French Provincial

Her real name was Frances, a name that, in her opinion, lacked glamour. So she changed it to “Toni” as in “Antoinette” as in “Marie Antoinette”.

Several years ago, I published an e-book, “Bebina Bunny’s Cabinet of Curiosities”, and dedicated it to my mom:

“My mom came to visit my first year in Italy. The situation was stressed. Difficult. Weathered.

She wrote a bunch of postcards and asked me to mail them for her. Highly edited, she’d left out all the horrible stuff and wrote only the good. And in a good way. From the postcards you’d think that she’d had a wonderful time.

Aesthetics is a matter of selection.

“French Provincial” for my mom meant elegance and good taste. She’d read that Marie Antoinette’s bathtub was gold. Not being able to afford one herself, she spray painted ours. Only the gold eventually turned green. And so did our bottoms every time we took a bath.

Aesthetics begin at home. That is, the formation of personal taste begins with our mothers–the way they feed us, the way they dress us, the way they decorate our home. Childhood, like Proust’s madeleines, follows us forever.  That’s why this book is dedicated to my mom.

Only now do I fully realize just how much of my artistic training came from my mom and not from formal art training. She was the one who taught me: if you don’t like the way something looks, just paint it!

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Toni O.

My mom died a few days ago. Generally I try to keep private things private and probably would have continued doing so had it not been for those waves, those unexpected bomboras of grief that were breaking me down. A friend of ours posted photos she’d taken of my mom several years ago. The photos showed a mom I little recognized.  They were all taken on the same evening yet in every photo my mom projected a different persona as if she were a little girl playing dress up or an influencer posing for Instagram. The photographer had given my mom a chance to play make-believe and my mom was having a grand time exposing a woman full of flare, spontaneity, and imagination.

(foto by Moe Bauschez)

How beautiful, how glamourous, how playful she was. When I was a child, my mom didn’t have much time for play because she was a single parent busy working to maintain the two of us. But these photos made me realize that my mom hadn’t played for lack of desire but, as with many other women in her position, was left with few options because of her condition of possibility.

A condition of possibility is that which is indispensable for the existence of something else. For example, a plant that’s not watered doesn’t have the same condition of possibility as one that is. We can also apply this concept to people and, in particular, to women whose condition of possibility was radically changed with the male invention of the patriarchal society. Women, once permitted to be goddesses, were now considered inferior to men. And this, obviously, greatly reduced a woman’s condition of possibility. In essence, women have not been given the same possibility for success that men have been given regardless as to whether or not they deserved it.

When I was younger, I didn’t realized all of the struggles my mom had to face for our survival. Now I do.

Mark Twain once said humorously: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

The photos mentioned above provoked something inside of me that makes me want to show my appreciation for my mom’s efforts and for the efforts of all single moms. Thus “Toni O”, a new series of posts with the intent of changing my mom’s condition of possibility via storytelling so my mom can finally be the star that she deserved to be.

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La matriarca

The Way I Want to Remember Her

(foto by Brian Nowlin…thanks Brian)

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Dentist Day

My dentist and his assistant are always so nice and attentive that they make me feel special. So after my appointment the other morning, I walked back home and took a few fotos to celebrate the day.

building at the beginning of via Bertoloni

Many streets are lined with oleander and pruned in such a way as to create shade.


Related: Parioli

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Tassels and Trousers

Keats-Shelley House

Sometimes you just don’t know where to look.

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