The Italians of Italy. By Nicole Teller

Essay by NTellerCollege, UndergraduateA, July 2005

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I want them to smile at me. Those 'nonnas' whom I pass on sidewalks. They are everywhere, wearing babushkas and black podiatric shoes, carrying groceries. I peek through their plastic bags-- vino sancto, castagne, filetti di acciughe. Hmmm....Intriguing. And their shoes, how do they have such tiny feet? I am captivated by this population of Italians. They speak many stories without even opening their mouths. ButI want them to. I want them to know that I notice. I want them to smile back.

I'm used to smiling at old people when we pass one another on the street. In fact,I seek this out. But when I got to Italy-- people don't do this. They don't smile at each other on sidewalks. Or--am I missing something? Maybe they don't see me. Maybethey are turned off by my blue jeans and height. I must be twice as tall as some of those 'nonnas'.

Maybe to them I am a terrifying, mythological Amazon. An Amazon fromAmerica! Where they have no gun control and an idiot president.

Mama mia!

I try to put myself in the imaginations of old ladies as I pass them on the sidewalks. Maybe if I can understand them, they will see me. But what if they think it'sbrazen for me to smile! What if it is rude to look directly into the eyes of elders?

Oh, mio Dio!

But, every once and awhile, she smiles back, a nonna as I pass her. At first she was surprised that I smiled. But no, I wouldn't say that she was displeased. And shereturns the smile. Her face lights up, sometimes even revealing a less than complete set of teeth. Full of character and originality, she is a truly beautiful sight. Surely asbeautiful as any painting I studied in art...