco, her mother, my Nonna’s side of the family, she lived just steps past her 91st birthday in June.
Although we can now sit around the proverbial campfire and tell many “Aunt Lucy” stories, one, among many stays in my mind…it was my daughter Brynn’s first Holy Communion. Of course, any religious celebrations were marked with her presence. We were leaving the house for Mass, and Brynn had not eaten. I gave her a quick bagel, and when my aunt saw this transaction she almost catapulted herself across the room to insure the bagel saw its final demise. “It’s less than an hour before Mass!” Brynn stood there frozen in time, turned and walked her way over to the garbage and spit it out. Mission accomplished.
And, that is exactly what she was…a missionary. She believed in everything she said, did and slept well never wondering if what she said or did was incorrect. That alone is a gift from the Lord. Some may have found her fire and brimstone approach an annoyance. Debating with Aunt Lucy was not a simple endeavor, and you had to face the fact that even at commencement of the debate, you started on the losing end. You could walk away aggravated, or choose to digest her simple, thoughtful words of wisdom. And, if you choose to follow the Lord, her answer was always the right answer.
A friend said to me upon her death…”I once asked your aunt, what is the meaning of life.” Her quick, immediate response, “To serve others.” And that she did…from the Lord, to children, to the unborn..it was never about her. It was indeed, about others.
Today, at 53, I can thank her for what I used to possibly find annoying, has morphed into the greatest gift next to my children: my love of the Lord, my religion, my church and the desire to be altruistic and philanthropic. My insider information of right and wrong, saints, Church history is all from her…some subliminal, some very direct. When my skirts were too short, she would tell me the story of St. Maria Goretti, who was raped at twelve by her 18 year old neighbor, Alessandro, dying a virgin and a martyr. I never forgot the story, and she infused a me a love of patron saints, and who can do what in a time of crisis.
Oh, and NEVER receive Communion in a Church that is NOT Roman Catholic…for shame.
May we all learn, in her honor, to stand in the cement of our conviction, and to be able to walk away, with utmost confidence and no afterthought, when we are presented with diabolic temptation or the adversity which might cloud right from wrong. It is the most fortifying and confident way to live life.
Rest in peace, Aunt Lucy. If anyone deserves the fast road to heaven, it’s you, and waiting, I am sure were Nonna, Nonno, Aunt Lena, my my mom, my dad, Aunt Lena, Uncle Peter…..and above all the litany of saints, the Blessed Mother and the Lord himself to escort you with the loudest trumpets and the angels into paradise..our final reward where life has not ended, only changed. Watch over us so we may chose the same path, and avert any challenges and mortal distractions you overcame to be a true, unequivocal follower of Christ.
Do you remember Adam Sandler in Billy Madison?
“Back to school..back to school to prove to dad I’m not a fool….” As he circled around his Bel Air mansion driveway waiting for the little yellow school bus to pick up his twenty something ass…and drop him off to Miss Lippy’s first grade zone of safety.
It has to be one of my favorite movies of all time because the theme and dialogue are so incredibly ridiculous. Nothing real about it…some of the best lines ever in a big screen comedy came from this flick. When I’m in the dumps I think about burning bags of dog poop and Miss Lippy’s interpretive dance, and I pee and laugh a little.
I wish our 2020 return to school could be that funny and that ridiculous. Well, I take back the funny part. It is ridiculous.
Back in June, I reacted and posted all the lovely accommodations put forth by our governor to capture and freeze our children in time, hold them captive by separated desks, plexi glass and masks while they remain in their desks motionless only to get up and use the facilities when their baby bladders just can’t take it anymore. Teachers would rotate around with centrifugal force like planets to each classroom wearing a cross between martian garb, a welder’s mask, and dentist loops. Sounds like the perfect solution to re-socializing our kids who just spent the past five months trying to manipulate zoom meetings, not brushing their teeth or hair and adjusting their earbuds while staring out the window like Grace Kelly in “Rear Window.” Ya, this is the solution.
However, I have noticed schools making up their own scenarios…some by district…private schools with their own plan. What I am so confused about is this…if the guidelines were put forth in black and white, how can you reprint your own menu? Some offering half days, some offering full days, in person. Some offering a hybrid…some offering the pick one method and you can’t go back mode. So, really, what the “F” is going on? Is anybody guiding these schools or is this “and we have a winner!” Or, holy shit, we need tuition funds..who cares if anyone gets sick…let’s lure them back so they pay. I am actually incredibly distressed and angered with these back and forth ideas. WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY? It’s like the “O’Doyles Rule” scene, and then they all fall off the cliff.
If one method isn’t deemed as the way du jour…then whose method will be correct? If children are not really susceptible to this virus, then why the worry? I saw some children donning uniform masks, and it brought me back to a high school world history class when kids were being suited for bomb attacks in WWII.
Is this really ok? Do you expect them to comply? In all honesty, I am not sure what to think.
What are the reasons to send them back? Normacly? Socialization? I don’t find much of either in any plans I have seen. Are we expecting teachers who are the most at risk to police children who start spinning their masks around their fingers like lassos or shooting them across the room like rubber bands? Are we expecting grammar school children to spend robotic periods glued to their chair as if they were sitting on epoxy resin. How real is that?
Do I have the magical cure for school? No. I’m just a 25 year mom veteran. I just think it is so simple…if we cannot eat in a restaurant, go to a movie, a Broadway show, shop to capacity in a mall…then obviously the medical and legal consensus is that society isn’t safe yet.
If the contortions, flipped schedules, hybrids, are being heroically slapped together because “kids need to go back, “ then it obviously isn’t safe to go back. If it were really, safe and ok, and life as normal, then rip off the masks, serve lunch, have gym and recess. And, I am almost certain, someone, be it child, adult, teacher, family member or neighbor of a child in the school will test positive. Now what…isolation, quarantine? Close school again? And, how do you control parents’ integrity if a child is knowingly in contact with a positive person but the kid is asymptomatic…and they don’t tell the powers that be. There are so many dangerous components to this…who are we protecting? The kids, the schools, funding, parents who can’t wait to dump their kids off like an albatross into the sea.
“The selfmoment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.”
― Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
I can make no judgement here, although I can certainly opine. I am lucky enough to be at home with my children, and I feel tremendously for those parents who need to work. But, in my heart of hearts, the ones I know would certainly jump through hoops to rearrange life if they had vacillating thoughts about their kids’ safety in a place where we think our kids are sheltered and comforted in our stead.
So in the end…the right call? Is this really benefiting the children…or are we selling these new fangled cell block ideas to parents like the emperor’s new clothes? And, if I don’t send my child back, and their friends do go back, I am now the guilty parent who held my child back from these illustrious, spacious and protective new digs and their friends. Although I may have known better.
All I can say is, I pray we have all made the right decisions…but in my heart, kids should remain home, properly homeschooled in the true way homeschooling is accomplished until school becomes school. I can’t even go into church for Mass without a “reservation,” yet are kids are walking back into the same building every day. So, I will continue to pray, because nothing is more powerful than prayer, that we have learned, and that even though the mass opinion may be as luring as opium to a drug addict, we choose the path we think is best for our own flesh and blood…the most important commodity we have, and the greatest gift put in our net of safety.
On a lighter note, let’s hope we all become:
for our children.
Governor Phil Murphy tells us:
"The return to school will pose challenges, but we are confident that New Jersey's school districts can move forward in a way that best serves the needs of their district while also achieving a safe environment for students and staff," Murphy said.
Challenges? Then I guess Alcatraz had its challenges, too.
Here are the main rules and guidelines designed to protect students and staff in the classroom:
Here are the main rules and guidelines designed to protect students and staff on buses:
Here are the main rules and guidelines designed to deal with students and staff who show symptoms:
Does there even have to be protocol for the next three bullets? GO THE “F” home…and don’t send your kid to school. If you can’t even get on a bus healthy, why the hell do you have to explain this to anyone?
Here are the main rules and guidelines designed to protect students and staff during meal times, physical education classes and recess:
Here are the main rules and guidelines designed to protect students and staff by encouraging them to use hand sanitizer:
Here is how districts should deal with contact tracing:
Students and employees may be asked to leave or not come into school if they test positive for COVID-19, or exhibit one or more of these symptoms:
Do the next 16 bullets really need to be addressed?
Regarding bathrooms, schools should:
I’ve been sending kids to school for almost 23 years, and I gotta tell you, I found these almost like a really good SNL skit. Yes, over the top..sarcastic, but really, truly, can you imagine, in real time, real life, trying to implement these procedures? Yes, kids are resilient. They adhere an enjoy structure. But, this is beyond. Beyond hell.
In the end, we need to be allowed the choice to homeschool in conjunction with the school we are attending, not because I think it’s the best choice in a normal world, but because I am not sure if this is really going to work.
Look at this rubric. Look at all the restrictions. School, although not a Chuck E. Cheese field trip, should represent a haven for learning, loving and friendship. These provisions are a hate joke, and will be frustrating for everyone who is in academia.
Kids can be trained to do anything, from killing, to loving, to hating to feeling, etc. They need nurture and protection in their school…and this ain't it. Alternative, please?
Next post: So, how do we fix this new normal?
My last Italian “say it isn’t so” menu seemed to strike such an irritating cord in those who know how to say, cavatelli and not GAH VA DEAL…several more of these Mediterranean culinary slanders came up..
Is this Italian Halloween?
It’s Pronounced: CAPY-KO-LAH
It’s Spelled: Capicolla or Capicola
It’s a fatty, Italian cold cut, similar to fatty, Italian salami.
What kills me is these Italian deli owners can’t pronounce it themselves, and have taught their customers and deli sandwich makers to order the same, ghostly delight: (It always starts with yeah, um…must be required to order):
“I’ll uh take a, GABOO-GOOL special with oil and vinegar.”
I’m sorry…but WTF is this? Is this a chant to ward off the evil GABBO-GOOL?
My good Jesus, I beg you to help me with this ugly, distorted version of your beautiful, aglio e olio.
It’s Pronounced: AH-LI-OH AY OH-LEE-OH
It’s Spelled: AGLIO E OLIO
It’s so simple, just means garlic (aglio) and oil (olio).
I will kind of give you the difficulty with the Italian dipthong, “gl”. Unless you are native or taught young, it does not just roll off your tongue. But, frieking OLIO? Just lazy.
Yes, somebody please shoot me with my bra, because this is painful.
It’s Pronounced: PRO-SHOOT-OH
It’s Spelled: PROSCIUTTO
Italian cured ham. So, prosciutto on its own is a general term for “ham.” However, “prosciutto cotto,” is like American deli ham, so there is a difference. You probably won’t find that here…but you might in the boot. Armed with that porky knowledge, if you ask for Bra-shoot in Italy, they probably won’t give you anything but a weird stare, and a dialect chat with one of their friends and empty bread.
This is not a cute little cookie for your kitty.
It’s Pronounced: BEE-SCOH-TEA
It’s Spelled: BISCOTTI
It’s a G-damn cookie. (Sorry, God). Nothing crazy over the top….Italians are actually very, very simple bakers. My nonna used to make them with real anise and that’s all I knew as biscotti. Americans call anything baked with some resemblance of a cookie, biscotti.
Biscotti is also plural. Un biscotto is singular. Stop asking for ten cookies when you only want one.
Excuse me? What is this? It sounds like Mandarin Chinese. Are you ordering Moo-Shoo or cheese?
Oh, you mean Parmigiano? Ahh…yes.
Beautiful, unmistakable Parma, Italy. The capital of all things cheese and prosciutto. Please, please do not desecrate the sanctity and esculent grail of gastronomic delight.
It’s Pronounced: PAHR-MEE-JAN-OH or, for those who might have a prosciutto leg up on pronunciation, try this:
It’s Spelled: Parmigiano
Just so you know, a native of Parma can be referred to as Parmigiano, or Parmense. (PAR-MEN-SAY). And, anything with parmigiano cheese or cooked in the way of Parma, is alla parmigian(a). This is an ending agreement issue which sometimes gets distorted, so do not get me started.
Another fly in my sauce annoyance is, do you know really and truly now how many authentic Italian dishes are parmigiano???
Not many. I have heard waiters snicker at Americans who order : “Shrimp Par mee zan.” Italians will most likely never put cheese on fish unless forced to do so by an unrelenting tourist. I saw a waiter hand a cheese dish to another waiter and say in Itailian about a woman and her pasta. “She wants cheese on her clams. I can’t do this. You do it.”
Americans will par-me-zan everything from meat, to fish, to vegetables to tablecloths and other non edibles. Please, do not embarrass yourself if it’s not on the menu.
Ok, another Italian import that made the menu. But how many are you ordering??
It’s Pronounced: PAH-NE-NE (phonetic)
It’s Spelled: PANINI
Un panino, (pah-nee-no) is one. One baby sandwich. So, unless you are ordering more than one, you are ordering:
Un panino or one panino.
I get it…a menu may say PANINI, which if they are offering more than one type of PANINO is correct. However, you are only ordering one, it’s just one PANINO.
Oh and what a delicacy this has become…it’s really peasant train food sold at the train station or a “bar” as a snack for transportation. They are not overstuffed with slabs of cheese and mushrooms and nitrate meats. They are made to aid in sustaining life until you can get to the next meal.
Oh Lord, please help me educate the know it all American public on Italian coffee. It pains me when I see menu items that mean well in their description but have nothing to do with their true Italian counterparts.
A LATTE: If you walked into an Italian bar, or sat down for breakfast in your hotel, and asked for a very cosmopolitan “Latte,” the waiter would show up with a glass of milk. And, rightfully so. In Italian, latte LAH-TAY. Comes from a cow. Plain and simple. (I was with someone who asked for a latte, and the waiter, knowing I spoke Italian snickered at me, “Ma dove’ il bambino?). Translation: Where’s the baby?
Now, if you asked for un “caffe latte,” you would more than likely get a cup of “Café Americano” with warm milk on the side. PLEASE DO NOT ASK FOR ICE OR A STRAW. Italians do not use ice on the hottest day of the year. They will not put it in their coffee.
PRONOUNCED : OON KA-POO-CHEENO
Americans will probably have some basic luck here, as a cappuccino is just espresso with hot, frothed milk on top. You won’t embarrass yourself or get laughed at if you keep it simple.
Pretty basic at Starbucks, but it’s wrong. So very, very wrong.
In basic Italian, “macchiato” means stained, or “marked.”
Un café macchiato is an espresso with a “spot” or dot of milk.
It is not a triple grande iced, cinnamon, almond milk, caramel monstrosity with milk. What we have done to this very, simple, simple concept. It wasn’t made in a lab. It was formulated by some Italian barber in like 1846 who wanted to cool down his espresso.
The basic of all Italian coffees, and we can’t get that right, either. It’s not express anything. As a matter of fact, before we ever had an “espresso” machine, I remember my mother making my father coffee with grinds and water in that tiny silver cast iron pot that became a weapon in every Italian household. It took forever to boil…and on Christmas Eve you prayed only four people wanted a cup.
I’ll give you the pronunciation somewhat, but the origin is wrong. It does not mean express or quick coffee. The genesis of “espresso” actually comes from “esprimere” (es-preem-err-ay) which means to press or press out. The old Neopolitan silver coffee pots explain it the best. (Or a…gulp..French press.)
Around 1900, Luigi Bezzera created a machine which did combine steam and coffee, making it “faster.”
But, the java roots came from a very basic Italian barista who decided to press coffee and water, and called it “espresso” or pressed coffee. GENIUS.
When I sleep at night, or try to after I take my night time pack of personalized vitamins, I think of what to write next. Lately, the English desecration of Italian cuisine just seems to be free flowing. This is part two, will there be a part three? Only my melatonin knows…buona notte.
My mom was a culinary master. Yes, she made a lot of stuff that was off the traditional Italian charts, but her roots were her roots, and she always went back to homeland basics.
As I teach my girls to cook, and every girl should cook…as they get older, wiser and more interested, I get a lot of questions. Some are about traditional eats which aid in the basics. Valentina asked me about my mother’s garlic bread, or traditional grilled bruschetta.
This prompted me to have a pronunciation fit in my brain about how BADLY basic Italian cuisine is pronounced. Italian is extremely phonetic, so really, what is the f()&^NG problem? If you don’t live in Naples, stop pronouncing these culinary delicacies like a Neopolitan longshoreman who works the docks, and is entitled to his dialect…they know how to communicate with each other with melodic profanity. And, in San Giuseppe Vesuviano where my father is from, it’s gorgeous and acceptable. But, traditional Italian is the most melodic.
Here’s the list that hurts my ears:
BRU-SHET -UH…..NO NO NO.
It’s pronounced BRU- SKET- AH:
The Italian “ch” is a “K” sound for us. Take that knowledge with you when you go…anywhere.
GA-NOOL…God help us!
It’s pronounced CA-NO-LEE
What the hell is so hard about that? There is absolutely no pronunciation relationship between GANOOL and CANNOLI.
GAH-VA-DEAL…Holy shit! Not every Italian CA turns into a GA. This is murder of this of this mouth watering, doughy little roll of pasta.
It’s pronounced: KA-VAH-TELL-EE
Another phonetic wonder.
REE-GAWT…I am going to vomit. The most amazing creation from cow’s milk ever, and this is what you do??
It’s pronounced: REE-COAT-AH
Where does one get REGAWT from RICOTTA? No G…no W…not a lot of things.
MON-EE-GAWT…another abomination using the famous Italian “GAWT” suffix. I bet you would never guess…
It’s prounonced: MAH-NEE-COAT-TEE
If it helps with a visual, una manica (mah-nee-kah) in Italian is a sleeve.
Sleeve pasta…there you go
BROCCOLI ROB…This is not the vegetable guy with a stand at the market on Arthur Ave.
It’s pronounced: BROC-OH-LEE DEE- ROP-AY
SPELLED: BROCCOLI DI RAPE
I might give you this one…a little, because broccoli is not hard to pronounce. But, the ROB part? Just not getting it.
MUZZ-AH-RELL…Italians live on vowels…wtf is this? My cheese, my cheese, my beautiful cheese. You can say burrata, but what the hell is this???
It’s pronounced: MOH-TSA-RELL-AH
I am crying as I think of the horrors of this disgrace, and I cannot even find a way out of it or an ounce of forgiveness.
PASTA-AY-FAZOO-L….I’ll give this to you if you spend your summers at the shore…the Italian shore…like Gaiola beach or the Sorrento peninsula. But, that’s doubtful.
It’s pronounced: PASTA EH FAJ-OH-LEE
SPELLED: PASTA E FAGIOLI
Such a simple, traditional Italian peasant dish thrust upon the Italo-American menus and pizza joints of today. I can’t even order it because when my order is confirmed by the waiter or alternate order taker, I just cry.
AH-LEEJ…Are you wondering about this one?? It’s a freaking anchovy!!!
It’s pronounced : AH-LEE-CHAY or AH-CHEW-GAH
SPELLED: ALICE OR ACCIUGA
In Italian, the letter “C” can play a few different roles…kind of like Roberto Benigni. But, in both instances the “C” makes an English “CH” sound as in “chew your alice…”
If you can speak and spell the English language, though for some that is quite a leap, the harmonious beats of the Italian language and their phonetic shouldn’t be a challenge. Well, again, don’t make me go there.
“Homeschooling…to be or not to be. That is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings of remote plans technically botched zoom meetings or to take arms against a sea of snotted masks, hand sanitizers, partitioned desks, disgusting lunchrooms and overheated preschoolers. And, by opposing traditional learning during a pandemic, end it? The idea of whether it is better to live and make eggs during lit class or die by mask suffocation…”
You see, William Shakespeare was not only brilliant, he was a soothsayer with incredible introspection into the future, almost 417 years ago. He saw this coming…well, maybe that’s a lie, but we can always pretend.
Never say never, right? I poo-pooed homeschooling always. I left that up to weirdo parents who cared more about lessening the back and forth driving burden, creating their own schedule and alas created more of an Addams family kind of atmosphere in their homes, raising a child with no friends, or social skills, clipping off rose heads from their stems. I learned a little more about this odd phenomenon after my girls ventured into the acting field. Many kids were homeschooled for auditions, shows, etc…ok, if my kid got a part on Broadway…I might consider it. However, COVID again, the great equalizer left us with no choice, from pre-school thru college.
I was very, very patient in the beginning. At first we were told one week in March. Then, two weeks. Then, through Easter. By the time we hit Easter, we all knew the hidden secret was…we aint going back, sister. Parents? TAG…YOU’RE IT!
I joined the bandwagon at the onset, praising the teachers for rearranging curriculum for what would be fashionably labeled as “the new normal.” And,they certainly deserved it after being hoisted into a cyber classroom from brick and mortar amidst the pitter patter of little feet donned in identical polyester. But, by the time Easter break was over, I was like, yeah…um…what about the rest of us? The heroes were no longer just the teachers who rolled out of bed and sat in their living rooms sucking on ice pops and drinking coffee in their den, still getting paid. It was the untrained parents, the working from home moms and dads, and the kids who too, became the unsung swashbucklers of pre college education. My kids are very self sufficient, but imagine working with a child who needs a lot of help and direction.
Even as a stay at home mom, I felt the pinch of trying to keep the house shrouded in normalcy, cooking, getting up to make sure the cyber home schoolers were in class…using up printer ink and paper faster than Lucy Riccardo and Ethel Mertz on a candy conveyor belt. I reigned victorious with the exception of Albert, who fell back to sleep on many occasions. But, the attention span of a young child, constantly working with glitchy zoom sessions and unnecessary YouTube crap took its toll. Interest wore thin. The kids had to keep themselves together, and so did the parents. Where was our parade? Our recognition? Recognition for the students who knew no better than their friends and their classroom. Nothing. Nada. And, for those of us in private school, no tuition break…paying as if I dropped my children off at 8 and picked them up at 2:15. No thank you. Nothing.
There was some cool gossip… teachers…shut off your mics. I heard one teacher say to her husband, “these kids are so needy.” Uh yeah…they are in seventh grade. This is not a university. Getting insight into how teachers must teach on a day to day was very interesting. Some students were favored, some younger ones flirted with boys, and some just did not care. I had a myriad of grades…from first through 11th. Interesting to say the least. Sometimes I felt my kids were cheated and taken advantage of because of the change.
What would have made it better? From a parent’s perspective, rather than shoving curriculum down the throats of kids just to get it done, stupid non sensical freeze dance Zoom meetings, and youtube art lessons, take the time to meet with educators who do home school and know how it’s done. There is ingenuity to it, a curriculum made just for this kind of learning. Easter break would have been the time to consult and at the very least implement some kind of real home school strategy. My daughters’ high school got it, and toned down the work, adding a few days off where they could.
It could have been way more successful and fruitful if it were manipulated the correct way, because do you know what?? I loved having my kids home! I loved not having to drive them at all hours of the day, afternoon and night. I loved not fighting over the bathroom and toothpaste, knotty hair and bad breath. It was refreshing…not leaving an assignment at home…ordering lunch that you can only order weeks in advance. No looking for clean socks and screaming about who has to sit in the third row for a four minute ride to school. And, here’s the kicker…not one of them said, “Gee…I miss school.” One day, my nine year old, Camilla, turned to me and said, “I like being home with you, mommy.” That was my parade. My salary. My trophy and my gratitude.
If it has to be, I am ready to tackle it again…but with more information and better learning tools. A parent is a child’s teacher, always…and I will gladly do it again, with better structure. Because, seriously, sending a kid back with partitions and masks is ridiculous, unless you want to get phone calls from the school nurse that your kid passed out or vomited in the cafeteria. That is not a way to learn. Children need to have a second haven in school, not a war zone. This is their childhood, and it’s fragile. And yes, they should know tough, they should know flexible, and adapt to change. But, I would rather have that change take place in my home, in their home, with parents who love them because they love them, not because it’s a paying job.
So, I stand corrected on the merits of homeschooling…homeschooling being the operative word. Because, in the end, nobody has my children’s best interests at heart, loves them or knows them like I do. I kind of get it now…
I think most of us learned some important lessons from COVID. I learned a lot about people. But most importantly, myself. It was a God sent personal catharsis…a very deep cleansing of the soul and a mind de-clutterer.
I realized I did not need half the things I thought I did. And the things I thought I could not do, I did. The smaller the gift, the greater the meaning.
I realized I had a lot in me I didn’t know…like I don’t need a cleaning lady. I cleaned my bathrooms, did my laundry, cleaned my floors like a big girl. It’s not like Service Pro came in and wizzed around in yellow suits armed with spray guns and military oxygen masks, but I got the job done. I started to realize that nobody cares. Is it basic clean? Did I stick my hand in the bowl and scrub the suction hole? I did. Did I scrub around the rim? I did. And, all with disposable dollar store brushes and Spanish toilet bowl cleaner.
I channeled a hybrid of Carolyn Ingalls and June Cleaver and did it all. I started comparing the top toilet brushes and plungers online, and I gotta tell you, it makes a difference.
I cooked and baked like Julia Child and Sylvia Weinstok rented a beach house together. I am a huuuuuge stresser, but I learned that stress can be productive. I bought three new brownie pans instead of three new sweaters, and I learned how to combat culinary erreur(s.) I also learned that I should have gone to school and I could have been a chef on Food Network. Saving that for the next pandemic. I cooked for those who could not cook for themselves and their families, set the table for thebenevolentcaterer.com, and I was full on the joy that accompanies altruism.
I learned that wearing new clothes every day was really not important. Imagine that! As a matter of fact, I really warmed up to COVID fashion, which is wearing loose shit…no bra and a t-shirt every day. My most comfy sweats had holes in the thighs and vajayjay zone. I understand why the rednecks do what they do, and hibernate with each other.
It’s so much less stressful and comfortable. My skin and my boobs have been coverless for four months. I put on a real bra the other day…with wires, and I thought I had to go to the ER it was so uncomfortable. I will never make fun of women who don’t wear bras ever again. I get it, now. It’s kind of liberating…free flowing. Now I understand hippie life. It was ok. All, good, dude. Let’s pick dandelions and speak to John Lennon.
I learned that working out six days a week and staying in your work out clothes is ok. It’s even ok not to shower. I swore I was not going to gain the COVID 15…and look liked an overwraught, bugged out fat mother of eight. I braved the restrictions, and trainer Greg showed up like a champ for our basement workouts. In the last few weeks I started running six times a week, and I feel awesome.
I started a vitamin regimen because I had time to actually order Kelly Ripa’s personalized vitamins online. My night time pack includes melatonin for sweet dreams. I was so excited! They even have my name on it in case I forget who I am…each little package says…”Morning,Linda” or “Evening,Linda.” They speak to me like no one in my house does.
I also ordered all that stupid Instagram and Facebook crap that looks like it really works…some of it still hasn’t arrived, but I am hopeful my peel off booties that pull your skin and your callouses off at the same time will reveal before summer’s end.
My love for animals was unwrapped even further and with fervent emotion when my oldest daughter, Brynn started to foster puppies. It made my spirits leap like a six year old kid just to sit and play and kiss those little noses and feel the palpitation of that mini heart in your hands. I would go to sleep at night just dying to wake up the next morning to see them go puppy nuts when I came in. I learned that every one of God’s creatures was created with love and needs love. The bond of animal to man is both innate and inexplicable.
I learned that some people absorbed jack shit from this quarantine and just worried about themselves and cried every day over BS minutia instead of adjusting. Cry babies who could not teach their kids how to cope over missing milestones. I get it. It’s hard. Life is hard. We are all sensitive and missing out right now…but it’s not just you. It’s all of us. Businesses, schools, everything and everyone was affected. My father said, when there is no turning back, find an alternative…don’t focus on what is done. Stop acting like Shop Rite opened just so you could get your raisin swirl bread and Dr. Pepper. Accommodate and cooperate.
I learned to never knock it till you try it…homesechooling. As much as the concept lacks any kind or normalcy for childhood development especially the social aspects…I would happily do it again if needed. That said, we would need waaaaaaaay better guidance to succeed, but having my children home with no where to go but home, was miraculous. I loved watching Eva make scrambled eggs with pods in her ears during math class…and Gianmarco sleeping till whenever teen titans told him it was time to get up…and listening to high school history lessons and stalking a teacher’s living room or the best is a mic the teacher thought wasn’t live…
I empathized with those who lost loved ones they could never hold in their last hours, and who would gladly give up four months at the gym never dine out again or get their nails done to have just that one moment, sixty seconds in time to say goodbye. When I saw on social media what people were bitching about and their “rights” being violated, I wanted to post…”try a ventilator…or chemo.”
I learned that this ugliness, dubbed COVID was a unifying evil. A pandemic that was not just a health issue, but second to death, it became the great equalizer. Not one person in this world was immune…we all followed the same protocol, epoxied ourselves to the same press conferences. Not one of us was allowed a special privilege not bestowed on someone else, and we became akin to those who shared completely different cultures and continents. We were humbled and rendered helpless by a virus. Just a virus. Not one individual could communicate with another without it’s mention. Children spoke of it’s wondrous ability to kick school’s butt for half a year. Everyone was quarantined. No one was safe. It was every single one of us. Nowhere in my lifetime or in history has an entire world, not just a city, or a nation been on the same plane regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, economic stature, age, or physical ability. Even the great divide of the 21st century, politics, didn’t stand a chance against the evil that was COVID.
Although my personal growth during this quarantine was mine alone to recognize, we all need to diagnosticate that this was not an accident let loose from a lab in Wuhan. It was born in an attempt to unify the world and hopefully debase us into realizing we are truly dust in the wind..fragile and humanly equal. Some got this, others did not.
And, those that did not are the same, non-introspective slobs they were prior. Some things will never change, but if you had the ability to co mingle with the incognito gifts we received from this challenge, become more introspective, loving, less self centered and praise your healthy, basic life, you have the gift of COVID…embrace it and never forget it.
So, as we enter into our fifth week of COVID house arrest, I have noticed changes…some good, some not so good, about people. Some people that I thought were Grinch-like just got worse, and some took some kind of emotional NARCAN, and turned around.
1.You CAN smile at someone through your mask at Shop-Rite. You have a choice between that and clipping someone’s heels because they weren’t standing exactly on the “one cart away” marker. Eyes do smile, and this is a good example. We are all there to keep our lives going. Your frozen Tilapia is not more important than someone’s Velveeta.
2. God gave everyone talents. Use them. Now is the time. Whether it’s cooking, sewing, writing, drawing, inventing, nobody can complain they don’t have enough time. That down-time you wished for is finally here. Embrace it. Stop being in your own “I’m scared for my life Corona bubble.” There are people out there in worse positions, be it financially, health-wise, or familial. Reach out in ways that may not need contact. Drop offs, video, delivery…start giving more and wanting less. Email…whatever. Eliza Hamilton could not start a foundling hospital with a “woe is me“ attitude.
3. Don’t be a hording ass hole. Keeping your house running is not more important than someone wiping their butt. I get it, this serious apocalypse has gotten everyone scared they may get butt eczema or streaky underwear. Others have real needs.
You might spend money ordering online, but that seems to be the way to go to stock up. Try keeping the delightful stuff to a minimum, and when you do go food store hopping, try to imagine what you might need for next week…plan menus and take stock of what you do have and how quickly you are going through it.
4. Small gestures cost nothing but mean everything. People are incredibly irritable now. Un-irritate them. How? Reverse psychology. You know that woman standing behind you in the check out who has a sprig of parsley and a loaf of bread in her basket and you have two heaping carts full of shit that you had to take your husband who has been at home for 30 days straight and you just wanted some alone time, even it is in aisle six, let her go ahead of you. She might not “smile with her eyes,” but maybe she got home an hour earlier to a sick kid, homebound mother, or just got off a twelve hour COVID floor shift. And, that’s all it took to make her day.
5. FREEZE ACCOUNTS. Nobody is basking in any riches right now. People are laid off and furloughed left and right. It’s understandable that businesses are suffering right now as well, but so is the consumer…your customer. It might hurt a lot, but now is NOT the time to ask anyone for money for anything…be it tuition, overdue bills, whatever. Try a small payment plan. Try a roll over, try adding to next semester’s bill…but stop making people stay on schedule. What did you do with the last pandemic..right…there was no last pandemic. This is crazy crap effected everyone with vulgar uncertainty. Nobody has the answer.
But stressing people out over what they owe isn’t kind. It’s so hard to find the balance…our business was hit hard with Italy’s epidemic. However, we cannot keep anyone’s money when we are not fulfilling every bullet of what we promised. It’s like saying, well, come to the office and we can set up private virtual reality films with pizza and wine tasting, but we will keep all your money. If you are not giving 100% of what you offered, DO NOT expect customers to pay you 100%...be fair.
Larger companies who can afford to take big cuts right now, are pushing payments off for their customers, regardless of their financial stature…and it’s a beautiful gesture of unity. Smaller businesses can do the same on a smaller scale, with flexibility. Get creative so you don’t lose customers, and when this is over, maybe gain a few. Kindness and understanding always wins over self centered bill collector.
6. Since we are zombie-transed to social media right now, everything is publicized…like everything from I brushed my teeth, my hair is gray, I planted a tulip, I got an abscess, my kid finger painted, my kid is homeschooled, I cleaned my closet to…health care workers putting themselves on the front line. The most impressive, selfless journey to follow.
These are your heroes. When I read about them, see where they came from, what they sacrifice, and how much of their life they have given up to help strangers…I cry. I cry for their dedication to their chosen profession and I cry because my heart so longs to be like them. So many stories about those in retirement who have not worked in years, those who have not seen their families in weeks, and make limited contact through prison-like glass doors in a hospital.
Those who barely finished nursing school or medical school and are thrown into the fiery trenches without the years of experience and residency that would qualify them to do so.
Each sacrificing their own existence, lifestyle and family to do what God called them to do. The most beautiful post I saw was a change of shift at Hackensack Hospital. It looked like early Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom.
All without question, all to be unsung, and possibly forgotten a year from now, because as self centered human beings, when we are all better, and boo-boos heal, we regress. Remember to praise them now…that weary eyed nurse, PA, doctor who is grabbing take out at your pizza joint and is seven people deep…give them your spot.
That’s why COVID is here…so we possibly will remember the destruction it caused, the heroes birthed, and the good that is buried in humans, and the selfishness which lies there, too.
As we navigate through these uncertain and unprecedented times with fear and questions, please help me to be thankful every day for my health, and that of my friends and family and to pray for those who are not so fortunate.
As a mother, now firmly planted at home, please help me to: