Friday, May 10, 2013

An Italian Lesson

"Move, move, quickly!" she yelled at those of us who straggled behind. Her trademark black wig, her large, dark sunglasses, and the crimson red lipstick slathered on her lips gave her a cartoonish appearance.

"Sieg Heil," my friend, Kurt, muttered.

Her head snapped around to where we dragged our feet at the end of the line. "What was that?!" she demanded.

Kurt quickly answered, "Nothing, nothing at all, ma'am."

My head throbbed, my mouth felt like a dozen stuffed animals hibernated in it, and my stomach was already signaling revolt. Mrs. Wilty, our high school choir teacher and head chaperon of this senior year trip to Europe was known for her strict ways at school, but here on the streets of Rome she grew even more strident in her control and her admonitions.

Kurt moaned quietly. "Ohhh, my head." I nodded, but barely. It hurt too much. Truth be told, a small group of us had just made it back into the hotel two hours prior to our 7 AM wake up calls. The night life of Rome held too much fun for us not to unwrap that forbidden package. Although we were wily enough to outwit our sponsors, we were no match for the consequences of our revelry.

Mrs. Wilty and the other adult sponsors led the 40 seventeen and eighteen year olds past a cluster of older women sitting against the edge of a building where we were to eat breakfast. They were dressed simply, with sensible dark shoes and scarves covering their hair. They chatted animatedly among themselves, their deeply lined faces stretching into smiles as their hands helped to tell their stories with large gestures.

One who used a cane to prop herself into her chair chortled as the last of us sat at the outdoor tables near where they were, revealing a mouth about half full of teeth.

Mrs. Wilty made her way through the tables. "Each of you will get two fried eggs, bacon, and orange juice. Eat quickly, and clean your plates. We have to show our appreciation! Do NOT appear rude to the Eyetalians! We want the Eyetalians to like us!"

Although I couldn't see my face, I felt it turn green at the thought of the breakfast. Kurt's head drooped even lower as he braced his elbows on the table. "Do we have a problem here!" Mrs. Wilty barked as she stopped at our table. A feeble head shake No was all I could muster.

The breakfast plates were placed before us, a light brown moat of grease coagulating around each egg. I knew I could not eat it, although Mrs. Wilty was going from table to table to be sure everyone was finishing their breakfast. "Eat! Eat!" she admonished.

"Eat! Ea....ow!" she squealed and jumped before she stopped dead in her tracks and drew her hands over her rear end. Her mouth, outlined in that bright red lip color, made a perfect O.

The elderly lady with the cane slowly retracted it from whacking Mrs. Wilty's behind. Now she used that same cane to point to Mrs. Wilty. "You-eh," she said as she narrowed her eyes at the teacher. "Be-eh nice. Just-eh be-eh NICE." Her friends nodded in agreement and punctuated her words with rapid Italian assents. She held her stare and jabbed the cane once more at Mrs. Wilty. "Be-eh nice."

I am far removed from my 17 year old self in age and behavior, and I'm sure the elderly woman has long departed, but her voice still rings true. Be-eh nice. Just-eh be-eh NICE.

88 comments:

  1. Be-eh nice. That's the one single thing people need to learn in life, and the rest will fall into place. What a way to learn it, at your teacher's age, at the end of a cane in front of her teenaged charges!! Did Mrs. Wilty learn the lesson? Wonderful story!

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    1. jenny-o: Oh, it is something we still talk about when we get together! She was a little nicer, but she just had one of those domineering personalities. I still love to think of that little old lady~

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  2. Oh, my goodness. Your posts are always great, but you've outdone yourself this time. Thank you for passing on those words of wisdom.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie: Seeing your teacher get smacked on the butt is something that still stays vivid even thirty years later!

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  3. Dana Carvey as Church Lady: "Well, isn't that speeeeeeeeeeecial!" (LOL) Shelly Shelly Shelly... your story surprises me. I have always pictured you as prim and proper and it seems out of character for you to have been out there running around doing what the Romans do all night long! You must have been entering your rebellious punk phase. (Are you sure you want your teenage daughters to read this post? LOL) I know exactly how you felt the next morning not wanting to face food. I've been in that same situation more times than I can count - hungover and having to face breakfast with the in-laws, my new girlfriend's parents, etc. Somehow, I managed to get through my senior trip to New York City w/o "going there." I also have many horror stories about insecure, power hungry teachers who loved to throw their weight around and make life miserable for their students. Justice was served red hot on a platter when the wicked Mrs. Wilty got wacked by one of the locals. It surely is a timeless lesson for us all. Be nice. Just be nice.

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    1. Shady: My older self is much different than my younger self, that is for sure! I love how you say, "Justice was served red hot on a platter." That is a perfect way to put it!

      I will always remember her getting smacked, and the elderly lady who was brave enough to not put up with it. I hope to be like her~

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  4. Dear Shelly, as "Shady Del Knight" said about being nice, "It surely is a timeless lesson for us all." And quite frankly, I'm tickled pink that Miss Witty got her come-up-ence! Peace.

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    1. Dee: Another timeless lesson that always proves true is that you reap what you so, and she surely did!

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  5. What a wonderful post, Shelly! Isn't amazing where and how we learn such important life lessons? And now that little old Italian lady lives on, not only in your memory but also in ours! And what a great memory that is! So funny -- and yet so true. If we learn nothing else, "Be-ah nice!" will get us through many of life's challenges!

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    1. Dr. Kathy: That is so right. When all else fails me, I hope I remember that- Just be nice! In the end, it just can't fail.

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  6. "...we were no match for the consequences of our revelry." That, and "be-eh nice" are two of the most important lessons young people will ever learn.

    Blessings.

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    1. vanilla: Oh, and what a valuable lesson learned on both counts. I'm so glad they came to me when I was young instead of waiting until I'm old(er).

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  7. What a great and funny story! And what a wonderful opportunity--a H.S. trip to Italy!

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    1. Felt Family: It was truly unforgettable!

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  8. I've seen many old women like this in Italy. Great story.

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    1. Stephen: My only regret is that I didn't get to talk with her. I would have loved to-

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  9. A simple lesson. Easily understood. What a great memory!

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  10. Great post and it did make me smile. Your teacher didn't sound very nice and how funny that she was being struck with the old lady's walking stick. Love it!

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    1. thisisme: It really was so funny, although no one dared laugh when it happened!

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  11. I love how you got the Italian accent in there! Definitely a great lesson!

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    1. Sherry: I'm sure my teacher didn't easily forget it~

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  12. I was laughing out loud reading this for one thing imagining your rebellious self:)
    Miss Wilty was probably doing what she thought would punish you all but she in turn is the one who probably learned the lesson:) I love the spunky older lady. B

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    1. Buttons: The tables were certainly turned on her! I love that little old lady~

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  13. That is so funny what happened to your teacher, kind of, I guess it was not, for her, poor Mrs. Wilty. How humbled and embarrassed she must have been. Sounds like she maybe needed to be brought down a notch though...fun story as usual Shelly.

    I just got a package, just 5 minutes ago, a healthy treat, says right on the bottom, "No trans fats"!! Thank you so very much! I'm waiting for Tom to get home and then we'll try them!

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    1. Jamie: I'm so glad you got your package! Those things may not have trans fats, but they do have a lot of sugar. They really are good, though. I hope you all like them.

      And every time I think about her getting whacked on the butt, it makes me laugh, even all these years later.

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  14. Shelly:

    Coming from a Mediterranean family myself, two things hit home for me: one was your description of the elderly women sitting around speaking "animatedly." Uh huh. We Mediterraneans are known for speaking with passion and emphasis. ;-) Two was the elderly woman who whacked your teacher in the behind. I can envision my grandmother doing just that, as she warned someone to "Be-eh nice." Lol.

    A fun post. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Janette Dolores: I think I would love living in Italy- never mind all the natural splendor, just being around the people would be enough!

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  15. Oh, and your choice in titles is a great pick!

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    1. Jannette Dolores: Thanks- it seemed to fit!

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  16. Poor old Mrs. Witty. I hope she learned something from that trip. It made me nauseous just reading your description of those eggs. Yuck!

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    1. Nonnie: To this day, I still can't eat fried eggs. Ugh!

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  17. Oh that was well done. What a great story. Of course now I want to know more about Mrs. Wilty. Why she was like that and so forth...

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    1. Therese: She was a very talented choir director, but oh, so tough.

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  18. That's classic. I love it. Italian women have compassion for the hungover.

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    1. Missed Periods: And I was so thankful they did~

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  19. As a grown woman who is still thinking about how I had too much fun at girls' night on Wednesday, I can sympathize with your teenage self. Hibernating stuffed animals indeed!

    I can't wait until I'm old enough to whack cranky strangers with my cane.

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    1. Amy: Actually, I think it might be pretty fun, too. Maybe that could become my pastime in retirement...

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  20. This made my Saturday morning :) you were quite the handful!!

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    1. Optimistic Existentialist: And that is an understatement...

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  21. What a beautiful lesson, energetically delivered by that Italian woman! So did Mrs. Wilty learn her lesson??? :-)

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    1. Lorna: She was a little more subdued the rest of the trip, but not much~

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  22. Great story. Only another mature person could have put her in her place.

    Sometimes people in authority don't always realise that there are other eyes looking at what they are also doing. And sometimes they don't realise that not everyone is scared to confront them. Be-eh nice was a lovely ending to this great story. Lovely post.

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    1. Rum Punch Drunk: So true- it wouldn't have been effective at all from anyone else. And thank you!

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  23. Shelly this is good. Loved reading the post. Hugs.

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    1. Just Be Real: Thank you, Grace- hope things are going well for you!

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  24. I know that a person can be "caned" in Singapore for breaking the code of law. We were a little worried about that when we were considering a possible move there. I never thought about getting the cane in Italy! Every once and a while, I think we all need to have that Italian lesson. Just Be Ah Nice!

    I'm so glad you didn't have to eat those greasy eggs. Yech.

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    1. Jenny: To this day, I can't eat fried eggs. It's kind of ironic that a cane was used to teach a lesson in kindness! I don't think I could ever live in Singapore because I would probably break the gum chewing law or something...

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  25. I don't believe in forcing people to do anything with a cane. Forcing kids to eat is just as bad.
    Happy Mother's Day to you !

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    1. Munir: It's not something I would have done myself, but it was a once in a lifetime sight. Happy Mother's Day!

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  26. Brilliant and well remembered! As all good lessons are. But, your older self no longer parties to the wee small hours? Then again, neither do I! Well , not too often anyway!!

    Great post :-)

    xx Jazzy

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    1. jazzygal: Ha! Thank you, friend. Hope your weekend has been terrific!

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  27. Happy Mother's Day, Shelley!

    A great post. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Nas: I hope your Mother's Day has been wonderful, and thank you!

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  28. Dearest Shelly,
    "Be-eh nice"☆☆☆ Oh, reading your post always involves some lessons and thank you very much for the another wonderful post through your experience, my friend. Haha, I never tried fried egg even though I have eggs more than I should. I never seen a teacher using a cane but I think being strict and a bit harsh is different(^^;)
    I hope you had or having a wonderful Mother's Day with your family (especially with your gorgeous daughter)♡♡♡

    Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan to my American friend, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. Miyako: Oh, thank you for the lovely wishes, my dear friend! It has been a wonderful day here. I hope it has been a beautiful weekend for you, as well. Fried eggs still make me a little nauseous! I think I will continue to stay away from them for the rest of my days.

      Thank you so much for stopping by, and loves and hugs to you from Texas!

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  29. I'd never turn down bacon, eggs and OJ! :)

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    1. Julie: Normally, that would have been a good breakfast, just not that particular morning!

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  30. Hello! Very nice blog and interesting posts, great atmosphere.
      Have a nice day. :)
    Welcome to our blog about photography. +
    I hope you also enjoy it with us.

    Greetings!

    "Do what you love is not even that, but anyway"

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    1. Patrycja: Thank you- I'm headed over to yours right now-

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  31. Normally, I'd never turn that breakfast down, either!

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    1. Lydia: Still can't do fried eggs. Those are ruined to me forever...

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  32. First of all, before I completely forget this again [I always do] ---those red boots for your header? Do you have a pair of red boots?!!! [My grandson =at the age of 6= had a pair and he would wear them with EVERYthing. And then, the red boots make me think of Brooks and Dunn song...Boot Scootin' Boogie.

    Okay, now I got that out of my system. Finally. After all these months. LOL

    As for the Eyetalians...that ol' gal musta known you kids were there to enjoy yourselves and not be drilled. But, I almost upchucked at the grease part. Ewwww.

    :0)

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    1. HOOTIN ANNI: Yep, those boots are mine, bought at the King Ranch Saddle Shop last year. I love them because they are a little higher than most boots. Gotta love a red pair of boots!

      My stomach turned all these years later thinking about those eggs...

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  33. In 7th grade the nun told me I had to eat those yucky peas... I told her and gave her fair warning that I just couldn't do it, so she head to clean up the result.

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    1. Annmarie: Ha! That makes me remember when I observed a 4 year class while I was in college. The teacher told a 4 year old the same thing, and had the same result. Glad it wasn't me!

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  34. That woman deserved a rap!

    Sounds like the whole trip was quite an experience.

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    1. Theresa: It was unforgettable, completely. And yes, she did deserve it!

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  35. Oh if only everyone would just BE NICE! :)

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    1. Stephanie: The older I get the more I can't understand why it isn't more plain to so many people who are not.

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  36. WOW, Simply made me go WOW.. just if all of us could "be nice" !!?? won't the world be a much nicer place !!??

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    1. LoLy: I wish so many more people could get that simple lesson- you're right- it would be a much nicer place!

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    2. Amen :) *fingers crossed*

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  37. I don't know if I've ever heard better advice than that...
    Great post Shelly!

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    1. Pat: If only more would follow it- and thanks!

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  38. I absolutely love "my mouth felt like a dozen stuffed animals hibernated in it!" What a fantastic description!

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  39. If only it were that simple to change people--LOL! ;)

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    1. Rita: There would be a shortage of canes!

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  40. Hi Shelly,

    What a fascinating story. Wish I'd been there.

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    1. Romance Book Haven: I am so glad I got to see it- probably a once in a lifetime occurence.

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  41. I wonder if Mrs. Wilty is still around. If she is, the red lipstick is probably creeping off via the little cracks around her lips. :)

    I enjoyed this story! My 17 year old daughter is going to Spain and France this summer. I hope she doesn't encounter any food swimming in grease. She'd be using every napkin available to sop it up. lol

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    1. Anita: Ha- yes! I can just picture that red lipstick! And your daughter is going to have a wonderful time! Surely the food is better nowadays. My 16 year old has asked to go to Israel for her senior present next year, and I hope the food will be something she will eat!

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  42. Oh, she's adorable!!! How lovely would it be to have that lady oversee a few grownups I know!! :D

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    1. Roshni AaMom: I surely wouldn't want to cross her!

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