Sunday, September 27, 2015


Both Mom and Grandma were religious fanatics. Like all Italians, to both women and some men, Saint Mary, Our Lady, or Madonna was the central figure in the religious philosophy of “Ya gotta go to church.” You prayed to the Blessed Mother, and as a child when told that, I used to think: “We talk everyday, even Dad talks to her, pray too?” Then it dawned on me there was another Blessed Mother!

Mom: “Did you do your homework?”
Me: “almost!”
Mom: “What do you mean ‘almost’? You better pray to Our Lady that you do it, or else!’ Which brings to me to a pet peeve, where did the Blessed Mother have the time to be ‘Our Lady’ of just about everything? Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Loretto and even Our Lady of the Snow! Was she the Virgin Mary too? And who was going around as Saint Mary?

Grandma had a shrine in her house; in fact I think the house was the shrine, dedicated to who else, and statues dotted her apartment and bedrooms, keeping a steady eye on me.

In one part of Grandma’s shrine was a bureau with a votive candle that was always lit, a statue of need I mention who, and a picture, it being a very dark room with no windows. Now this picture would creep me out. Yes for someone around seven, seeing this for the first time, brought some realizations alive: that we all die. The picture has a dead person, in a coffin looking up at the camera. It was taken in Italy, and was a major attraction for all young cousins to view when visiting Grandma, a kind of Disney World if you would, and when you realized what it was, you rode your shoes out of the room, sometimes running out of them to get away! The flickering votive candle constantly shifting the dark shadows, the dead guy looking at you, made for an atmosphere that sent shivers through my spine.

One particular day, my older sister and I were in Grandma’s bedroom looking for a statue of the Virgin Mary and I noticed the picture.

Me: “What’s in the picture?”
Sister: “That’s a dead person in a coffin.”
She started to say something else, but by then I was in the well-lit and happy confines of the kitchen, my nose deep in the refrigerator smelling salami and cheese.

Grandma made pilgrimages to Italy for orphan children and arranged bus rides to upstate New York to shrines. These were all pilgrimages as they say. Mom was content to stay at home: her pilgrimages were to my school, to visit one of my teachers who required her presence. Grandma could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by just conducting a tour of the house!

Tomorrow: The Sermon of the Buttons. (You’ll find it in the newest version of the New Testament, someday to be published)


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