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Italian Arias MAG
My parents died on a transatlantic flight.All their lives they had lived in a small Massachusettscommunity, and it was their first trip out of the country.We'd talked about it for weeks. My father was extremelyconcerned I would forget to use coasters while they were gone.Even though none of our furniture had significant value, mostof it had been passed down through the family and thus beendubbed "family heirlooms." It wasn't until I visitedmy rich friend's house that I found out what a real familyheirloom was. I liked ours better. You could eat onthem.
My family was extremely fastidious. It was alwaysmy belief they'd only had one child because they feared havingmore might lead to a clutter of bodies in the small livingroom. But I'm being overly harsh and critical, as always. It'swhat my uncle Alphonso says is my biggest fault. And he knowsme better than anyone, including my husband.
I wasstaying with my Uncle Alphonso when I learned my parents haddied. The airline called and a recording told my uncle hisbrother and sister-in-law had passed on. After gently tellingme about my parents, he called the airline and told themexactly what he thought of them: "A bunch of pretentiousjerks who only give common courtesy to first-class passengers!People who tell me through a cold recording my brother isdead! Leaving me to explain it to my niece! She's onlyseven!" After he hung up I spent hours crying in hisarms.
When I couldn't cry anymore, my uncle fed meantipasto. I always loved watching him eat; food would getstuck in his thick, black mustache. He looked like thestereotypical Italian-American, with his curly black hair andblack mustache, gulping massive quantities of his wife'scooking.
They were my only relatives after my parentspassed on, and the State of Massachusetts informed me I was tolive with them until I turned 18. I'm ashamed now of how Iacted. I screamed at my aunt and uncle, telling them I didn'twant to leave my friends, my home, that I loved my parents, Ihated them and I hated the way their house always smelled liketomato sauce. But my uncle simply picked me up, screaming,thanked the social worker and carried me into what would be mybedroom. He tossed me on the bed, and walked into thebathroom. He emerged a few moments later with an airfreshener. "This should help you with the smell," hesaid, and kissed me on the forehead. "Now calm down andthen we'll have dinner." And that's when a special bondformed between us.
I loved him so much. When you'reseven, you still believe most of the adults in your life areinvincible, and could never be wrong. Uncle Alphonso drove acab. When I was about ten he took me for a ride after I hadreceived my lowest grades ever and was convinced I would dropout of school and drive a cab like him. We sat in that damncab for nine hours and spent most of that time listening toscrawny businessmen with little wire-rimmed glasses tell myuncle how to do his job. I hated it. I went back to school thenext day with no complaints and wrote my first attempt atfiction. I wrote about the day in the cab, and my teacherloved it so much she asked if she could put it on display. Itold her no because I didn't want to belittle my uncle's job,one that I knew he hated. So I didn't gain any fame, but itdid convince me that I wanted to be a writer.
But inhigh school, the inevitable happened. I began to worryexcessively about what everyone else thought. I learned forthe first time what a nut my uncle was considered by theneighborhood. And when I stepped back and took a look at ourhome, I realized he was more than a little eccentric. To beginwith, he sang on the toilet. Most people sing in the shower,but my uncle told me you can't hear the acoustics of thebathroom as well in the shower because of the steam. So hesang on the toilet. Every time. I remember the night myboyfriend snuck into my bedroom. It was all romantic, and wewere both caught up in the moment, when all of a sudden weheard, "Non piu andrai, farfalloneamoroso!"
"What is that?" heasked.
"My uncle," I said miserably. He wassinging from "Le Nozze di Figaro," his favoriteopera. Then we heard the toilet flush, and my uncle humming ashe left.
"Your uncle sings on the toilet? He singsItalian arias?"
"Yes," I admitted,hanging my head in shame.
He started laughing, and Itold him to go home. He went, still shaking withlaughter.
But that's not all. My uncle had more strangehobbies, things a little too out there to be mereeccentricities. He was a diligent student of sorcery. It allbegan when a woman in black handed him a pamphlet she got outof his cab.
"She told me, 'There are otheroptions, you know,"' my uncle said. "And I thought,Wow, you're right. Maybe the reason I get so bored with mywork is because I have no outside interests. I'm going to givethis a try." That "try" led to an obsession. Iwas probably the only one nominated for the homecoming courtwho knew every one of the witches' sabbaths. Once other kidsfound out, our house was almost always covered with egg.People I used to consider friends called me a witch behind myback.
My uncle found out people knew about his love ofsorcery, but instead of allowing himself to be a freak hermit,he became a freak evangelist. He told the neighbors of thebeauty of sorcery and how much happier they'd be if they'donly expand their minds. The teasing grew worse at schooluntil I cracked one day and went home with tears streamingdown my face. I opened the door and screamed at my aunt,"Why can't he just be normal? He's killing me! All thekids at school hate me! I hate him!" Then I turned aroundand saw my uncle standing behind me. He had the most hurt lookon his face. In his hand was a bag.
"Foryou," he said, looking at the ground. "For thewitches' sabbath."
I groaned and turned my back. Istomped into my room and slammed the door, dumping the bag onmy bed. I opened the leather-bound cover of a thick book andfound an inscription: "To my budding novelist. This wayyou can write down everything that fills your mind and yourdreams. We love you, and know our hard work is going to thecollege education of one who will be the best-selling authorof her generation." It was in my uncle'shandwriting.
A few hours later, there was a knock on mydoor.
"I'll stop spreading the sorcery stuff. Ihad no idea," he said softly, his voice filled withregret. "I just wanted them to understand. I'm sorry.Dinner is ready." He started to close the door, thenopened it again. "It must be hard to have been thrustinto as strange a world as mine."
He started toclose the door again, but I stopped him, wrapping my armsaround him. I apologized for everything.
By the end ofdinner it was decided my uncle would stop his public practiceof sorcery but would continue in private. I spent the entirenight writing the story of our own personal sorcery, which Idedicated with love to my uncle. It was published in a veryreputable magazine - my first publication.
I spent thenext years studying hard at the University of Massachusetts atAmherst, where I met my husband. I was arguing with my Englishprofessor after class about the unfairness of his grading.After giving my little sermon, and earning an F, I whirledaround and bumped into a boy behindme.
"Move!" I snapped, pushing himaside.
"Who's she?" I heard him ask theprofessor.
He approached me the next day after class.This was after I had begged the professor to let me drop theclass, but he'd told me I had made my bed and now I had to liein it. As I opened the door, I was totally in my own world ofanger when I ran right into the boy again.
"Whyare you always in my way?"
He looked me right inthe eyes and said earnestly, "Have dinner withme."
I looked into hisblue eyes, and thought, This might be one of the onlyattractive blond men I've ever seen. "Okay," I said,calming down.
We met that night, and the night afterand it wasn't long before we were seeing each other all thetime. He was the first guy I had been really involved withsince the guy who heard my uncle sing on thetoilet.
One night at dinner, he looked across the tableand said, "Marry me."
Shocked, I replied,"Can I think about it?"
"Sure," hesaid. "But you are coming home with me,right?"
"Yeah," I said, taking severalsips of water.
"Why don't you stay the night thistime? You always leave. Maybe it'll help you make up yourmind."
Later at his place, he headed to thebathroom. Suddenly I heard: "Non piu andrai, farfalloneamoroso!"
He was singing on the toilet. And that'show I decided my answer was yes. I wrote this story, one ofmany, fulfilling my uncle's dreams and my own.