I’m two years old and wailing, facing the camera in the black and white photo. Underneath the white curlicue edge, my Uncle Joe has written “I fall.” My fear of heights is deep-seated and so visceral it probably goes back to a life before this one, the result of a misstep on a cliff road or a sacrificial hurling into a fiery pit. In this life, it will be another’s fall from a tall building, the man that jumps from a window of the Hotel Warwick on Sixth Avenue that will cause me to go into labor after I walk through his scrambled brains. I deliver my son ten weeks early, like the fulfillment of an ancient, unfathomable decree.
“Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself / In dark woods, the right road lost” –Dante Alighieri
Can’t believe I got lost in the woods I have known since moving here in 1994…but I took a wrong turn with Titi and Sugar straining the leash, and “found myself” wandering in a wood that was unrecognizable since winter’s deadfall! Meanwhile, my husband planned to surprise me at the bay farm. Usually you can see the vast expanse of meadow pretty easily–but I was wandering in the woods nearby, clambering over deadfall, lost. After making three circles, my husband became alarmed and suspicious of a guy he saw emerging alone from a different wooded area. With lurid pictures of finding me dead in the woods in his now terror-filled brain, he took down the guy’s license plate! I finally found my way out and stopped at the home of some neighbors. Our dogs played and her husband even gave me some “special” cookies! I looked at my phone and saw that my husband had been calling (this is very unusual–he considers a cell phone an electronic jail bracelet and never uses his). I called back and we met up at the entrance to the woods. Still laughing over the license plate takedown!
I kept a plague diary during the hideous year of 2020. Here’s a random August 31 entry:
“Chris made me laugh so hard tonight it felt like a multiple orgasm. Deo gratias.”
“Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.” -Rose Franken, author and playwright (28 Dec 1895-1988)
In honor of Mother’s Day, 2021….
Titi morphs into a mob boss by pretending the rib bone in her mouth is a cigar….
The fact is that Titi is totally a boss! Her low, somehow manly bark warns me against going downstairs, talking loudly and closing the bathroom door.
I obey, because…she’s the boss.
Pandemic year. Also the year we said goodbye to our two rescues, Lucky and Frenchy. Lucky died in January, 2020, and Frenchy followed in September. Lucky and Frenchy were seventeen years old. We had had them for thirteen years.
Both Lucky and Frenchy will be featured in my new book about rescues and mutual healing. Not sure of the title yet, or when the pub date is, but it is now in the works.
During the pandemic year, I finished the dog/healing book, and Chris and I shot a segment for a compilation film about quarantine. It was Frenchy’s last role; he played “Custody Dog.” The film is called With/In and should be out next year. Our segment is called “Nuts.” I wrote the scene, Chris directed, and the production sent us the equipment. We then shot the film ourselves in two terror and laughter-filled days (on one very late evening, I thought I had forgotten to turn on the sound–after five flailing moments of desperation, I realized I had just turned off the sound five minutes ago. The result of a fourteen hour day!).
I was dreading the coming dark, lonely winter. And we were both mourning Frenchy. But I thought about the other dogs, the ones who no one else was adopting. And I went to Petfinder, and found Titi, a six year old female from Louisiana who had spent her entire life in a cage, giving up litter after litter. When CENLA rescued her, they found her harness growing into her flesh. Titi was a fear biter as a result of her abuse.
No one was adopting Titi. Then, we were! And we asked Wonder Rescue Lady Sarah Kelly if there was another dog that could come as Titi’s companion. She told us about eight year old Sugar. We adopted them both, and their stories will bring a fitting end to the book about rescues and mutual healing in a year when the entire world was grieving.
We’re both double-vaccinated and ready for 2021…
For Marianne Leone, Thanksgiving goes back to the future
By Marianne Leone GLOBE CORRESPONDENT NOVEMBER 24, 2011
My parents were immigrants from a tiny southern Italian mountain village where no one had ever heard of the American Thanksgiving holiday. Anyone who had could surely relate to the idea of a big family dinner with special food.
They had all kinds of festival dinners with specific foods for that particular celebration: La Vigilia, the feast of the seven fishes, for Christmas Eve; ricotta pie and homemade ravioli for Easter; pizzele and torrone at Christmas. So my parents got it, this idea of a traditional American menu. They just had no idea of what was a traditional American menu for Thanksgiving.
In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Italian food had no superstar status among foodies, because foodies had not been invented. In that pre-Internet, pre-cellphone, three-networks-only era, what Americans knew of Italian food was pizza, Chef Boyardee canned ravioli, Franco-American canned spaghetti, and aerated tricolor spumoni. My Italian parents knew that they were now living in America and that they should celebrate Thanksgiving like every other American. And they did. They celebrated the holiday in a way that would make any artisanal food-craving locavore genuflect in tribute.
The meal would begin with an antipasto of pungent black olives and delicate fennel dipped in extra virgin olive oil dotted with dried red peppers. Next would appear a sublime tortellini in brodo, the intense yellow broth made from fowl, not chicken, followed by hand-cut pasta in a light marinara sauce. Then a roasted capon, accompanied by broccoli d’rabe glistening with oil and garlic, along with roasted potatoes flecked with herbs. Red wine made by my father accompanied the meal, with figs and nuts as the grand finale, along with strong coffee and homemade anisette.
As the years went by, my parents discovered they had been doing it all wrong. Maybe they saw somewhere the iconic Norman Rockwell painting of a family serving a bird twice the size of the puny un-American capon they roasted, or maybe something on television wised them up. Whatever the source, it finally dawned on them that capon was not the right bird for this celebration – a castrated rooster was not exactly a symbol their adopted country would relish. The main course of a real American Thanksgiving was supposed to be a Butterball turkey the size of a toddler, acquired not from Larry the local butcher, but from the supermarket, wrapped snugly in plastic with an additional plastic embedded thingie that popped up to tell you when the turkey was done.
Roasted potatoes were replaced by lumpy mashed ones, with skimpy amounts of milk that my mother added cautiously to the mix, since she considered milk to be borderline poisonous, and equally stingy amounts of butter (not quite poisonous, but suspect). Already-prepared, already-flavored stuffing came from a cellophane bag, cranberry sauce was pried from a can, the ridges still showing on its quivering, alien-like form, and mushy canned peas doctored with mushrooms and onions replaced the broccoli d’rabe with garlic. There was also canned gravy, since my family didn’t have a clue how to make gravy from the turkey. When we sat down to this meal, we finally had an American Thanksgiving, even if no one actually liked the meal and we all ate mostly the pasta my parents refused to give up instead of the actual turkey and trimmings.
We had a lot to be thankful for and we gave thanks for the bounty that was bestowed upon us in America then in that Camelot era, our aged grandfather the most fervently. An entire meal you could eat without teeth! Viva L’America!
This year my husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving dinner and I sent up a trial balloon to the rest of the family for a retro menu re-creating my parents’ pre-Butterball one. The pasta got no argument, but then it’s never been off-menu. And broccoli d’rabe was an easy concession. But the elders are all gone, save one aunt, and my younger brother and sister have only vague memories of the pre-American Thanksgiving. They and their non-Italian spouses and children demand the mashed potatoes and stuffing and gravy that they have always had on that day. Figs and nuts for dessert seem paltry to them, penitential even. The tortellini in brodo passed with a shrug, but I got outvoted on the bird: It will remain the big boring one. Anyway, I wouldn’t even know where to look for a castrated rooster these days.
Our good friend Dan Habib asked us to be a part of his new documentary on testing and disability. We were more than happy to be involved–testing was an important factor in our battle to get our son Jesse his basic civil rights, as outlined in my memoir, JESSE. Below is a preview of the film, which will have its premiere at Ashland Film Festival on April 12, 2018.