Little Things Make a Big-Big Splash

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou

Here in the United States, as we prepare to honor and celebrate our forefathers, nosh on some warm turkey-fixings with marshmallow sweet-potatoes and apple-pumpkin pie à la mode, many of us will be surrounded by family and friends gathered around our tables for Thanksgiving Dinner, and I am reminded of a wondrous exchange I had down-the-cobblestones from yet another table gathering—where Leonardo Di Vinci’s renown mural-painting depicting “The Last Supper” adorns the Santa Maria delle Gracie in Milan, Italy.

It was a beautiful, overcast day in July, and I was sitting in the heart of Milan at an outdoor cafe across from the fifth largest, gothic cathedral in the world—Duomo Di Milano. Spectacular! I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of northern fashionista-Italians, delectable hand-tossed pizza’s, hand-pressed pasta’s, absolutely delicious red wines, majestic olives (like you’ve never seen), and cappuccino’s to die for. I could smell the “fruits of the fertile crescent” coiffing through the air this far north, and I could feel the pulse of the world in the palm of my hand. And yet—my heart was heavy. Burdened.

Duomo Di Milano - 5th Largest Gothic Cathedral in the World is in Milan, Italy Duomo Di Milano - 5th Largest Gothic Cathedral in the World is in Milan, Italy
Hand-Tossed Pizza and Delicious Wine in Milan, Italy Hand-Tossed Pizza and Delicious Wine in Milan, Italy
Olives to Die For and Champagne! Milan, Italy Olives to Die For and Champagne! Milan, Italy
Fashionista Italians on Motorbikes in Milan, Italy Fashionista Italians on Motorbikes in Milan, Italy

I was distraught, unsettled, and unsure in a matter of the heart. Suffice it to say, in spite of my amazing surroundings, I was feeling rather sad, miserable, and bummed out. So, I stood up, and made a snap decision to wander and walk. “Feet, it’s time to get moving,” I said to myself. I had no idea where I would go, or what I would do, I just knew that I needed to walk…alone.

Distressed, with my head hung low, and most definitely in my own little world, I set off to ruminate on the confines of my heart—to get lost in location and thought, neither of which I was afraid of. Growing up with an Italian-Sicilian grandmother, I could speak a little Italian, so I wasn’t overly worried about the getting lost part. Worst case scenario? A bit of charades could get me back to the heart of Milan if my iPhone petered out.

As I started to walk, all sorts of thoughts were bouncing through my head, a harmonious cacophony of discord: Darn. Dang. Why? For what? Hurt. Be strong. Watch for pedestrians. Guard for peddlers. Those boots are amazing! How sweet, they’re holding hands. Glad I’m wearing flip-flops on these cobblestones. And then back to…bummer.

Versace, Prada, Gucci, and Many More Brands Line the Streets in the Fashion Capital of the World - Milan, Italy Versace, Prada, Gucci, and Many More Brands Line the Streets in the Fashion Capital of the World - Milan, Italy

On my walk, I pass by Versace, Prada, Gucci… outdoor cafe’s, motor bikes, and a statue of Di Vinci himself. Then veering out of the main arteries of Milan, the streets became quieter, the storefronts less frequent, and the hustle-and-bustle had simmered from a boil. Since I was already on guard and in my own KB world, I was quick to dismiss what happened next.

An elderly gentleman crossed over the cobblestone street and headed my way. “Oh no,” I thought, it seems like he’s going to try to sell me something. “Scusi,” he pleaded in a sweet-gentle way, and he held up some items that I proceeded to politely decline and ignore and defend my sorrows saying, “No-no. Grazie. No-no.” After all, I did not set out to walk and ruminate on the confines of my heart only to be stopped in my tracks of my own “woe-is-me” misery (said with a grin).

He again pleaded for me to look, “Scusi, guardare.” I slowed a bit, but I still did not look at what he was offering, and I repeated, “No-no. Grazie. Scusate.” I was now well into my half-broken Italian and flag-waving charade with my hand-flapping no’s. Then I sighed and thought, “Ah, sheesh…he seems so sincere and appears to be in need. It’s not his fault I’m having a bad day.” He must have sensed my heart was warming to the possibility because…

He then tried one more time to get my full attention. “Perdonatemi, per favore. Guardare.” I relented, and when I decided to look, I opened my eyes and what I saw was magical:

The first image that caught my eye was “Ballerina Seduta,” (Sedated Ballerina) a beautiful dancer at rest in her chair backstage, her head hung low, she was reflective, calm, quiet, composed…and maybe even a bit weary, tired from her walk. I was instantly reminded of the highs and lows of life, of the beauty and sacrifice for art, of the dedication to something we love, or the passion for someone we cherish.

Ballerina | Milan, Italy Ballerina | Milan, Italy
Ballerina Seduta | Milan, Italy Ballerina Seduta | Milan, Italy

I smiled, pointed, and asked, “Quanto?” He said, “Cinque,” and as he continued to scroll through his glorious collection of linen art-cards, my spirits lifted with every turn. What came next?

“Magica Cuba!” (Magical Cuba.) Wow, how did he know that I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba?!? It’s a dream of mine to experience the exotic appeal of the people, culture, and music of Cuba. Yes, the gentleman who crossed the cobblestone road in Milan, the one who I attempted to thwart, was now allowing me to dream—no holds barred. Who wouldn’t want to dance the night away, or puff on a Cuban cigar? And how about that little umbrella and straw?

Magica Cuba Magica Cuba

He continued to scroll through his drops of joy. “The First Kiss” reminded me of my heavy heart and that the antidote to a heavy heart was tenderness, love, forgiveness, and human touch. In that moment, I had my answer to my heavy heart. I said to the gentleman, “Yes, that one. Then that one. Ooh, and I’ll take that one!”

The First Kiss The First Kiss

“Ballerina” came, showing the elegant allure of a woman…and then “Odete,” a poised, strong, elegant dancer in the prime of her magnificence…and she reminded me instantly of my beautiful daughter who stayed back in the US to compete at Nationals (dance competition) in June, where she placed 1st. I then took my own leap of happy.

Brianna and Odette Brianna and Odette

In the end, I heart-picked seven drops of joy, thanked the gentleman with a smile, and when I handed him euros in exchange for the art cards, his words to me precisely, in response to what I picked: “Beautiful! I love you.” Okay, maybe he says that to everyone? But I’d like to think not. He was happy, I seemed to make his day! Though I think I was happier because I know he made mine.

I sauntered around the corner, found a place to sit on some grass, laid out my seven drops of joy, absorbed my surroundings, shed a tear or two, and picked myself back up. Life was good. We have a choice to receive love and to give love in every moment.

Stroll and Reflect in Milan, Italy Stroll and Reflect in Milan, Italy

I’ll never forget the way the gentleman who crossed the cobblestones made me feel.

“In life—sometimes it’s the little things that make a big-big splash.” — KB

Evvivva! (Cheers!)
Kathleen Blackwell

P.S. If anyone in the Austin area is in need of a place to go for Thanksgiving Dinner, please come by!