Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Reluctant Graduate

I may be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure there was no official graduation ceremony when I finished kindergarten. Icecream, maybe. Cap and gown, no.

In Italy, the only official graduation is the one from college and it's slightly different from the one in America or Singapore. For one thing, you're usually on your own, interrogated (yes, I don't use that word lightly) in front of a 'friendly' commission on your thesis while your family watches with bated breath to see if you will actually pass. If you do pass, they give you a mark, 110 being the highest (well done, Michele) then your family takes you out for coffee where they open a bottle of prosecco. But the real fun comes later. Like something out of Boccaccio's Decameron, your friends parade you through the cobble-stoned city streets, carrying you on their shoulders stripped down to just boxer shorts and wreath around your neck (the smart graduates wear bathing suits under their elegant attire) while chanting incredibly scurrilous verses about you. You are then, either covered in shaving cream or hosed down with water, and unceremoniously dumped in a dumpster. I kid you not. I have witnessed this firsthand.
All I can say is, thank God I went to Vassar.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Love Etc.

Today Eliot came out with a basic philosophical truth about love (which I know will come in handy during the rebellious teenage years). It's so clear it's almost ridiculous. I just wish I had thought of it as a kid...

She looked me straight in the eye and explained in a matter of fact voice (not so different from the one I use during university lectures):
"Mommy, I love you even when I say you're the worst Mommy in the world. That's the way I say I love you when I'm crying and angry. But when I'm clear..."
Wait clear? You mean not fussy?
"Yes, when I'm clear and say you're the best Mommy in the world, that's also true. So if I say you're the best or the worst I still really love you. Now, do you understand? Oh, and do you paint your hair golden? I know it's yes, but I won't tell that secret."

Bottom line: If you want to feel crazy love get a five year old. Or a puppy.

Dialectics 101

I was a philosophy major in college so I know a little something about dialectics and the importance of argument in the discovery of truth. But when Eliot has a friend over on a playdate I really don't know if she's engaging in dialectics or 5 yr old style negotiation. The following is just a snippet of a conversation I overheard yesterday:

"If you don't believe in fairies, then you don't believe in God," Eliot matter-of-factly states.
But I do believe in God, replies her friend (nervously).
"Well, you need to be nice to God."
I am nice to God.
"But you're not being nice to me."
Yes, I am.
"No, you said you don't believe in fairies."
At this point, the somewhat confused and mentally exhaused friend, concedes, Okay, I do believe in fairies.
"Okay then. Now, we can play. So which fairy do you want to be?"

(No need for dialectics with the playmates pictured above.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ten Signs We May Have Overstayed?

Sometimes, I'm afraid we've stayed too long in South East Asia and that the kids won't know their roots. What those roots are I'm not exactly sure. Alexander and Eliot were both born in Verona (at the same hospital) but their father (a Veronese) claims they will never be true Veronesi (he's basing this on the fact that they don't swear, play soccer, or eat horse meat). So, I guess this means, for better or worse, Singapore is their home. But, sometimes, I get nervous. What if they never fit in when we do return to live in Italy (whenever that may be)?
The following traits they've recently acquired do nothing to assuage my fears:

1) The craving to eat hot, spicy chicken at 10 am.
2) Alexander's familiarity with chopsticks.
3) Their preference of rice over pasta.
4) Their giddy anticipation of chewing gum in Verona. (Singapore doesn't sell gum. And no, I'm not counting the gum they sell in pharmacies.)
5) Eliot's knowledge of more words in Mandarin than in Italian.
6) The inability to grasp the concept of changing seasons.
7) The belief that everybody has a pool.
8) Eliot's teary breakdown because she doesn't have straight, black hair.
9) Alexander surreptitious usage of hair gel (to have aforementioned straight, black hair).
10) When they say they want to go to Disneyland, they're referring to the one in Tokyo.

They say you can never go home again. What do you think?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Eliot's Every Day Questions

"God made us but who made God?"
That's a very good question, Eliot.
"But do you know what the biggest mystery is, Mommy?"
Hmmm...if God made us, who made God?
"Noooo, it's who gave me Bear when I was born?"
Oh, right.

(Any relevant leads that could help solve either mystery would be much appreciated.)

Thanks For The Memories...

"Here's a present for you, Mommy."
Why? It's not my birthday.
"It's for that time when you were nine and nobody came to your birthday party."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day, Pa!

I recently realized just how much I really am my father's daughter. And it's not just my love of quotes, Russian literature, lists, punctuality, dislike for the phone, morning moodiness, editing prowess, or even desire to read the weekend edition of the Financial Times (undisturbed and in front of a cup of coffee). Well, that too. But it was something more abstract. My brother Julian watched me with marvel as I tried for the tenth time to get through to a travel agent on the phone finally resorting to the military alphabet: "I said I-T-A-L-Y. India Tango Alpha Lima Yankee." Wow, you really are like Pa.
Being the only daughter of an Italian/American Green Beret was not always easy (push-ups were at a premium in my house). I recently saw a documentary on the strict upbringing of Mormon teenage girls. The similarities with my own childhood were uncanny. But on this special day, I want to thank you Pa for being the only Dad who came to every ballet performance when I was a little kid dancing in the Arena, for buying all my fellow ballerinas their own can of pringles (that makes 18) because I mentioned they liked them, for not getting mad at me when you saw me riding on a girlfriend's motorcycle, for not laughing when I suggested I could possibly get a PhD. Instead, finding it an excellent idea and supporting me one hundred percent (that would be monetary, yes, but not only). For always picking me up at the airport. For helping me take my first walk when I got my second cesarean. Most of all, for being an amazing grandfather to the two little devils! So now I embrace the Pa in me, I listen to Johnny Cash, I ask the kids capitals of random countries on our morning rides to school, and sing to them the words you sang to me as a child. "One hundred men will test today. But only three win the Green Beret." Adding, "You know, like your Nonno Mario."
Happy Father's Day.

(Nonno Mario in his bolide with his grandson Alexander who just summed it up best: "He's sometimes strict but he's really nice.")

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Goodbye Jules...

What better way for my little brother Julian to leave than with a personalized cappuccino? In Singapore, even the barista cares...
Come back soon!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

School, again?!

"There's school again today?" (You'd think putting on her school uniform would be a giveaway, but no...we have the conversation).
"Aww, why do I have to go to school?"
Because it's the law. If you don't go, the principal will come and get you.
(I know, sounds terrible, but has actually been working for me since she started preschool two years ago).
"The boss?"
Yes, the boss. Do you want the boss to come to our house and say: 'Is Eliot here? How come she's not in school. She needs to come with me right away.'
"Okay....can I bring Bear with me? But you take him back home with you. I'm not a baby."
It will be fun, you're making dumplings in school today. Besides, going to school is mandatory from 4 to 18.
"What is mandatory?"
You have to do it. But after 18, you can decide to go or not to go.
Alexander, suddenly interested, "I am sooo going to go after 18. And I even want to get one of those doctor degrees."
Medical School?
"No, the one you got."
Oh, PhD.
"Yes, I'm definitely getting one of those!"
Really? You do realize there is some writing involved?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'll Stick With It...

"Please, Mommy, let me do fencing."
Do you know how much it costs, Alexander? After granola, wine, and blueberries, it's the single most expensive thing in Singapore!
"But I promise I'll stick with it. I feel like this is going to be my passion. You know, like Julian, with the piano. Or Da Vinci with art. And maybe I'll get a scholarship to college. What's that again?"
When they pay for your school.
"Yes, they will definitely want to pay for my school....and I can save all my allowance so maybe Eliot can have a scholarship to college too."

Okay, definitely a candidate for 'best brother ever'...but you're still not getting any gear for at least one year! (That was a year ago...I guess it's payback time).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Do You Get to Carnegie?

Practice, practice, practice.

Over 4,000 people showed up for my little bro Julian's Chopin concert last Saturday under the stars at the Botanic Gardens of Singapore. Miraculously it didn't rain, nobody died of a heat stroke...and, most importantly, lots of money was raised for Japan. A memorable evening.
As Julian said, he was a bit jetlagged but luckily the many kids present...kept him awake.

Julian will be playing at Carnegie Hall December 16th.