Jun 21, 2009

The sky's on fire!

I must have been 4 years old. My dad held me tightly as the sky lit up in technicolor explosions. I was terrified, but his firm grip and familiar smell of Old Spice comforted me and made me feel safe in his capacious arms.

Me and Dad, 4th of July, 1976
Me and Dad, 1976
The 4th of July evening celebrations catered by the American Embassy in Rome that year featured a barbecue and a firework show to which Rome was not accustomed to. We were among the hundreds of US citizens in the Eternal City, invited guests of the Ambassador that evening. An informal gathering, open house, they called it. All sprawled on the vast grassy expanse of the designated bucolic venue, everyone enjoyed the pyrotechnic performance. All but me. I wasn't having any fun. Those fireworks were scaring the hell out of me, I didn't understand their loudness, and I kept thinking the burning streaks would land on us, burning us alive. I had never seen such a fiery sight before.

I hid my face and curled up against my father's chest, damp grass underass and chilled toes in hand. If I shut my eyes, it'll stop, I kept mumbling, as my dad kept repeating, "don't worry," Easy for you to say. The apocalypse is ablast, and I'm not even potty trained.

I have patchwork memories of that otherwise festive night. I remember my mother not being there. She probably felt this had to be a father-daughter moment, us being the Americani in the family, and all. Or perhaps for another reason, the nature of which I know not. My assumption is that this was to be my dad's day with me, and she just backed out elegantly. I don't remember how long we stayed after, nor the food we ate before. I just have the recollection of that loud open night sky, alight with chrysanthemums of sparks and artificial stars.

It is an event that my father often reminds me of. I believe it was one of those bonding moments that inevitably happen between parent and offspring. Perhaps there, on that freshly mowed lawn that night, is where my father first felt the full weight of my child vulnerability. As he held my scared little being in his warm embrace, he probably understood how much a defenseless child is dependent on a father, on a pair of two strong arms and a soothing baritone voice. Maybe it made him feel good to calm me. And the relief was mutual. I was tiny and seeing the sky detonate in colors was a scary first for me. My dad's presence and his soft words of comfort made it all OK.

My dad's not too keen on emails. Until very recently, my father and I exchanged handwritten letters. He usually writes his on yellow lined notepad paper. His words are written in loopy rounded, large swooping characters. I have saved many of his letters in a special velvet folder, and I treasure them more than he can imagine. I keep one special one in my wallet. When my apartment got burgled (with me in the house: THAT'S something to be scared of, not fireworks!) and my handbag pillaged, I went straight to check not the monetary damage, but that the letter had not been dislodged from its space between the checkbook and the lottery stubs. It was still there. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

"The other day, July 4th, as we were finishing our phone call - I reminded you of that one time - years ago - when you had been afraid of the fireworks - and you replied 'yeah, but you held me in your arms, and you made it all OK.' Oh, Eleonora you don't know how happy I was that you remembered, and that you said that the other day. I love you so much, with all my heart - and I am so proud of you and of your life... (I'm crying now)..."

Every Sunday dad and I have an appointment. We talk on the phone. It's something we've done ever since I can remember. Sometimes it's a brief chat, sometimes it's a long marathon that lasts hours. We hardly ever exchange handwritten letters anymore, but that's alright. He is a loving father and a dedicated Grandfather for my son. He sends packaged boxes addressed to him filled with wonderful books in English, and toys, clothes and trinkets always accompanied by a sweet note and a few loving words for me too.

This summer my son and I will be visiting my dad in California. It will be my boy's first time on an airplane, his first time out of Italy, and my first intercontinental flight with toddler. We're both very excited and can't wait for our departure date. My dad though, seems to be the one who's the most anxious and giggly with anticipation for this trip. Phone calls and emails have doubled in these last few weeks. Sometimes we talk every day, exchanging short news updates or just for no reason at all other than hearing our voices. It will be a very important time for us, all together. My son's first encounter with his full American side of the family, and my first time back in the States as a mother. The new me in the New World. He is four and we'll be watching fireworks. History repeats itself.

I had forgotten that today is Father's Day there. We celebrate ours on March 19th, and it is a religious festivity besides being a family one. Reading a friend's post today reminded me that on the 3rd Sunday in June, in America, United Kingdom, France, India, Greece, Canada, Ireland, Japan, South Africa, Mexico and many other countries, daddies are honored and commemorated. We will be having our Father's Day barbecue later this year, on a sandy California beach somewhere, and it will include 3 generations.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I'm shooting fireworks for you here today. And my arms are open wide. It's all OK.

Me and Dad, 1976


  1. Lola, this is gorgeous, the vulnerability you express here, then and now, for your father. I look forward to your posts about your visit home.

    I'm curious. What does your dad do in California? If I'm being too pushy, forgive me. I'm wondering if the film influence came from him, or perhaps I should already know this.

  2. Beautiful. Brought smiles to my face. There is just something about a Fathers love. Cole is afraid of fireworks as well. We had to sit in the car together last year, with the radio on so we could watch the show. Scary about the burglary, but it also highlighted what was truly important. have a great sunday!

  3. Wonderful post, Lola! How exciting that you are going to see your dad and Little E. is seeing his Nonno/ Grandad.
    Will you catch up with Lori?
    If you do, please hug her for me, and one also for you.xx♥

  4. Lucky you to have him look over you even from afar. Your little one will love him. There's something special between gradads and little boys.
    Loved this post...

  5. This is such a beautiful story about you and your dad. The affection and love your dad is showering on his little girl is evident!

    I can't wait for your follow up write up when ypu get home ;)


  6. Oh how wonderful article dedicated to your dad, Lola. Loved reading each line you wrote and imagined you both. Should I say you're so blessed than me:) Enjoy the importance of today as much as you can. Ciao carissima.


  7. Dad's are the best. I've been blessed with two, due to my first passing away when I was 8 and my mother remarrying when I was 10. Both great men. I am blessed to have had them.

  8. What a beautiful post. I'm so glad you have such a wonderful relationship with your Dad and that your son and he will have that special visit together.

    Happy Father's Day to your wonderful father!

  9. Lola, this is precious and heart-wrenching. We need our dads and feel their absence even when we are all grown up. You will sweet moments again, soon, with your E. HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU AND THE REST OF YOUR POSSE.

  10. Your father sounds wonderful, and as a father of a beautiful daughter myself I can tell you first hand how much your relationship means to him. I am glad you are going to see him soon!!

  11. Okay, I'm crying now. That was ever so lovely. This past winter I almost lost my 88-year-old Daddy, but I brought him to my home to care for him, and he pulled through. I cherish that extra time that I was given with him. I love him more now than I have my entire life. We are forever Daddy's little girls, yes?

  12. Lola this was such a beautiful and really hopeful post.

    Handsome Dad and beautiful daughter.

    I love his letter.


  13. Lola, I found this very, very moving because you see I have a little girl as well (although she is now 27, she is still my little girl) and my son, "Big J", is 17. I was privilaged to see them both today on Father's Day and to say how much I love them and how proud I am of them - I'll be doing a post on this!
    But I feel for you so much because you are not together and I found your story so powerful about how much you love your father and vice-versa.
    It will be wonderful when you all meet up in California.
    I bet your dad is so very proud of you - I would be.
    My daughter 'got to me' a couple of years ago when she sent me a Father's Day card and inside it said, "Anyone can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a Daddy". Old Bluelights is a real softy you know! I could adopt you myself - God Bless - your Brit pal ~ Eddie

  14. Sweet, sweet memories. Your father is indeed quite handsome.

    Letter writing is such a lost art. While email is convenient I miss the thrill of getting a letter from a loved one.

    I'm still confused by your upbringing tho. You mentioned your were US citizens in Rome, but your mother is Italian and she still lives in the house where you grew up. I'm a very curious cat.

    Will you wave when you fly over St. Louis?

  15. Reading this post was total dejavue (which I apparently cannot spell) for some reason. It's a nice story. My dad was always trying to keep me from lighting myself on fire, not being terrified. :)

  16. Hi Lola - how wonderful this is. thanks for sharing with us. Aren't dads the bestest! And thanks for joining my blog. I hope to share many great things.

  17. What a heartfelt post Lola. Thanks for sharing it. Wonderful moments like those are to be cherished forever. I'm glad you'll get to see your Dad soon this summer. Hugs, Lucy

  18. I loved this so much! I wish we could be in California at the same time... I am going tomorrow! Hugs to you, my friend... and what a gorgeous man your father was, back in the day!

  19. Hi Lola

    This is a lovely piece of writing - are you going to send it to your dad?

    he would love it too...

    Happy Days

  20. Lola and her handsome Papa...such love, such connection there. What a truly beautiful post and a deeply touching tribute to a relationship that is so precious, so vibrant, so tangible. Oh, how E. will love being with his Grandpapa...and his Grandpapa with him, his beloved daughter's son...his flesh and blood. Too, too completely perfect.

  21. A very touching portrait of you and your father. And I also liked how your mother just backed out. Here in Italy - I know your mother is Italian - mothers don't back out so easily, the mamma mia culture being so strong.
    And yes, you both look gorgeous, and I don't know why, you remind me of Geraldine Chaplin.


  22. Oh Lola, this post brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of my lovely father who died a few years ago. It is so lovely that you and your son will be visiting your dad later in the year - I look forward to some great blog posts.


  23. This post really made me feel very emotional, you have paid a beautiful tribute to an obviously wonderful man.

    CJ xx

  24. What a wonderful post, Lola, what a powerful and beautiful testament to your relationship with your dad.
    I hope your trip over to the States will be filled with magic and wonder for all of you! xx

  25. Great memories, Lola! Love those photos x

  26. Thank you all for the wonderful comments and heartfelt words of love for me and my dad. He truly is a very special man. I treasured each and every one of your messages. Please forgive me for not replying individually to each, know that I would have loved to.

  27. What a beautiful memory, Lola. I can't help but feel so excited for you for your trip to California.
    All the best,

  28. Lola I am screaming 'I LOVE LOLA'.

    I just saw Catherine's picture above, oh my God I love her and I knew that you two would be crazy about her. Did you see the picturs of her dancing, she has the most gorgeous nose.

    Okay back to you and your pimple and my angle. har har

    You are very good at figuring out your own dream, but let me add in my two cents.

    A pimple relates to issues about your self-esteem and self-image. You are feeling awkward or out of place in some situation or relationship.

    To dream that you are popping your pimple indicates that you have negative emotions that need to be expressed and acknowledged. Those emotions that you are holding back are on the verge of erupting. And when you release them the poof sound will be a sigh of release.

    How does the angle fit babe?

    Love Renee xoxoxo

  29. You have me laughing my head off.

    You and your pimples and me and my very sporadic (they fell out during chemo) white pubic hairs. har har

    You could only be beautiful. Get those crazy thoughts out of your head. That is the road to destruction.

    I use to weight 130 for years and then after the kids I weighed 156 and then my sisters went on diets and so I thought I must be fat too and so you would be really proud as I have now dieted myself up to 217 pounds (with very few white pubic hairs).

    Also I think you felt better on the day of the dream because you have subconsciously come to terms with letting out the negative feelings; you are dumping those fuckers right into the trash. And poof (sigh) feeling better about the decision.

    Thursday sounds exciting.

    Love Renee xoxoxo

  30. Hello dear Lola,

    Your father sounds like such a lovely man. I love the photos of your cute little self!

    I hope you and your little man have a delightful trip. He's at the age where he may remember it, when he grows up. Wonderful!


  31. You are adorable in these photos! Great stories Lola. This is a exciting thing that your little man is going on his first flight.
    I wish the best for you and your son. Have Fun in California and enjoy the bond :)

  32. Oh my, I'm crying. You and your Dad have such a special relationship. It's wonderful that your can actually express your love so openly.

    I can't wait to hear the stories from your trip to California-- And pictures! Take lots and lots of pictures to share!

  33. What a lovely story...there's nothing quite like a father's love.

  34. Oh, so tender and touching. Thank you; I loved reading this. I'm wishing you a wonderful trip to California with your little guy and your dad. It's beautiful that you've kept up that connection to him.