Maria Grazia Swan, Author so intense... so Italian Fri, 21 Dec 2018 23:37:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Memories of Christmases past Sat, 22 Dec 2018 07:21:56 +0000 After moving into this home last Spring, I decided this was it…I’m not moving again. When I repeat this promise to my kids, I get a lot of eye rolls and “You said that about the last house.” And they’re right, but I know in my heart, this is it; my forever home.


With that in mind, I’m dutifully unpacking every box and truly considering all the contents. That’s how I found this Christmas card from the past. No envelope. In 1974 I lived in Arizona, way before internet, cell phones and all that fast stuff. 99% of my communications with my family in Italy came through written letters, expensive phone calls reserved only for deaths or births announcements.

I picture my grandfather, riding his bike on a cold December morning to the town post office to buy a stamp for his granddaughter in America. That was the last Christmas card from both grandparents, although Nonno did all the writing. My grandmother died two years later, in 1976.

It took Nonno a while to resume the routine of his daily life, they had been married over 60 years. Somewhere, in a box I have yet to open, another wonderful Christmas memory awaits me. That one also in blue ink and cursive, but with only Nonno’s signature. Maybe I’ll post it next Christmas. Good memories are hard to handle. Forgive me, I’ll wish you all a Buon Natale while I go get more tissues.

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The Italian Black Feathers Tue, 16 Oct 2018 00:09:21 +0000
The Alpini are known as Le Penne Nere (“The Black Feathers”) in Italy.

For those of you who follow my Facebook postings, you may remember a short video I posted back in September. The Video showed a group of Alpini honoring dead comrades from World War II.

The Alpini marched all the way to the church proudly wearing their hats, with the black feathers. In Italy they go by the nick name Le Penne Nere, During the war The Black Feathers fought hard, in the mountains, with few necessities, exposed to the elements, while the enemy fought better equipped and well fed.

Nowadays their get togethers are legendary. They take over the town, drink hard and sing a lot of old folkloric songs.

I went with one of my best girlfriends to watch the Alpini, her husband among them. We both got teary eyed when they marched and sang.

Me: “I didn’t know your husband was an Alpino.”

GF: “He wasn’t.”

Me: “Huh? So what is he doing here? Where did he get the hat?”

GF: “The hat was our son’s who doesn’t like these gatherings while my husband loves them, he finds them very bonding…plus, they travel everywhere an old Alpino needs honoring or a ribbon needs cutting.”

Me: “He just shows up with someone’s else hat and no one asks him a thing?”

GF: “Well technically the last name of the hat owner is the same. He signed up as a ‘sympathizer’ and don’t forget he’s a champion mountain skier, gold medal in his age category. That counts.”

Her husband marches by, we exchange big smiles and waves…he fits right in even if it’s not his hat.

I’m not using any names to protect the innocent and the totally guilty. We are from a small town and most of the young are on Facebook and understand English.

“The Alpini, are an elite mountain warfare specialty of the infantry corps of the Italian Army. They are currently organized in two operational brigades, which are subordinated to the Alpine Troops Headquarters. Established in 1872, the Alpini are the oldest active mountain infantry in the world.” – Wikipedia

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Italian Tweety Mon, 17 Sep 2018 23:27:59 +0000

The bird in this very short video belongs to my friend Laura.

Laura and I go way back. We both grew up in Valdagno, shared the same friends, the same growing pains. Since we’re both single, it seems natural for me to stay with her when I come back home. My sisters are married, have different lifestyles, and sleeping habits.

Over the years, I’ve met all her cats. She’s also met my pets when she visited me in the States. A few years back I met Laura’s new pet: Tweety. A rescued wild canary.

True story.

Some neighbors noticed a wild canary hovering over their caged birds. By day the bird happily fed on dropped seeds, at night she cuddled on top of the cages to sleep. The neighbors expressed their annoyance. Good hearted Laura stepped in, bought a cage and, along with her cats, adopted Tweety. Even if she left the cage open Tweety seemed happier in the cage…more city dweller than wild canary?

But wait, that’s not what makes this story exceptional. Nope. You see, due to an unfortunate accident, the bird has only one leg. Three winters ago I gifted Tweety a new cage, spacious, with lots of gadgets and perches. According to Laura, she (Tweety) loved it, so much that she attempted new tricks. One afternoon Tweety flew around in the cage, a claw caught on a perch, the little body fell, one leg twisted and snapped leaving Tweety dandling from the broken limb. Valdagno is a small town and this was a Saturday afternoon.

After many calls, many vets, Laura finally found a compassionate soul who met her and Tweety. He opened his clinic just for them and neatly amputated the tiny leg. Tweety still joyfully entertains us with her antics from the cage Laura rearranged to accommodate the canary’s handicap.


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This is depressing… Mon, 16 Jul 2018 21:59:16 +0000 If you’re feeling blue you may want to skip this post.

I’ve been moving, a real chore. Since I love this new location, I made up my mind not to grumble–much. One good thing about packing, we tend to get rid of things. In my case I go through three stages.

  • Stage one, I pack and donate the stuff I haven’t used in so long I forgot I had it.
  • Stage two, I donate items that wouldn’t fit in the new place.
  • Stage three, I’m so sick of packing I discard, donate, or offer to the movers as long I won’t have to look at it again.

When I entered stage one I stopped by the Goodwill donation center. An SUV idled ahead of me on that pleasant morning, me relaxed having already had my coffee. The young worker approached with the empty rolling bin to help the middle age woman standing by the back door of the vehicle. My car positioned behind hers gave me a perfect view of what she handed to the Goodwill man. A walker, with tennis balls on the metal legs. Crutches. Boxes full of robes or soft blankets, couldn’t tell. An old toaster. Old table lamp, you know, with little ruffles around the lampshade…more clothes, boxes with dishes, and nick knacks…It didn’t take much imagination for me to assume she was disposing of someone’s belongings. The bin was now full. I got out of my car, the woman pushed back some items resting on the floor of the SUV. The Goodwill man approached, our eyes met, “All that remains of a life?” I asked.

“Pretty much so,” He shook his head. We both watched the SUV drive off. The custom license plate said Granmcar.

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Desert Rain Mon, 18 Jun 2018 17:21:24 +0000 I woke up to find my cell screen covered by droplets of water, except…the drops weren’t real. That’s the way my android announces the weather. Living in Phoenix, Arizona, I rarely get a glimpse of magic rain. Today was the first time in about 100 days. Imagine that, 100 days without an ounce of water.

Two evenings ago one of the local channels did a special on how the people from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in charge of wild life conservation, plan to bring water to the secluded and very dry watering holes of various local wild species. We take water for granted, turn on the faucet and voila. Meanwhile, the original local creatures are dying of thirst.

That’s why those fake droplets filled my heart with joy.

Often, after an unexpected downpour I find myself humming an old song by French singer Gilbert Becaud, appropriately titled Le jour où la pluie viendra. Translates to The Day when the rain will fall. ‘The trees, crying with joy, will offer their branches.’

I’d like to add that all creatures large or small will also rejoice, the day when the rain will fall—again.

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My First Pet Sun, 27 May 2018 17:51:41 +0000 Was a cat. Dogs weren’t allowed in our house because of my father’s fear of dogs.

I was so young, kindergarten maybe, and don’t remember how the furry creature picked me. Keep in mind, this was Italy, after the Second World War, before cat litter and commercial cat food were invented, so the cat survived on milk and table scraps.

I didn’t know about such things as boy cats and girl cats. Since mine never gave birth, I assumed him a boy cat. He looked very much like the pic I’m posting. Unfortunately, as far as I can remember I only appeared in one photo with my cat. Black and white photo, courtesy of a young woman who took classroom pics at our nearby school. By then I was in first grade and she walked me home at lunchtime one day. She snapped a few photos of my mother and my new baby sister. That’s how I managed to squeeze myself and the cat in one of the pics Mother had taken to send to relatives in America, Rhode Island if I remember correctly.

Many years and many pets later, I still remember my fist cat’s name. But I can’t tell you because I was doped into using it as a password, don’t recall for what, so until I figure it out and change the password, it will remain a secret.

Do you remember your first pet’s name?

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Let’s cook Mon, 14 May 2018 16:52:01 +0000 Gas or electric? The question circulated on Facebook a few days ago. Regarding cooking. Of course the answers varied from annoyed to passionate. The majority of the fired up ones came from gas cooking folks. I read the lively exchange, thought back to my grandmother cooking on a wood burning stove.

Yes, wood. Because…that was the newest thing then. And that explains why women spent most of their days in the kitchen, especially in winter. The stove became the center of everything because it also provided the only source of warmth. And that stove provided embers for our irons, and ashes used to launder bed linens.

Hey, I’m not making this up. I’ve tried to remember when my grandparents switched to electric cooking, but honestly I can’t. Where I come from, wood stoves are still used by chefs and homemakers alike. My brother kept our grandparent’s old stove to use for some specific family recipes. He loved to cook. I’m not that fussy, I’m thankful for all the new and improved kitchen appliances and various gadgets.

As for the Facebook question, gas or electric? I only use electric…because…once upon a time I used to cook with gas. Until I set myself on fire. Yep. I did. But that’s for another blog.

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Astrology – Yes? No? Mon, 30 Apr 2018 23:55:28 +0000
Charlotte Benson

Many read their daily horoscope. Some consider this entertainment. Others believe strongly.

I believe in astrology. I state this upfront because it’s today’s subject.

Astrologer Charlotte Benson, practices traditional Vedic Astrology-Jyotisha. I don’t know the difference between that and plain astrology. But in my opinion, Ms. Benson is great. As the end of 2017 neared, I needed to believe 2018 would be a better year. So I called Charlotte.

My desire to move back to my old neighborhood made me feel blue. I’m determined and won’t compromise. Ms. Benson and I have in common the ability to visualize goals. She suggested I visualize this home I wanted. And before our session ended she stated that April 20th 2018 would be a good day to land a contract.

From then on I drove that neighborhood twice a week, searched available listings three times a day. It became an obsession. January passed, then February and March…I found nothing for sale. By April I felt extremely worried.

One Saturday in April I promised a friend I’d stop by a garage sale in the coveted community. I walked around on that beautiful day to see what other residents had to sell. One of the homes with the floor plan I badly wanted had a contractor lockbox on the front door and a sheet covering the main windows. Someone planned to move? I rushed back to my friend’s, wrote a nice note explaining I wanted to buy if they wanted to sell. I marched back to the house, found the garage door open and a man loading a truck. Feeling a little silly I told him the truth.

“You’re two weeks late,” he said. “Sold the house to an investor, he takes possession today.”

I gathered my courage. “In case the investor decides to flip, please give him this note.”

On a Thursday, after checking for anything for sale in my dream neighborhood, I saw the date on the bottom of my screen. 4/19/2018. “Well, Charlotte, looks like you got this one wrong. Too bad.”

My cell chimed. “Is this Maria Swan? I understand you’re interested in a home my company bought.”

I signed the contract on April 20th.

After I move, Charlotte Benson will be the first person I invite for dinner, along with my friend who lent me the paper for the note.

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My imaginary pets Tue, 17 Apr 2018 07:37:01 +0000 I like pets. All kind of pets. When the kids were growing up, we had dogs and cats and birds. As the kids moved out and the pets crossed the rainbow bridge, I decided my time had come to enjoy other people’s pets. All my neighbors have dogs. And I have dog treats.

It started out as the occasional thing. I’d go out to water my plants and somehow the dogs knew and barked, ever so politely.

It’s now a daily routine. Each dog gets the exact same treat, regardless of size or how fast it makes it disappear.

I buy the treats at Trader Joe’s. Yes, I’m a real sucker for words like wholesome and natural and low fat…anyway, I’m up to three boxes of treats per Trader Joe’s trip.

And I tend to always end up with the same cashier, an old friend from a past life.

He packs my purchases in my reusable bag and he asks, “So, what kind of dog do you have these days?”

I stare at him like he’s batty, having already forgotten about the three boxes of treats.

He stares back, pulls out the doggie’s goodies, lines them up on the counter. I feel tempted to say those are my late night snacks, but I don’t.

I tell him about my newly found popularity. He nods and smiles…we’ll be friends in our next life, for sure.

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Memories of Easters past Tue, 03 Apr 2018 05:48:42 +0000 Every Easter I think about an Old Italian saying; Natale coi tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.

It translates to Celebrate Christmas with family, and Easter with whoever you want.

It fits particularly well in regard to this past Sunday, it was Easter and April Fools ‘Day.

And I found myself alone. The kids had all scattered to different corners of the United States to visit with friends, lovers, whoever they wanted. They did call to wish me a Happy Easter, and that was fine. I couldn’t help but think of growing up in Italy, Catholicism being the only game in town, Easter was a very important celebration. And we didn’t have any egg hunts. We exchanged chocolate eggs, wrapped in colorful papers. All eggs came with a small ‘surprise’ inside. The value of the surprise was directly based on the price of the chocolate egg.

Then there were the creative types, who inserted their own surprise, like engagements rings or other jewelry. But the main event was always lunch. And since we were allowed to spend Easter with whoever we wanted, we usually all found ourselves at Nonna’s house.

She always served the best food!!!!

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