Serving Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Conn. Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire

Tuscan Hospitality

It’s easy to mind your manners when you are a guest of Central Tuscany. Townspeople welcome you; they do not elbow you, stare you down, and cut you off in line -when there is a line. And, when you inadvertently lock the laundry-room key in the laundry room, your villa-mates laugh sympathetically and launder, discretely, by hand until the housekeeper arrives the next morning.

The landscape spawns gentility. Acres of olive groves and vineyards, and woods with miles of pathways for meandering surrounded our old stone farmhouse. My office seemed to be, not just in another country, but in another dimension of time and space.

Without any effort, I learned some lessons in Tuscany:

1. Olive trees are small with dainty white flowers.

2. In some churches etiquette dictates that women only (apparently) cover their shoulders and knees.

3. Vineyard rows look like tight green braids running up/down the distant hills.

4. A Tuscan stone farmhouse can be reminiscent of the Ponderosa (for Bonanza fans):
rustically elegant, ultimately comfortable.

5. A major bank’s ATM card that brings euros in Germany can refuse to cooperate in Italy.

6. Six can play Bananagrams for hours, after pork and pasta, without getting bored.

7. Investing in a gelato shop appears to produce a better ROI than the US stock market.

8. The secret to enchantment lies in the scent of honeysuckle.

Taking a Stand for Respect

My observations of the local Memorial Day Parade were printed in the MetroWest Daily News, Sunday, June 6

The Memorial Day Parade in my town was not flashy; the crowd was not crushing; and the speeches not self-aggrandizing. The parade was like a pot of mixed-berry jam: Civil War soldiers in blue; women in hooped skirts; an American-Legion float skirted in red, white, and blue; Scout troops marching in loose formation, police marching in perfect formation; a WW II tank rumbling; flutists playing; and babies gurgling. The day’s events reeked of small-town charm and offered myriad opportunities for adults to model respect.

The parade made strategic stops to allow for prayers and brief speeches honoring past and current veterans. A WW II fighter pilot addressed the crowd, honoring a fallen comrade. After he spoke, this eighty-something stood, leaning lightly on the back of an empty folding chair, as the names of the veterans we lost over the past year were read and the National Anthem sounded.

Through the National Anthem people saluted, others held a hand over their heart, and some simply stood straight. The Boy Scouts, hats removed, stood; one distracted Scout twirled his hat; a troop leader gently pushed the boys arm down; a silent lesson in respect. A group of elementary-age girls sitting on a blanket chatted; they didn’t understand the significance of the moment, and the adults with them lost a valuable teaching opportunity. Along with some children, a few adults sat on the curb, setting a fine example of obliviousness or, perhaps, ignorance.

Memorial Day is an annual opportunity for the town to honor those who protect us and the families who take on the attendant sacrifices and losses. Opinions on the wars, health-care reform, or the choice of state flower don’t matter; this day is about displaying respect and self-respect and, in the process, utilizing important teachable moments.

Flight lost, friendship found

The following article, printed in suburban Boston’s MetroWest Daily News, shows how a friend of mine and her family turned their airline disaster into a stranger’s bounty. It is a story I have told countless times:

Ubiquitous clips of stranded airline passengers remind me of Lisa, a stranger’s flight emergency, and a friendship forged. Lisa, her husband, and their two elementary-school age children were on a flight destined for Mexico and stuck on the tarmac…

Recognizing Yes

Recently I learned a three-letter lesson in effective communication from a 15-year old. (This is noteworthy because I have been speaking decades longer than she.) I asked Michelle if she would be playing soccer in the spring and, to my astonishment, she replied, “Yes.” I had to take a minute. It wasn’t the fact that she would be playing soccer that stopped me; it was the “Yes”. I’m used to hearing yea, yup, ok, uh-uh or, my favorite, nyea (a cryptic yes/no combo). “Yes” sounded definitive and decisive; I wasn’t left wondering if her decision would take root and I didn’t have to ask her again later; I could move on!

That encounter elevated yes to a new height. From now on, when responding in the affirmative, my answer to a yes-or-no question will be “Yes”! Likewise, when people ask, “What is it that makes you such as clear communicator?” I will respond, “Yes!”