Tuesday, November 11, 2008

It's Not Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings

I'm the Bona Fide Knitter and it's been exactly six months since my last confess . . . er, blog entry.

Where have I been, you wonder? Well, it was not to see the queen, but I did go to Italy and almost saw the pope. Before I give a full accounting of my absence I want to tell you just one small part about my time in Italy because the last time I posted to my blog was Mother's Day and there is a picture of my mother and me with Minnie Mouse in Disney World. It is only fitting that I start posting again with another mention of my mother before I get back to my knitting wows and woes.

One of the many pleasurable times I spent in Italy, was sitting by the pool at Castello di Santa Maria, in the Umbria region, where I stayed most of a week back in September while on a knitting themed vacation. The setting was idyllic. The Castello is high on a hill and overlooks the valley. The view in any direction is astounding. My travel buddy, Kathryn, and I shared a cottage on the grounds and our cottage overlooked the pool which is surrounded by fig trees, pomegranate trees and rose bushes. One particular afternoon the plan was to spend the few hours between one meal and another, or was it one excursion and another, by the pool, knitting. It was cool up on the hill, not swimming or sunbathing weather, but the sun was warm and inviting if you were fully clothed. At one end of the pool I arranged a canvas sling chair facing the sun with a garden chair in front to put my feet upon.

After baking in that direction for a short while I turned my arrangement away from the sun, having the sun against my back. The other women of our group were in lounge chairs along one side of the pool, a little distance away, chatting amicably about knitting and . . . I don't know what. They were just far enough away that their voices carried out over the valley much of the time.

The sun warmed my back through the canvas chair. I had a shawl draped loosely over me. My knitting needles began to get heavy and I rested the knitting on my lap for a while. My eyelids grew heavy. I remember Diego, our innkeeper/chef, coming out and walking to the opposite end of the pool. I saw him open the door to the little shed at that end of the pool before he made his way to a chair to sit down to relax far away from his guests. And then the music started.

Okay, I'm in Italy, in Umbria, at a castle in fact. The language I'd heard most for the past several days was Italian, loads of lyrical Italian. I was even beginning to understand more of it. The music began, a woman singing, her clear, rich voice enveloping me from invisible speakers. It seemed to be coming from the valley. Quietly, richly, warm like the sun, I was bathed in the voice of Natalie Cole, in English, singing The Very Thought of You. I am so sure Diego played that particular CD just for me that you need not even try to convince me otherwise--an African American lady singer for the African American lady guest. Grazie, Diego.

What he didn't know, and I didn't either at first, was that particular singer and those particular songs would evoke some wonderful and pleasant memories and feelings for me. The CD is Unforgettable: With Love. After the initial song it goes on to It's Only a Paper Moon, Route 66, Mona Lisa, Straighten Up and Fly Right, Nature Boy and Unforgettable, to name just a few. Yes, Natalie sings her father's songs and ends in a duet with him singing Unforgettable. I am on my first transcontinental trip . . . all the way to Italy! I'm lounging by a pool at a castle in Umbria no less. Natalie Cole sings Nat King Cole, the music of my childhood, the music recorded on 78s that my mother, Margaret (I called her Mar) and my aunt, Ruby, played and sang along with on the big Zenith console radio/record player we had in our living room in the three-story, brick and brownstone, row house I grew up in. Most of you were not around for 78 rpm records, but you've heard of them I'm sure. They were before 45s and 33-1/3s--not to mentioln eight tracks, cassettes and CDs. This was in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In the last three years I've lost both my mother and my aunt. Those songs brought Mar and Ruby there to Italy with me. I could feel their presence. Actually what I felt was that on some level I had my mother and my "other mother" with me on this marvelous trip to Italy. As I nodded off and on and the familiar songs washed over me, I remembered fun times back then when we were all young and they were like older sisters to me, my grandmother being the mother of all three of us. My mother was a young widow and my aunt hadn't married yet. Their planning parties, singing along with Nat King Cole and including me in the fun is a wonderful memory. What I thought there by the pool was, 'Look at me, Mar and Ruby! I'm in I T A L Y listening to Nat and Natalie Cole sing our old favorite songs. It's 2008! Who woulda thunk it in North Philly back in 1948?!!!'

I could go on and on along this vein, but I won't. It's a fascinating marvel to me and probably no big whoop to anybody else. The feelings come back to me just typing about it! It was a great day, a great time, a great memory. I dozed. I napped. I snored and woke myself up a couple of times! But the music played on, over and over. There are over 20 songs on the CD and it played more than once. Diego dozed at his end of the pool and I dozed at mine. When The Very Thought of You came on again for the second (third?) time I roused myself thinking, 'This is where I came in.' Diego was gone. When did he leave? The sun was waning and I moved over to join the other women who were nice enough not to mention my snoring . . . that is until I asked, "Did you hear me snore?" It seems they heard snoring in stereo, Diego and I having both ends of the pool covered.

Diego, again I thank you. Grazie.

Bona Fide Knitter