Old Sicilian Proverbs

italian vs sicilianMy husband, who I fondly called the Sicilian, is not referred to as having an Italian heritage, because his grandmother would rise from the grave and curse me.  Technically Sicilians are Italians, but don’t try to tell them that. They are a people and culture unto themselves.  And per my Sicilian, his family was steeped with myths, adages, and possibly even a curse or two.

After Katrina destroyed the home of his elderly Aunt Anna, his mother’s only sister as cry and laughshe was usually described, this little old Sicilian lady came to live with us.  When the devastation of Katrina, which submerged her home in 9 feet of toxic water was mentioned, she would say:  You have to laugh to keep from crying.  Wise words. Words that apply to many situations.

crows on houseGod forbid Aunt Anna  saw a crow. A crow  sitting on your house meant death would visit soon. If this adage were true, I should already be dead. Perhaps I am and I don’t know it.

Once a baby, twice a child was her excuse for spilling food at the table or her need for help taking a shower, and getting in and out of the car. This does not make sense at first, but contemplate for a few minutes how as adults we become child-like as we age. Can’t imagine anything? Perhaps the mention of adult diapers will help.

She burned black candles. black candlesDoing this was tantamount to calling down the wrath of God on someone. A curse would be put on you and your family should you ever burn a black candle against someone.  Doing this would result in being shunned. I don’t understand how this works, but these first generation Sicilians in America did so you better not burn any black candles.

birds in rainThe birds are crying for rain.  Of course these squawking birds better not be crows. (See crow comments above.) I still don’t understand  how birds making noise meant rain was coming. I heard birds making noise after a storm passed and asked if these birds were crying for rain? I was told, “None essere in asino intelligente.”   Aunt Anna said that meant, “Don’t be smart,” but I think a  better translation might be, “Don’t be a smart ass!”

Next is  a handy phrase that Aunt Anna’s Grandfather, who was a Big Boy by anyone standards, often said. When when asked if he wanted a second helping, his response would always be, “Si, dopotutto siamo in America.”  Yes, after all we are in America. 
America was the epitome of wealth, success, and the good life to these first Sicilian immigrants to New Orleans. So, when in doubt, have another cannoli, after all you are in America.





Goodness Gracious, Snakes Alive!

cypress kneesI’ve lived in the muggy, buggy swamps of south Louisiana for seventeen years. I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with fire ants, stinging caterpillars, mosquitoes the size of small drones, and wasps, but mercifully I’ve been spared snakes until this year.

One encounter is more than enough for me, and any more than that means we have an epidemic of  Biblical proportions. This year the seven plagues Pharaoh suffered is nothing compared to my snake encounters.

My first snake encounter occurred about three weeks ago. I was enjoying a leisurely swim in our pool, alone, because the Sicilian does not enter the water until it reaches bathtub heat of 90 degrees. He and Spot the Wonder Dog were on the patio playing chase the ball. (Spot chasing, the Sician throwing.)

Suddenly the Sicilian stands and yells, “Come here, Spot. Come here right now.” Heimg_1689 opened the back door. “Get in the house.”

Spot runs into the house and just before the Sicilian entered I yelled,  “Why are you going inside? It’s nice out here.”

“There is big black snake here. I don’t want Spot to fool with it.”

The door snapped shut. My response  was spoken to the wind, “What about your wife? You’re leaving me out here alone when a snake is rampaging through our yard?” I was not a happy camper having been left to fend for myself.

The following week I left for Nebraska where it was so cold snakes were still hibernating. On a late night phone call to the Sicilian, he told me, “Tyler (a thirteen year old neighbor boy) came over this afternoon and said his mother needed me. I followed him across the street. When I asked him what his mother wanted, Tyler said, ‘There’s a big black snake on our patio and my dad won’t be home for two hours, You have to get rid of it.’”

“So what did you do?” I asked.

“Tyler checked snakes on his phone,” the Sicilian said, “and we identified the beast as a rat snake, not poisonous. His mom wanted me to kill it, but I just chased it off their patio with a broom into the creek.”

“So, you helped her, but abandoned your wife to deal with the snake in our back yard?”  I think he sensed the venom in my voice 1200 miles away.

snake by house 2And then…  a week later I opened the front door to walk to our curbside mail box and was greeted by  a huge snake less than three feet from the door. My scream broke the sound barrier. Spot had run past the snake toward the mailbox; I yelled for her to return inside, which she did. If she hadn’t obeyed, she would have been on her own. I love the little mutt, but when it comes to snakes, it is every man and dog for themselves.

The Sicilian rose from the couch to check out the commotion. We cautiously went outside. I was poised to run. We watched the snake quickly slither past a flowerpot and disappear. The Sicilian moved the pot, no snake.

“Where is it?”

“Not to worry,” says the Sicilian, it’s harmless rat snake.

“Harmless? To who? My heart has been stressed to the max, my throat is sore from thesnake by house screaming, and I’m a nervous wreck.”  Seconds later I discovered the three-foot snake curled up looking mean and evil ten feet from where I was standing.

The Sicilian said, “It won’t hurt you,” as he beat feet into the house and shut the door. So much for my visions of the Sicilian being my snake charmer.

I am now on high alert.

(By the way, the 3 dead snakes I have seen on my daily walk with Spot are the only good snakes I have seen this year.)