15 Minutes to Live – Thanks for the Memories!

Angel Cloud on "Rapture Day" 5-28-11

The #Trust30 project is a 30-day, prompted, online writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. My SM mentor, Phoenix foodie/techie/all-around awesome guy/hubby/daddy @chrislee was tweeting about it Wednesday afternoon. Instantly, instinctively, I knew it would be the ideal daily kick in the ass to help me act on my passion for writing.

#Trust30 just started — perhaps you’ll create your own adventure of self-discovery at  http://ralphwaldoemerson.me/

The first prompt (May 31) is 15 Minutes to Live by Gwen Bell.

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.

2. Write the story that has to be written.

Thanks for the Memories!

Wow. So this is it. After thinking about writing for years –decades even, it comes down to this. My lasting words for all posterity will not be carefully crafted and finessed. They’ll tumble out in a jumble of erratic thoughts, amid bad grammar and poor punctuation, in this technical format that’s hardly my forté, since I’ve never, ever used it before and I am seriously technically challenged on my best day. Clearly, there’s a lesson here already. It’s time for me to have a showdown with the dEvil named procrastination.

15 minutes. Dear God, could you make an exception? I’ve been a good girl…mostly. Please, may I have an hour, perhaps even two? I’ve got so much to say. So much. I know, I know, I should have started years ago.*sigh*

Mostly I want to say…I’m grateful. It’s been a remarkable life. That I was even born is a miracle! Bless my parents, having sex and making a baby when they were 40 and 55 years old! WTH were they thinking? Was the TV set broken?  Did the ancient oil burner in the basement run out of fuel on a bitterly cold January weekend? Craziness! Sure, today it’s fairly common…but in 1965? Anyway, they got lucky and lucky me, I came to be!

It wasn’t just them I was born to. It was to a whole big, disorderly, chaotic, dysfunctional family. Not knowing any better, I loved them, thought they were great. Still do. Especially the old people. To this day, I am endeared toward old people. They come with history, stories, wisdom and often, a calming aura. They are in no hurry, they’ve got nothing but time.  And they have stuff to intrigue a child: statues of saints that look stolen from church, big brooches, hats in their original 30 year old hatboxes, old embroidered linens, monogrammed handkerchiefs, musty uniforms dotted with colorful pins, and candy.

My Grandma and Grandpa were Sicilian immigrants born in the 1890’s. They taught me to love growing food and flowers, planning one meal ahead, buying quality on sale, supporting local businesses, and bringing a care package when invited to someone’s home. On the second floor of our house, with them and Mom’s sister, Aunt Nicki, I experienced laughter (I Love Lucy), learning (The Galloping Gourmet), exercise (Jack LaLanne), music (Lawrence Welk) and simple fun (checkers, Canasta, Bingo). They ate healthy food heartily and unhealthy food in moderation. They walked everywhere they went and their bodies only began failing in their 80’s. I spent so much time with them in the first years of my life. No wonder I spoke my first word in Italian and still feel their profound influence in my life.

Edwin P. Butler. A WWI veteran, drifter, sign painter, antiques collector, reformed hard drinker, tobacco chewer. People around town nicknamed him Colonel Sanders, to me he was a ‘bonus’ grandfather. Except when he removed his false teeth to scare me, then he was a real live monster. He knocked on the back door one night in the 1950’s and asked Mom if he could have his “old room” back. (My childhood home was a boarding house before we lived there). With 6 kids to feed and water, Mr. Butler lived with us for 20+ years; we became his family. He gave me my first taste of dining out: at Casale’s deli he would enjoy eat split pea soup and buttered rye bread while I nibbled a grilled cheese. At Sam’s luncheonette, he’d order me egg creams or ice cream sodas while he had coffee and a cheese or egg salad sandwich. I always went home with forbidden candy. When my sister Sara was small, he bought her the entire Nancy Drew series one book at a time, but that’s a story for another day.

My father. Third son, but the first to survive, the eldest of six surviving out of thirteen total, christened Michelangelo, after Nunzio 1 and Nunzio 2 died in infancy. Motherless boy, would-be football player, dog lover, deer hunter, horse whisperer, reluctant farmer, dockworker, milk man, mechanic, taxi driver, gambler, dreamer. Man of few words, unless the topic was baseball, hunting, politics or the ponies. Born in 1911, he might have turned 100 two weeks ago had he eaten like the grandparents! But no, he liked donuts, and meat, and resentment. 34 years before he became my Grandpa’s son-in-law, Dad was first his nephew, as his Zia Antonietta (my paternal Grandpa’s sister) was our maternal Grandpa’s mother. I wish I had known Dad’s parents. You miss quite a lot when you are the “caboose” at the end of the train, the last little dishwasher. More stories for another day.

My mother. My Angel mother Antoinette, named for her father’s mother, the grandmother she never knew, her husband’s aunt, my Great Aunt. First generation Italian-American, Brooklynite, elder of two daughters, child of the Great Depression, pianist, mezzo soprano, business college graduate, young wife, mother, baker, bowler, gardener, sewer, wallpaper hanger, conversationalist, conservationist, canner, cook, nutritionist, ecologist, recycler, composter, couponer, Bible reader, letter writer, armchair traveler, driver, electronics technician, retail worker, civil servant, grandmother, caretaker, widow, senior citizen student (ASL and Italian), retiree, snowbird, devoted sister, friend to all. Dreamer, idealist, romantic, comic. Fan of the Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Golden Girls, Arsenio Hall, Highway to Heaven, Touched by an Angel. If there is a Heaven, surely she is there and, I will be overjoyed to see her again.

Oh stop smirking; of course I am going There. After all, I’ve been a good girl…mostly. And ohshit, time is up. But I haven’t told you about my 6 wonderful siblings and their spouses, 10 nieces/nephews, the Greatkids, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends I treasured and who cherished me, animals I loved and was loved by, places I traveled to, people I met, food I ate, wine I drank, languages I spoke, jokes I screwed up, scenes I stole, scenes I blew, cakes I baked, instruments I played, prayers I prayed, love I made, songs I sang, things I learned from teachers I never forgot, strangers & friends I smiled at, encouraged or consoled, photos I took, pizzas I tossed, beaches I walked, fish I caught, pretty dresses I wore, horses I rode, letters I wrote & received, moments I seized, babies I held, kids I watched grow, tomatoes I grew, flowers I arranged, rooms I decorated, gifts I wrapped, sunrises & sunsets that filled me with awe, thunderstorms – snowfalls – fallen leaves – blooming bulbs –a thousand scenes of nature that enchanted me, books & movies I loved, my favorite shoes, weddings I danced at, stars I wished upon, beauty I admired, stories I didn’t write, kisses that left me breathless, the great love of my life…and countless other people, places and things that helped me feel so vibrantly, completely alive for these past 45.7 years.

I’ve loved life and it has loved me back, you were right Mr Schweitzer or was it Mr Schlesinger? I’ve loved people and some, perhaps most, have loved me back. I forgive those who hurt me, I pray those I may have hurt find the grace to forgive me and that we all journey on freely. It’s been a wonderful life Mr Capra, Mr Stewart, and I’m eternally grateful. I have no regrets, only lingering enthusiasm, appreciation, and bemused wonder for having been given the chance to go to the ball, at all. Thank you Mr Disney, I had a perfectly lovely time. Mr Hope, truly, thanks for the memories.

“Wrap it up Marianne, story’s too long.” Fine, but know this, I’m just beginning. And 15 minutes will rarely be enough.

About ciaomari

Food is in my blood! My Sicilian ancestors were lemon & grape farmers, bakers & grocers. I grew up gardening, canning, fishing & berry-picking. Choosing, preparing & serving food make my heart sing. I live to feed and care for people, at home & work. Food = love! I'm an irrepressibly enthusiastic & infinitely curious East Coast Renaissance woman transplanted to the Southwest desert: beverage geek, food nerd, herb gardener, historian, hospitality pro, musician, nature lover, ordained minister, photographer, polyglot, reader, re-user, recycler, soul therapist, writer & voyager. Admiring beauty, observing details, spreading joy, living mindfully, reading voraciously, writing from the heart, loving passionately... these are a few of my priorities. Thank you for visiting and sharing yourself with me as well.
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10 Responses to 15 Minutes to Live – Thanks for the Memories!

  1. Debbie Elder says:

    Loved reading about your family and memories past! Your favorite tv shows, previous relatives and friends, and places you enjoyed visiting sound so familiar (even though I love and pretend to be Italian, I have no actual Italian in my genes). Keep up your writing, as I’m certain you’ll have many fans, and soon enough, an actual book that you can pass on to those nieces and nephews : )

    • ciaomari says:

      Grazie bella! Thank you for reading; appreciate your comments & thoughtful encouragement. “I love and pretend to be Italian” — I smiled at this! You’re a fantastic Italian. Who needs genes if you have the “la dolce vita” mindset? Bonus points for the huge ceramic rooster on your kitchen island!

  2. Chris Lee says:

    Sweet!!!! So glad you started. I’m going to be excited to read. I totally dug your post but sometime you need to do another one about you. It’s cool to read about your family but I also want to hear what about your life that you remember most. 🙂 Pscyhed you’re in! Going to be checking daily! : )

    • ciaomari says:

      Grateful to you for leading me to #Trust30 — such a genius idea, just the push I needed. I appreciate your support, technical and otherwise. I’ll be reading you too!

  3. Kerri says:

    Proud of you Mari. Keep it coming!

  4. Beautiful Mari! What a heartwarming piece you put together in “fifteen minutes.” 😉
    I will be eagerly awaiting updates.

  5. Katie Dean says:

    Oh Marianne!!! That was wonderful. It took my breathe away – every word! I can’t wait to read more. Am off to do just that….


    • ciaomari says:

      Thank you Katie, I plan on learning a few tricks from you, seasoned writer-blogger that you are. So fantastic spending a little time with you Monday!

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