Archive for the ‘living single’ Category

There is a field

May 26, 2014


(c)Famiglietti 2014

Out beyond ideas

of wrongdoing and rightdoing

there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

–Rumi, 13th Century 

I’m the question mark with a bag over my face. The ashes I’d rubbed all over my body were too dramatic compared to other question marks in this field. The woman from India sits on a sunny rock, wrinkled face exposed, gnarled hands relaxing at last. She killed her infant daughter “to spare her the miserable life I live.” Here, she finds acceptance if not understanding. The price of admission to this field is not understanding.

My friend Deanna sits beside the Indian woman and hugs her gently. Deanna’s wrongdoing was stealing $10 from a humane society donation jar. She stole the money to buy a tube of Preparation H. Her hemorrhoids were excruciatingly painful, and she was flat broke with no health insurance. Yet, those stray dogs would be euthanized if the jar did not fill quickly.

A man I once worked with has his pockets turned inside out to show he is still broke. He confessed his homosexuality to a small group of senior managers at the Christian charity where we worked. His brothers in Christ fired him within the hour. I don’t see them here. I don’t see abortion clinic bombers or FOX News. In fact, I don’t see anyone who makes my skin crawl.

The prostitute from Uganda approaches Deanna and the Indian woman, a tiny smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. She prays to God every day of her life and blesses the food she feeds to her children. The only way she can earn that food is to sell her body. Her children survive; her spirit shrivels. The Indian woman looks her in the eye and invites her to sit on the sunny rock.

I linger in the shadows, hugging excuses. Is this the place where I can leave them?

I won’t tell you my question marks. I won’t ask yours. Just know there is a field where some walk into the light naked in their truths. Many are here in the shadows with me, gathering courage.

This post is dedicated to my life-long best friend Deanna who died several years ago leaving a large hole in my heart.

Thanks to Nicolo Famiglietti, Ph.D. for providing the beautiful photo. You can see more of his work on his web sites:



My forever face

January 12, 2014

Today, I gave my 70-year-old face a presentthe best thing I’ve done for it since I stopped smoking. When I was 12, my mother introduced me to the world of facial care with a jar of Noxema. The smell nearly knocked me out. Something with that big of a kick was legal?

For several years, I felt grown up with my jar of Noxema on my dresser and the stench chasing me in my dreams. Then, teenage rebellion kicked in. Noxema reeked of the 1940s. Never mind that my mother was beautiful and looked about 18 when she was 38. I would find my own product.

I bought the most expensive facial cream I could afford. Oil of Olay. For more than 50 years, I was loyal to Oil of Olay until I tried a bit of facial cream from Paris that cost more than my car. Oil of Olay felt like crank case oil after that. But it was affordable, and I haven’t spent much time hanging around mirrors since I became a grandmother. It was just my face for Pete’s sake. Who cared?

Finally, I decided my face was worth caring about as it has reached vintage status and qualifies for The Antique Road Show. I researched products with my lifestyle in mind. As a travel writer, I can go from Chicago’s 20 below to India’s 100 above in 18 hours. Then, there is the beach and airplanes that aspire to mummify passengers with their stingy dose of humidity. Traveling the way I do puts my face to the stress test. No cute little light-weight facial cream sold at parties would do the job.

LUMAVERA caught my attention, because the company founder, David Vargus, created the products using plant extracts his mother and grandmother used to defy aging under the Mexican sun. He added toxin-free  plant stem cell technology that revitalizes “vintage” skin.

Vargus says, “By combining my family’s traditional health remedies with today’s science of skin care and beauty in Lumavera products, I am excited to share this timeless wisdom…”

He was kind enough to send me a box of Lumavera products. They are stench free. I suppose when writing about a beauty product I should say, ‘fragrance free,’ but if you have ever smelled Noxema you are nodding your head..

The creams feel great and are giving my face the 24/7 emergency response it needs and may even deserve after all I put it through.If you want to do your face a favor, visit the website:

Greece — off the Grid

September 24, 2011

Vacation planning should be completed months before the journey. Thus, my friend Susan and I agreed that we would not complain when our last-minute plans to visit one or more Greek islands went awry. How bad could it be? The entire country is historic. Being in the euro-zone, our credit and ATM cards would open doors to all amenities.

We were locked into the last week of August, because Susan was extending a business trip. I told her it was not auspicious that my frequent flier program had many openings for Athens that week. As far as accommodations, anything remotely affordable was booked for every island we had ever heard of. Forget Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, and any island that merited at least a page in the guide book. Boldly, we selected an island glossed in one paragraph: Ikaria, site of Icarus’s burial. Was the Greek god’s flaming finale a metaphor for our tardy planning? Every hotel and guest house had ample room. Why didn’t anyone else want to go to Ikaria? “They booked early,” we groaned, “and are joining the beautiful people on Santorini.”

Missing in Athens

Susan and I agreed to meet in theAthens’ airport boarding area for our 40-minute flight to Ikaria. With just one flight a day, we were fortunate to obtain the last two tickets. I decided to surprise her and meet her earlier. She must be dawdling, I thought, so I moved from the baggage claim area to a café where I would be sure to see her walking down the concourse. She must be shopping, I thought, so I moved to the departures gate. The plane took off without Susan, and I strained to recall how we were supposed to get from the airport to our hotel. She had said something about a bus.

The airport, open a few hours for the daily flight, is a barn with a luggage belt. I could have carried all the luggage from plane to belt in the time it took luggage to arrive for forty passengers. In that time, I ascertained there was no bus. As Susan had the phrase book, I searched for an English speaker. The car rental man found a taxi driver who was willing to take me to the village of Armenistis  for “just” 70 euros. “Sixty,” I sputtered feeling as fleeced as the sheep on the surrounding, barren hills. The setting was Biblical; my mood was not.

Wild ride to the Aegean Sea

After a hundred or so hairpin turns on gravel, mountain roads, I realized that 60 euros was a deal. Every village of four or more houses has a tire repair shop. Approaching Armenistis, the only clue I had to our hotel was a photo on the website. And there it was, Atschas Livadi Beach Hotel. Our room, clean and simple, was forty feet above crashing waves. We had read about the deadly surf, but we were there for wading. It was difficult to leave my balcony view of the turbulent ocean to stroll twenty feet to the restaurant.

The hotel’s terrace restaurant has a similar ocean view. John (pronounced I-o-an-nis) who grew up on the island is prepared to cook to order from 6 a.m. until midnight.  The moussaka was splendid, and I learned to pay 2 euros extra for tzatziki to slather on bread. This is the cucumber sauce used on gyros.  John’s recipes, handed down through the generations, take full advantage of Ikaria’s bounty. He uses produce from his farm, locally made cheese, locally baked bread, and locally slaughtered goat. For 10 euros, I feasted above the salty sea spray. Fortunately, I was too full for dessert, for John does not serve dessert. He offers melon for what he calls a “finish.”

Arrival of an adventuress

In bed, I had a passing thought about Susan, but was too quickly in the arms of Morphes to fret. I woke about 4 a.m. surfing on the sound of waves and feeling more relaxed than I had in years. I woke again at noon and ambled to the terrace for my morning coffee. Susan appeared looking refreshed and unencumbered. A delayed flight out of O’Hare put her in Athens 30 minutes after the plane to Ikaria departed. Being in an island mood, she flew to another obscure island,Samos, had a lovely fish dinner and no problems finding an inexpensive, clean room. She enjoyed a four-hour ferry ride from Samos and caught a bus to the hotel.

She ordered white beans with a spicy tomato and vegetable sauce and laughed about her luggage, somewhere between Chicago, Newark, Munich, Athens, and Ikaria. She had her bathing suit in her backpack and I loaned her a tee-shirt.

We were on the beach by 1 p.m., just a forty steps down from our room. For 5 euros a day, we could rent two beach chairs and a thatched umbrella. A beach bar offered cold drinks and snacks. The weather was perfect for swimming, or in our case, wading, and we did not see a cloud. We were happy that the beautiful people were on Santorini, whose beaches were undoubtedly more crowded and with bodies that would make us feel we should jog instead of eat, read, and yawn.

Back to basics

That evening our conversation drifted regrettably to finances. John told us that the closest town had two ATMs. One was broken and the other was out of money. Therefore, we should go when the bank was open. The hotel does not accept credit cards. For 40 euros a night for both of us, we were not inclined to complain. It was a 20 euro taxi ride to the bank. One way. Susan was short on euros, but I had enough for us both if we adhered to our main objectives: sunbathe, wade, read, eat. We had a little refrigerator in our room, so we decided to dine on the terrace only for morning coffee and our evening meal.

The next day, a kindly taxi driver delivered her suitcase for no charge. We hiked ten minutes to a micro-mini mart for crackers, cheese, olives, yogurt, Nutella, and peaches. Two days later we hiked twenty minutes in the opposite direction to the picturesque village of Armenistis for similar provisions and postcards. We learned that Nutella and yogurt make a fine breakfast, and that there is something delightfully Grecian about eating cheese, olives, and peaches on a beach Homer would have immortalized in verse.

We could have hired a car for 50 euros a day and seen Ikaria’s other attractions: ruins of ancient baths, radioactive mineral springs, a castle, an archeological museum, more idyllic beaches and flat tires. Another option would be to spend a few nights in a remote cottage owned by the hotel. It was just an hour and a half hike, John explained and required a guide. He looked us over. “Make that a three-hour hike.”

We settled for doing what we had come to Ikaria to do: relax. We agreed that we have never relaxed so completely. Perhaps the relaxation factor contributes to the Ikarian’s unusually long life-span. Ikaria is one of the world’s few “blue zones” according to New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner. He discovered that Ikaria has the highest percentage of 90-year-olds on the planet – nearly 1 out of 3 Ikarians live to their 90s. They have 20 percent less cancer, 50 percent less heart disease, and almost no dementia.

Ferry to Athens

After six cloudless days and more than ten books crossed off our reading list, our luck ran out on the ferry. Our only option for returning to Athens were deck seats on a six-hour evening sail. While Susan struggled with mal de mer on a cold and windy deck, I passed through the passenger lounge with longing. Carpeting, comfortable seats, a lovely lounge – all for people who planned ahead. Despite the gift shop and other amenities of a hotel, the ferry had no Dramamine. Susan turned greener. We arrived in Athens after midnight and, no, the hotel was not within walking distance as advertised. The taxi line was shorter than we had feared, and we were soon settled in the ancient city with a real tourist agenda.

“I want to see the Acropolis,” Susan said, “but I’d skip it for another day on Livadi Beach.”

Amused at first at her cultural blasphemy, I realized I agreed. After Ikaria,Greece will always be a beach surrounded by mythic cliffs and majestic waves.


June 4, 2011

Murder in Positano

or why I killed my inner accountant


South of Naples, Positano is one big cliff rising from the Bay of Salerno. The town’s one road winds, turns back on itself, loops around churches and villas and trees that have been here since donkeys determined where the road would go. The advent of the automobile gave Positano to the world. Yet, despite metallic din drowning whispery breezes, I have not found a corner of Positano that lacks an avian chorus. Perhaps natural selection increased the volume of birdsong to give visitors the music they did not know they missed until they arrive woozy and white-knuckled from the hairpin road fromNaples, vacation nerves jangling, inner accountant snapping, “You paid a lot for this, and you better get your money’s worth.”

Thanks to a friend of friend, I am not paying for this. The friend once removed rents guest rooms or apartments in his 17th Century villa that clings to the cliff. He had no paying guests scheduled for the time I was there. If I had considered paying for this, my inner accountant would admonish that I had regressed to that irresponsible child blowing her allowance on bubble gum.

The power failed after the housekeeper left for the night and after my host called to say he was delayed inSwitzerland. I was alone somewhere in time, but not in this century. And that’s when I killed my inner accountant without remorse.

Light was fading, radiators were cooling. I rounded up candles, a down comforter, and a bottle of limoncello from an assortment of other interesting liquors, including grappa. I’ve learned to stay away from grappa, but that’s another story, something about serenading a tollbooth on the autostrada. From the salon’s library of books in four languages, I selected a book I have been meaning to read for twenty years. I passed the grand piano with the first sorrow I have felt over giving up piano lessons for gymnastics. Imagine playing Mozart with keys illuminated by the antique candelabra. Imagine playing Mozart looking over an iron balcony at the lights of Positano winking on below. So much for double back flips and tarnished team medals.

Something was missing. Dinner. I could walk uphill to an osteria or downhill to a trattoria, but I was in the Renaissance and truculent about leaving. Using ingredients on hand and cooking by candlelight in an old kitchen modernized with appliances was a hazardous pleasure. I boiled pasta in unsalted water — not a culinary tip, I simply could not find the salt. I sliced garlic, onions, basil from a pot on the kitchen terrace, a tomato and my thumb. The pasta was tasty, although I could not tell if the red stuff I was eating was tomato or blood. However, the dish did not taste unsalted, and that’s where I jumped off that train of thought.

In a brass bed, under two down comforters, I read Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own by the light of three candles. The limencello expanded my understanding of Woolfe’s premise, which evaporated by morning leaving me with a personal premise. A room of one’s own in a deserted villa is a decadent delight.

I woke to the hiss of radiator, redundant because my face was warm from sun shining through the terrace’s glass doors. I drifted into the fragrance of sea air and roses and looked down on the bay. Fishing boats and yachts looked like bathtub toys. The cliffs on both sides have mythical grandeur. Is this a scene Homer envisioned when he wrote Ulysses?  On the terrace, generously blooming potted plants and meandering vines thatched a privacy screen. I sat on a wicker chair and felt as if I were sitting in the lap of God. My spirituality is broader than Judeo-Christian, so I took off my nightgown, lay on a lounge chair, and gave my body to Apollo until sweat dripped on terracotta tiles.

A long soak in a deep tub was like one of those optional tour excursions that cost extra. I paid for the bath with an hour that could have been spent exploring Positano. Like the gondola ride inVenice, it was worth it. Green marble tiles, little chandlers flanking the vanity mirror, a warming rod. Toilet and bidet are up three stairs and through an archway. A round window provides a sky view for mundane duties. But in the tub, light was diffuse and so was birdsong and so were my thoughts except for one. Showers are for hotels; in a villa, one bathes. After replenishing hot water for the third time, I realized that it would be considerate to take my host to dinner to compensate for the gas bill.

And where was the mysterious host, caught in a Renaissance of his own? While waiting for pruny skin to smooth, and dithering about what to wear, I heard footsteps, whistling, and a short burst of celebratory piano music. The mystery man had survived the autostrada and was happy to be home. Now that my inner accountant was in rigor mortis, I felt no shame in calculating how many relatives I would have to fleece to make him an offer on his villa.

John Steinbeck wrote, “Positano bites deeply.” He used the wrong verb.  Positano burrows. It takes root in your soul and leafs out in memories too dear to have appraised.



January 13, 2011


The act of throwing someone or something out a window

I know.

The Daily Word has become less daily as I try to focus on the positive while feeling smothered by negatives. I have defenestrated everyone in my life who annoys me, and that cleared a lot of space. Now the main person who annoys me is me. Imagine living without scapegoats and with the belief that to defenestrate myself would be a tragic waste, or so my dogs imply by their excitement every time I return from work, the store, or even the mailbox across the street.

Yesterday, with nothing to do but watch the on-going drama of two dogs with one bone, left over from the Christmas ham, I thought of the Italians’ New Year’s celebration of throwing everything they don’t want out their windows. Wow. Much more fun than bagging up discards for Vietnam Vets and leaving the bags neatly tied on my porch every second Tuesday of the month. I could break old dishes, worn out toys, and several village littering laws all in one toss. And, if I bagged a corrupt politician with the old Farkle dice, that would be a bonus.

But when all the unwanted things are defenestrated, I would still be left with unwanted parts of myself. On the (almost) eve of my 67th birthday, I confess that I have a lot of work to do on my life work of being a good and useful person. Sigh

Maybe that is why a photo on FaceBook made me smile so wide I felt my face crack side to side. A red bird surrounded by snow. Probably a cardinal. The comments got mixed up with my cousin’s reference to a BILSIL and my inquiry as to the meaning. A BILSIL is that rare bird, a brother in law’s sister in law, but in the world of FaceBook, that red bird is now a BILSIL, a rare bird from down under who has a pocket like a ‘roo. I wanted to post the bilsil because it is a lovely sight on a snowy day, but it has vanished from FaceBook.

But not from my spirit. Yesterday, I saw a bilsil. That memory will not go out the window. It is little things like bilsils that help balance the negatives when the clock is ticking close to 70.

Sheets and Screws

September 7, 2010


My Labor Day project was not onerous, but made me re-think the shopping experience.  A cabinet door hanging askew revealed that of a three-screw hinge, one screw remained. It lay on the top shelf beside crystal dessert dishes inherited from my Great Aunt Ruby. It was an inconsequential bit of hardware, but I know more about screws then crystal. I found my Phillips screwdriver and reattached the hinge, noting that one of these years I should dust the crystal. But why? I have never subjected guests to the potential shattering of precious glass circa 1910. I will pass that fear on with the complete set of crystal to a granddaughter. If she breaks it, she will not be haunted by the formidable Aunt Ruby. She had no children; she did not understand that the dynamics of fragility shift farther to the “oh well” with every pregnancy.

The least I could do was buy two more screws and properly attach the hinge. Shopping. Ugh. But Kohls is close to Sears and I have been meaning to treat myself to a new set of sheets – and I had a 15 percent off coupon for my entire purchase. Humm, I needed a teapot, too, and some greeting cards.

Kohls card section did not offer a single “welcome to your new home” card. If it did, no clerk was within a  barn-size vicinity. A blank card? No. Kohl’s does not understand the value of white space. If they did, they would not send me an email every day. Actually, they send it to my spam folder along with emails from everyone else I do not care about.

On my way to teapots, I was blindsighted by an adorable dress, size six-months. Alivia has a lovely wardrobe. Even so, the dress is in the mail. My sighs of satisfaction carried me through the aggravation of finding exactly two styles of teapots, both with confusing pricing. I picked one, assured I could get the price at check out. The floor clerks were still wearing their invisibility cloaks. On to sheets. Only two white sheet sets in acceptable thread count. More confusing pricing. I opted for the “buy one, get one free” hoping I could get a 50% markdown at checkout for one set of sheets.

The checkout girl was multitasking: cell phone, land line, cash register, bagging.  Inserting my two price questions was akin to shoving my size 7 feet into my sister’s size 5 shoes. No one was pleased. I did not know if the prices were acceptable until she handed me my bill. Fortunately for her, her manager, the district manager, and the brand itself, the prices were acceptable.

 I thought of going to “customer service” to complain, but I needed to save my energy for Sears. Three little screws. How hard could it be? It is a small Sears, one I have found manageable before. Standing dumbfounded in aisles devoted to screws of every imaginable variety, I knew I could never watch another Bob the Builder cartoon without flashbacks of incompetence. But Sears has first responders. I’ll never think of them as “clerks” again. One was beside me before I could burst into tears and patiently narrowed down the world of screws until I had exactly what I needed. Three screws that would perfectly fit my hinge: 17 cents each. No charge for the counseling.

Now I know why men hangout at Home Depot and Sears hardware and are seldom seen at Kohls. Women are stronger emotionally and have more patience. Women who shop, that is. Being one of those few women who fail to thrive at malls, I should get a Sears charge card and burn my Kohls card.

I would, you know. I really would – except my local Sears does not carry little dresses, size six months.


May 19, 2010

The Daily WORD is EARL

The last line of a long e-mail sent by Eileen, a charity president, to a potential donor ends with a question, but not the usual, “Will you send us a generous donation today?”  

The charity is Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, a cause my father championed for years. So, it felt absolutely right to read it for the first time on my porch while I was watching the birds.  In addition to my sorrow Earl is no longer with us and my pride in a father who lived his life well, I saw in the email a model for philanthropy. I prefer people causes; my father found more hope in rehabilitating birds of prey. Yet, the model for philanthropy is the same. Here are some excerpts from Eileen’s email:

Earl was the most wonderful supporter we ever had. I loved that man dearly. He appeared at our door probably 15 years or more ago. From that point on he did everything he could do to garner support for us and to contribute to us.

I once said to him “ I don’t mean to be rude but why are you doing this?”  “People do not give us money like this and I just don’t understand why you picked us?”  He said that he believed in what we were doing. That he had checked and that our reputation was without complaint and that we didn’t waste money on overhead and we were not part of the regular political establishment and that we did what we said we would.

He said he was tired of giving his money to groups that didn’t even try to do anything for themselves and he was tired of whiney people. So from now on he was giving his money to a group where something was actually done.

He bought us a badly needed van. If we needed a piece of equipment, he researched it and then bought it for us, he sat on our board of directors and kept a real scoundrel off from some of the key questions he asked the guy. In fact the guy was so uncomfortable with Earls 3rd degree that he asked did I have to have him on my board—I said that was not open for discussion.

At Christmas Earl wrote all his friends and asked them to send us a donation in lieu of a gift for him and when he died he requested donations come to us.

He was a man who did what he said he would and he really believed in us and stood behind us.

Did you know Earl?


He was, as they say, a tough act to follow – but he left enough birdseed on the path that “getting lost” is no excuse. Applying Earl’s standards to charities I have been involved with, BUILD Chicago comes closest to meeting them. The organization rehabilitates urban youth in jails and gangs.

Thanks to Earl, hundreds of healed raptors were released into the wild. It is time I stop throwing money in charity sink holes. Through BUILD, I can release healed youth into society.


May 6, 2010


After going to bed at the responsible hour of 11, I could not turn off the movie in my mind. I could not pause it or rewind it. I thought maybe it would make a book if I could just straighten out the plot or find a theme other then Misery. It started at the roller skating rink when I was nine and thinking life was amazing until I got home and learned my grandmother was dead. Then scenes shifted to various funerals. I inserted a morning in Positano for a sunny respite on a Mediterranean terrace.  Then I was off making mistakes. I contemplated them like a nun with a rosary. The first decade, I did that terrible thing at Girl Scout camp. The next decade I hurt someone who loved me. The third decade I made a major stupid life choice.


 Time for comic relief – but I could not think of anything funny. So it was on to soul deadening betrayal and grief. How does thirty years ago feel like yesterday at midnight?

I got up, turned on computer, and cancelled tomorrow’s teaching assignment. I took a sleeping pill and let the dogs out so they won’t wake me later. I look forward to sleeping in tomorrow. To doing what I please tomorrow. I anticipate morning sunshine and coffee on my porch and watching the birds if the dogs don’t scare them off. Tomorrow I will be the writer that I am and not the teacher I am not.

My little victory is this:  I ripped my mind from the fangs of the memory beast. It will cost me a day’s pay. A good investment, I think.


No more “I think.” A day’s pay is a fair price for a good night. It is sad that it has taken six decades to find a way and have the means to tame the midnight memory beast. Is that a subplot? The rising action peaked when I got up and popped a pill. In lit classes we called that a climax, but I am not going off on that predictable tangent. It’s falling action now. Sleep and a good day tomorrow. Stiggerink and her dogs peacefully progress through one bright May day. I’ll leave the “Ever after” in fairy tales.

The theme is this: I am blessed.


May 5, 2010


Tiramisu was invented in the early 1970s in Treviso, Italy, a little Venice with canals and art. I ate it at the restaurant that invented it, Antico Ristorante Beccherie, and wanted to lick my plate. Getting the recipe was a googling chore, but I prevailed. I found it. I made it. I survived. Now, I am waiting for my family to taste it.

Tiramisu means pick-me-up – and I’ll have to pick my family off the floor when they realize I cooked instead of picking up a carry out. So here it is – European measurements translated into American.

Tiramisu Originale

12 servings

(for 6 servings, use one pie dish and half the ingredients)

12 egg yokes

2 ¼ cups granulated sugar

2 lbs mascarpone cheese

48 lady fingers

4 cups strong espresso

½ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

Brew espresso and pour in shallow bowl to cool

Whip egg yokes with sugar until stiff

Fold mascarpone cheese into beaten eggs and sugar to make the filling

Dip 24 lady fingers into the espresso, but do not soak them

Arrange lady fingers in two 8 or 9 inch pie dishes

Spread half the filling over the ladyfingers

Arrange another layer of lady fingers dipped in espresso on top of the filling

Spread the remaining filling over the lady fingers

Sprinkle with cocoa powder

Serve chilled


May 1, 2010



Word found in  a blog for people who love travel and art. Jane McIntosh produces audio guides to Europe’s art treasures that are as detailed as a postgraduate course, and her blog is peppered with fascinating information that does not make the guidebooks. She has a particular fondness for Italy and is preparing an audio guide to Rome’s fountains.

In restauro is Italian for “under restoration,” a disappointing notice when re-visiting old loves or making a pilgrimage to a work of art discovered in a book or recommended by a friend. Michelangelo’s Moses was in restauro so long, I thought the statue’s plastic drapes would outlive me. When I finally saw the blinding behemoth of polished marble I had to admit it was worth the wait.

Livia’s house on Palatine Hill has been in restauro for so long, I wouldn’t believe in it if not for my travel companion Joan who saw it twenty years ago and has been trying to get into it ever since. Every trip to Palatine Hill includes a snarly snapshot of the in restauro sign on Livia’s house. Rome news articles give conflicting reports on the availability of Livia’s house to the common tourist. Before my next trip to Rome, I’ll email Jane. If she doesn’t know, who would?

I’ve never met Jane, but I’ve liked her ever since a minutely detailed visit to the Vatican using her guide Yesterday, when I read about her visit to Fontana dei Tartarughe (Turtles Fountain) in Piazza Mattei (which was in lavoro – being cleaned) I knew my season of en restauro had passed. To hell wilth peeling off the layers of desire that distance me from being the grandmother of my expectations – the one who stays home and is always available.

I want more of the grit of travel and the grime of Rome. I want to enjoy a riso gelato beside the turtle fountain one more time, knowing it will not be my last splash in my favorite fountain.  (My ritual includes washing my gelato sticky hands and face in the fountain.) Jane did for me what I would allow only a trusted friend to do. Between the lines, she admonished, “It’s spring. You should be in Rome.”

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