Salvatore Ferragamo, Where Art Thou?

The iconic 'Vara' shoes - tangledpasta.net
The iconic ‘Vara’ shoes – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

  Entre nous:  I have a secret harbored inside of me.  The scent of leather ignites a fire within my being.  The lush, smooth feel of vero cuoio makes the hair on my neck spring to attention.  The leather-lined interior of a handcrafted sculpted Italian shoe makes my heart skip a beat.  The sensuous feeling of a luxurious Italian leather shoe wrapped under, around, and over my feet satisfies a primal cry inside my soul.  For the truth of the matter is, it offends my sense of aesthete to don a pair of non-leather shoes, except, of course, when walking on a beach, or skipping through sand.

My father nurtured my affinity for all shoes leather at an early age.  He had learned the art of shoemaking and repair at the age of ten when he was apprenticed to a master shoemaker in his village in Italy.  He railed against “those-a cheap-a junk-a shoes” made of plastic “manmade” materials.  He worked only with the finest leather.  As a result, I have worn leather shoes from infancy on, knowing that leather lining helps feet  breathe, whereas synthetic lining promotes foot sweat.

Next weekend my niece is getting married.  For months I have searched for leather shoes to complement dresses purchased for The Wedding weekend.  Having bought  beautiful nude leather shoes [leather lined, naturally], I was on the prowl for black patent leather shoes.  After months of exhaustive searching, I finally decided to shell out the big bucks for a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo ‘Vara’ pumps. Pre-pregnancy, my foot size was a 9½ medium.  Life was good.  Post-childbirth, my foot morphed into a 9¾ wide.  Life became hellish.  I had moved from Houston back to smaller town living in The Heartland where the nearest Nordstrom is 2 ¾ hours away.  Thus, I began shoe life anew through online ordering.  My feet have been caressed well by my Sesto Meucci and Attiliio Giusti Leombruni footwear.

Having read the shoes’ reviews, I noted several complaints that these Ferragamos lacked the perfect fit of yore. After discussion with the designer customer service representative, I felt confident, took the plunge, and spent $425 for the shoes.  Within 48 hours, my exquisite Ferragamo shoes arrived.  As I carefully unwrapped them, I inhaled the essence of the leather interior.  I reached for my trusty shoehorn, a vestige of when my father was alive and still working in his shoe shop.

Carefully I slid my foot into the black beauty. My little toe was cramped against the side of the toe box.  I wedged my ankle into the back of the shoe.  It felt like a tourniquet had been applied.  The left shoe had a similar, albeit less painful, effect.

As I gazed upon the Ferragamo beauties, I realized each shoe was the equivalent cost of one night at the upscale hotel for The Wedding.  I returned the Salvatore Ferragamo shoes, and ordered a non-Ferragamo pair of black leather, leather-lined shoes.  I learned long ago that comfort and style in leather footwear is critical to healthy, happy feet.

Ciao for now.

 

Memorial Day Rain

 

Memorial Day at my parents' monument - tangledpasta.net
Memorial Day at my parents’ monument – tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

The rain awakened me this morning.  The loud “plunk, plunk, plunk” of fat raindrops on the patio furniture refused to abate so I could further indulge my drowsiness.  Once again I had slept through the clock radio blathering of NPR informing me of tragic events, violent acts, and other random tales from around the world.   I rouse myself out of bed to escape hearing about the latest act of depravity

Yesterday we had mulled over attending the annual Memorial Day parade in our town.  It’s a humdinger of a parade:  Colorful and lively with our hometown high school band playing joyously as we cheer and applaud along the parade route.  It reminds me of The Music Man. Yet on this soggy Memorial Day morn, the parade will not materialize.  As a former band member myself, I understood how much effort went into the parade, and how local folks counted on the parade.  I felt a twinge of sadness as Mother Nature put the kibosh on today’s festivities.

The day before we had decorated my parents’ monument.  The Veterans had already placed a U.S. flag next to my father’s name.  Shortly after my father’s death seven years ago, the Veterans fastened a large plaque to the back of the pale pink marble headstone acknowledging his military service during World War II.  The monument was installed twelve years ago after my mother’s sudden death.

The sedum I had planted several years ago and the sedum I planted last autumn with my Houston friends Juliet and her husband Mark, himself a Veteran, looked strong and vibrant.  The grossly overgrown shrub that Mark had furiously whittled into a tall narrower shape exuded renewed health.  Now we hung two small hanging baskets of cheery red geraniums onto the ornate trellis next to the headstone.  We brushed off grass clippings the caretaker’s lawn mower had tossed onto the foundation.  We picked up bits of Nature’s debris scattered around the site – twigs, weeds, and leaves.  We performed the same acts for my late uncles’ monuments next to my parents’.

On Decoration Day, as it used to be called, my father used to tend the graves of his in-laws, and that of the grandfather-in-law he never knew, but who, like my father, was an Italian immigrant.  A profusion of red, white, and pink impatiens annuals carpeted the grounds of our departed.  My father nurtured the sandy soil, treating it regularly to prod it into growth.  His was the green thumb of the quintessential Italian gardener.  My own genetic makeup lacks the green thumb gene; consequently, I plant perennials instead.

At least there are bright red geraniums and glossy green sedum, an American flag, and a perimeter swept clean surrounding my parents’ monument.   Thus on this overcast Memorial Day, come rain or shine, I laud our Veterans and the work they do.  Thank you.

Ciao for now.

Forever Friends

My lifelong friend - tangledpasta.net
My lifelong friend – tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

Admittedly, I was careless about friendships in my halcyon days of youth.  I traveled a great deal, worked a lot, and socialized much with whoever my cadre of friends were at that moment.  Instead of corresponding via letter, this was, after all, pre-e-mail/

Skype/FaceTime, I exchanged letters with friends for a while, but then was off and running wherever.  This pattern persisted for a number of years.  Some individuals I should have shaken off immediately, others I should have kept close to my heart.  While I cannot rewrite my past follies, I can revel in the enduring friendship with my dear friend Juliet.

After completing my undergraduate degree in English, but not in Music, I traveled for several months in Europe.  When the funds dwindled, I returned Stateside, and took a job with a travel agency. A year of sending others on trips was enough for me.  I resolved to finish my Music degree, and thus returned to IU.  The day I entered the classroom, I encountered a lively group of music students.  The leader of the pack seemed to be a blond with a quick smile, spontaneous laugh, and Southern accent I’d heard in only in Westerns.  I took a seat across from this spirited individual.  She smiled at me, and I back.

“Hey!” she said, “I don’t know y’all.  I’m Juliet.  My eyebrows rose.  “I’m from Houston.”  That explained the distinctive twang.

She played the bassoon; I sang.  For the next several years we shared a lot, drank a bit, performed often [in the School of Music, you naughty readers], and shared our secrets and dreams.  She introduced me to her orchestra friends; I introduced her to my then on-again, off-again inamorato, a pianist. The last time I saw her at IU was shortly before she left for a two-year gig with the Guadalajara Orchestra in Mexico.

I never did complete my Music degree; I had become enamored with Linguistics.  Off to graduate school I went.  Several years later I wound up in Houston, visiting a former linguistics classmate.  Although I knew Juliet was in Mexico, I phoned her parents anyway.  Her father handed the phone to her.   The gig hadn’t achieved nirvana.

The short version of this tale is that I wound up teaching at the University of Houston; Juliet completed her Master’s degree in Music at Rice.  Thanks to Juliet and her parents, I had a second family in them during my ten years in Houston.  After I married and returned to The Heartland, crying every step of the way, Juliet sent me university job notifications in Houston, would call to talk with me about them.

While my marriage didn’t last, hers did.  I chose to raise my daughter in The Heartland around my family, but Juliet and I remained fast friends.  We visit each other once a year in different cities, talk on the phone, and communicate through social media.

We haven’t really stopped talking since 1977.

Ciao for now.

 

Decades

Envelope containing a birthday card to me from my darling daughter  - tangledpasta.net
Envelope containing a birthday card to me from my darling daughter – tangledpasta.net

For almost two months I grappled with the fact that I was facing another one of “those” birthdays.  I mean the kind of birthday that kicks off a new decade in one’s life, in this case, in my life.

When I turned eighteen, I was wild to turn twenty.  Nineteen felt like a mere holding pattern until I reached the magical age of twenty, thus jump starting my so-called life.  Or so I thought.  The twenties were filled with advanced degree pursuits and travel abroad, mostly to Italy and to Greece.  Actually, that decade was quite grand in its own way.

My decade spent in my thirties consisted of still living in Houston, marriage, relocating to the Midwest, motherhood, adjustment, and separation [in the marriage].  It was a decade of incredible highs [motherhood] and crashing lows [the demise of a marriage].

The decade of my forties saw me focused on rebuilding my life professionally, while simultaneously creating a secure, joyful life for my child.  There was the renewal of love with a former flame, and happiness loomed large on the horizon.  As the decade drew to a close, I became edgy about commencing a new decade in my life.  I still saw myself as the starry-eyed twenty-four-year-old with unending Italian spirit, alive with endless possibilities and vigor.  Everything came to a screeching halt when my beloved Mama suffered a massive stroke and died five months before my birthday.

I ceased worrying about “What if” and began asking “Why not?” when it came to each birthday.   As my dear Mama was fond of observing, “Consider the alternative.” I choose life.

Ciao for now.

Stormy Weather

In the 1980’s I lived in Houston, Texas. Having lived through glacial cold and snow throughout Midwest winters, Houston’s sunshine and great blue skies seduced me.  The ravaged palm trees from last year’s hurricane may have looked paltry to the natives, but to me the trees were exotic.

Cover of "The Night of the Iguana"
Cover of The Night of the Iguana

My Houston euphoria continued, until the humidity of late April hit me like the heat out from Tennessee Williams’ play, The Night of the Iguana.  I sensed a summer of humid discontent when, after stepping out of my morning shower, I began to perspire. Houstonians had managed to air-condition much of the city.  However, this became a moot point as I sat in stalled traffic on Houston’s labyrinth of freeways. Exhaust fumes only added to the oppressive heat.

Nothing, though, prepared me for Hurricane Alicia that summer.  In Indiana I hunkered down in safe places during tornadoes, but hurricanes were a different sort of animal.  Friends clamored for me to weather the hurricane in their home.  My cat Bruno was a concern; he despised car rides. “Brunsie” liked new places even less.  Friends counseled me about taping large X’s across my apartment windows.  I dutifully filled up the bathtub with water to flush the toilet in the event of a power outage.  I raided supermarket shelves, filling my cart with cans of tuna, sardines, peanut butter, bread, crackers, anything I could open with can openers. Since my particular brick building was on higher ground, with my car parked under a carport nearby, I stood a good chance of riding out the hurricane barreling towards the Gulf coast.

Hurricane Alicia on August 17, 1983
Hurricane Alicia on August 17, 1983 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Three days later, Holy Hell broke loose.  My first clue was Bruno’s pacing like a non-stop vigilant sentinel throughout the apartment.  He was impervious to comfort, treats, and toys.  Terrifying winds gained momentum. I was sure B-52’s were landing when these winds tore off the carport metal tops.  The sounds were deafening, like a locomotive coming through our domicile.  For hours the hurricane raged.  Bruno’s pads were moist, a further sign of terror for us both.

Cat napping
Cat napping (Photo credit: popitz)  [This cat strongly resembled Bruno -tangledpasta.net]
    At some point, I fell asleep.   The telephone rang.  My first thought was we hadn’t lost power.  Groggily I picked up the receiver.  I realized an eerie calm had settled over my neighborhood.

“Honey!  Do you know that your side of Houston is in the eye of the hurricane?” my frantic mother announced.

“It’s alright, Mama.  This is the first quiet in hours.  I love you.”

“I love you too.  Call me every couple of hours to let me know you are fine.”

“Alright, Mama.”

The aftermath of the hurricane was equally unpleasant.  Flooding, erratic power, downed live power lines prevented leaving home. Houston is below sea level; the houses lack basements.  This means that flooding shakes vermin and snakes from their underground lairs.

Hurricanes terrified me. Eventually, I packed up my cat and moved back to Indiana where we retreat to the basement during tornado warnings – no vermin in sight.

Ciao for now.

 

 

Remembering Sparkle, Part I

 

Sparkle the cat – tangledpasta.net

The summer Anjelica turned six, she informed me she wanted a cat of her own.

“But we have Lulu, our Houston cat,” I protested.

“No, Mama.  Lulu was your Houston cat before I was born.  I want a cat all my own.”

I sighed.  “Let’s look for cats to adopt,” I suggested.

“I drawed a picture of the cat I want,” announced Anjelica.

She handed me a drawing of a predominantly white cat with gold ears, a gold tail, and several gold spots on its body.

“Sweetheart, it will be hard to find a cat that looks exactly like the one in your lovely picture.”

“Let’s start looking, Mama!”

I felt this was a doomed search from the get go.  The odds of finding a cat with such particular coloring specifications seemed like searching for a needle in a haystack.

We went to the local Pet Refuge and Animal Control.  In the meantime, I queried colleagues and friends.  There were a plethora of black cats, gray cats, tortoise-shell cats, and variations thereof, but no cat remotely resembled the one of Anjelica’s dreams.

Finally, one Saturday morning, we drove to the county Humane Society.  Rows and rows of black, gray, black and white, gray and white, tortoise-shell, and calico cats greeted us with meows both sweet and frantic.  On a ledge in a huge cat cage, was a heap of kittens, stacked on top of one another snoozing the sultry summer day away.  From the bottom of the kitten pile, a gold-ringed tale lay draped over the edge of the ledge.  Upon closer inspection, Anjelica noticed a white foot.

Sparkle the cat – tangledpasta.net

“Mama!  Mama!  My cat! My cat!  She’s there!” Anjelica almost pulled the tall cage door open herself before the volunteer reached for it.

Gently, the volunteer moved each kitten until she reached for the gold-ringed tale, white-footed cat.  She placed the kitten in Anjelica’s waiting arms.  The kitten deigned to open its green eyes for a moment, then fell back asleep purring.

“See her gold spots, Mama?  See her gold ears?  Her white paws?  She waited for me.”  Anjelica paused, peering at the kittens pink triangle nose.  “Her name is Sparkle.”

“Welcome to the family, Sparkle.”

Ciao for now.