Musical Chairs

I had a love affair with a Steinway piano as a teenager that ended in a bad break-up because I wasn’t willing to commit.

Now I'm struggling to convince my kids to practice their musical instruments (saxophone for my son; piano for my daughter). They're horrible at practicing -- and I set no example. But every time I see a piano, a magnetic force draws me to it, and makes me want to play when no one is looking. Or better yet, when no one is listening.

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A Room of His Own

Whenever I try to write, I stare at the blinking cursor on my alabaster screen, and beckon it to inspire me with a new topic or a new story. It rarely does. So, inevitably, I start searching through the files in my computer of pieces I wrote long ago but either never managed to publish or never had the courage to show to an editor. 

This piece is one of those. I'm publishing it here because it's one I want to be able to dig up in the future and show my son, Luca, who will turn nine this June. I still sneak in on him at night and stare at him as he sleeps. But, these days, I'm marveled at the length of his limbs and the baby fat rolling off his beanpole body. It's in those quiet moments at night while his face is rid of a grimace towards his sister or a sneaky grin towards me that I see the same, lovely boy who will always be my "Uca." He shares a room with his sister now, and I think he'd much rather have a room of his own as he did when he was two, before she came along.

Here's the piece, written almost seven years ago, when we were living in Brussels, and when I still felt like a very new mother with a very new baby:

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Piano, Piano al Pianoforte

In Italy today, whatever is other -- or, not Italian, but foreign -- is coveted and cool. But is it necessarily better?

Of all our Roman friends, we are the only family sending children to the public, Italian school. Everyone else has their child enrolled in the French, German, Swiss, British or American school. Romans want their children to speak another language, and they seem convinced that English, French or German is only going to be learned at a foreign school in Rome as a toddler or on a foreign-exchange program overseas as a teenager. On the basis of what I hear among Romans my age when they speak English today, I believe it. And as much as I want to think that this handicap in the Italian curriculum is changing, my son's report of the second grade English being taught in his class is discouraging. However, shouldn't there be value in mastering Italian at the local level? Why shirk one of the remaining strong institutions of Italy when it's free and around the corner?

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