The Great Clean Out

I am a lucky duck because of good friends -
I am a lucky duck because of good friends –

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi 

Last Saturday a miracle occurred on a non-spiritual level:  Our garage morphed from the state of something akin to Dante’s Fourth Ring of Hell into a place of large space and order.  I am not given to rhapsodizing about garages in general, but this is truly a garage to behold when those who had seen it even a year ago despaired of it ever being cleaned.  My coping mechanism, which some may term denial, was to stride purposefully to the car and vacate the garage as quickly as possible.

The cause of this celebratory garage cleaning had its origins in a revolting revelation:  termites.  We now have round bright green cylinders surrounding our house and garage.  Midsummer, we noticed the oddest formation of sand protruding from a crack in the cement floor of the garage.  Thinking it merely some strange anthill formation, I summoned Orkin, the company that we contract with year round to treat our property for wasps.  Unfortunately, I learned that those skinny formations were termites.  The specialists treated the garage, determined we were termite free in our house, and that I thought, ended the termite caper.

When Orkin treated the garage over a month ago, unbeknownst to us, the workers had shoved everything into a huge heap on the other side of the garage.  I was at a loss at how to rid the garage of five years of buildup, for the last time the garage had been thoroughly cleaned was five years ago for my daughter’s high school graduation party.  While the trash personnel despaired of how much they had to load on their truck, we were thrilled with much improved mobility walking across, around, and in the garage.

This time I had only ten days in which to purge the garage of clutter because Orkin wanted to be more than certain we were free of those chomping invaders.  Up to the plate stepped my erstwhile Secretary, Teresa.  She is well acquainted with my disc maladies in my back and how I cannot lift much.  The sun shone brightly that last weekend of September.  She, her husband, and two of their sons arrived, and we all set to work.  It took us almost three hours, but what a difference.  Her sons hauled eight large leaf trash bags out to the trash.  We loaded both of the trash cans high with debris.  We filled the big recycling bin to overflowing.  I offered them mechanical items I no longer use, as well as a bicycle, outdoor cushions and pillows that do not jive with our new porch furniture.  We laughed and talked last Saturday while we worked.  I kept passing out large bottles of Evian to keep everyone hydrated.  I marveled at the power of friendship, for I was grateful no end at their generosity in forfeiting their Saturday afternoon to help me.  I am most grateful to them and can only continue to thank them a thousand-fold.

Now, I think I’ll take a stroll in our clean, spacious garage.

Ciao for now.




Dreaming of Dayton, Part II

St. Mary's Hall and the Immaculate Conception ...
St. Mary’s Hall and the Immaculate Conception Chapel at the University of Dayton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

One of the pleasures of traveling to the Land of Dayton was the time spent with family.  While the overt reason for our journey to Ohio was to visit the outstanding School of Law at the University of Dayton, the covert one was family.  We are rich in family, and the opportunity to enjoy the company of Aunt Agnes proved irresistible.    In fact, Zia joined us in what proved to be a full day of U of D’s law program experience for admitted students.

I had not visited the campus since my Uncle Joe, a U of D Professor of Chemistry, passed away.    Knowing Uncle Joe’s love for the University of Dayton, it warmed my heart to know that we were able to explore his former turf.  He would have been pleased to know that his beloved university has grown so, while retain its academic essence.  Sharing the law day with Aunt Agnes was fortuitous too: She was elated to highlight aspects of the campus she knew well, for she herself was a U of D graduate.  Her reminisces of the life she and Uncle Joe shared with the U of D family topped off a tremendous day.

One portion of the day was devoted to a mini-class on complexities of the IV Amendment of the Constitution.  The law professor was not only witty in his discussion of the subject before the U. S. Supreme Court, he offered razor-sharp analysis of the fine line between salient facets of arguments regarding “search and seizure”.  I feared that my aunt might have been weary, yet this was not the case.  In fact, like us, she felt invigorated at the intellectual exercise the afforded by the mini-lecture.

After the law day, we drove around and through as much of the campus as we could. We noticed that quite a few of the fraternities and other residential houses’ occupants had spilled out on to front lawns to celebrate the Eve of St. Patrick’s Day.  Irish flags waved from porches rooftops as beer flowed freely.  While late on this Saturday afternoon, we steered the car to our aunt’s home in happy anticipation of her daughter and granddaughter’s arrival from Cincinnati that evening.

Ciao for now.

Che sara`, sara`

Dining al fresco -
Dining al fresco –











When I was a young sprig, my parents were the harbingers our Italian community’s news.  They knew who was ailing, in the hospital, had died, was visiting from of town or country, or was traveling, to name areas that incited Italian interest.  My father, who owned his own shoe business, kept me abreast of these and other Italian news breaking events.   My mother, whose community service and Catholic Church work brought her in touch almost daily with cutting edge events, also kept me informed.   From my earliest years, whether or not I believed myself to have a vested interest in the day-to-day hot-off-the-press-informal-Italian-Gazette news flashes, I as made aware.

And then a funny thing happened:  As I matured, the elders in my family began to die off, like great Roman gods.  With my own mother’s death and my father’s increasing dementia, I became the point person for hot-off-the-wire family updates.  There was a problem with this role suddenly thrust upon me:  Not only was I working full-time, I was divorced and raising my daughter without any help, financial or otherwise, from my ex-husband, in addition to overseeing my father’s care.  On most days I functioned on autopilot.  The immediate needs of my child and my father were in the forefront, as they should have been. Well-intentioned family phoned me constantly in the evenings after I returned from work, and on the weekends.  Finally, I had Caller ID installed to screen calls as a survival mechanism.

As the months and years rolled by, it became more challenging to know what was going on among Italian families, beyond my own, for my friends were also experiencing the deaths of their Italian shamans.  My full-time working friends became increasingly engaged in elder care while attempting to juggle complex lives.  We all coped, not always in exemplary fashion, but always honoring our parents, keeping them at the forefront of our efforts as we also attended to our children.

A dear cousin of my father’s died last Saturday.  His funeral was held on Ash Wednesday, an odd day for a funeral among Roman Catholics.  I did not even know of his death until late Wednesday afternoon.  I grieved alone, for not one of my local relatives called to notify me prior to our cousin’s funeral.  What I used to jokingly refer to as “The Italian Twilight Bark” has perished.  Yet I prefer to contemplate our late cousin dining sumptuously above with my parents on a hearty repast of Italian food.

Ciao for now.

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi