You may recall my grandfather Honey, was born with a hemangioma birthmark, and thought by his own mother to have been marked by the Devil.
Fortunately, when I turned up with the same blemish, no one believed it to be Satan’s stamp.
Yet according to my mother, Clarita Riccobono, the birthmark left a lasting mark on my psyche long after disappearing from my nose. She’s convinced this indelible imprint also impacted our Mother/Daughter relationship.
I’ve heard her tell the following story a number of times, but since my memory checks out on certain topics, I decided to call Mom and record our conversation.
Our story begins with one of many old Italian wives’ tales that claims: If a woman becomes frightened while she’s pregnant, the baby will be marked wherever the woman touches herself.
My mother first learned of this superstition when she was pregnant with me. Since she (unlike me) recalls in extraordinary detail, I will quote her story in its entirety:
“I was in the backseat of Pawpie’s gold Fleetwood Cadillac…
Mawmie was drivin’ and Aunt Rosalie was in the front. We were on our way to meet Aunt Margie for a luncheon. I was wearin’ one of those maternity tent dresses, the kind fitted at the shoulda’ with the pointed colla’. It had grey cuffs and short sleeves, with a high neck and three fake buttons…I think they called em’ gingham dresses. No wait, it had little grey flowers on white…”
(At this point I gently remind her to get to the point).
“Oh. Well…Ok. So Mawmie’s in the front seat…sorry, I already said that.
I rememba’ I was day-dreamin’ with my head against the window when I noticed a yella’ taxi cruisin’ by. It was like it all happened in slow motion. I look into the window of the taxi and for a flash of a moment I see a monsta’. Now, my young adult mind knows there’s no monsters, but I swea’ I’m seein’ a monsta’.
The side of this man’s face is a reddish purple, lumpy bumpy, we’re talkin’ a…”
(She searches for a moment)
“CAVERNOUS 3-dimensional moonscape. The scary shit ya’ see in movies.
So I gasp for breath and go to scream, at the same time as this man is turnin’ towards us. My hand is now movin’ toward my face to hide myself, and Mawmie and Aunt Ro are screamin’ hysterically, ‘Don’t touch yaself! Don’t touch yaself!’
So I throw my hand back, and I’m like, “WHAAT?! WHAT?!”
But they just repeat themselves, “Don’t touch yaself! Don’t touch yaself!”
At this point I’m trying to snap out of my shock to rememba’ IF I touched myself. I knew I pulled my hand away, but did I touch myself? This becomes the big question: DID I TOUCH MYSELF? We finally establish that if I did touch myself, the palm of my hand brushed the tip of ma’ nose.
Then they explain to me that when a woman is pregnant and gets scared, the baby will be marked on the place she touches haself.
So I’m like ‘Greaaat!’ And even though I’m a little skeptical of their superstitions, I’m lookin’ at them lookin’ at each other like, ‘Sweet Jesus, help us!’
Anyway, Mawmie neva’ discusses this with me again. And when you were born we were all so excited about ya’ little nose – it was like you won the lottery of Italian genes. But by day two of you comin’ home from the hospital, Mawmie notices a little pink spot. At first she thought it was caused by the starch in ya’ sheets. But by week two we were in full swing man, lookin’ for a docta’.
Ya’ gotta’ put this in perspective. I’m 18 and ya’ dad, Peeda’, is a junior in college…
We’re just these stupid kids who’a learnin’ how to bathe ya’, feed ya’ and change ya’ diapa’. And now we got this 2 week old baby whose nose is getting’ bigga’ by the day. By the end, ya’ nose was the size of a grown man’s.”
(I’ve not seen pictures evidencing the above remark, though I’ve been assured all images revealing my man-size schnoz were destroyed to preserve my pride.
After a deep breath, she continues):
“All we’a thinkin’ is, ‘We need to find out what’s wrong with ya’ and FIX it quick!’
So the first two docta’s we saw had neva’ seen this condition. One of them was gonna to do some chemical thing that would ‘freeze’ it off. And the second guy wanted to cut ya’ nose in a V and scrape out whateva’s going on in there. We could tell they both were shootin’ in the dark, so we got pretty discouraged because believe me, these docta’s didn’t know jack shit!
At some point Honey, who didn’t usually get involved to help came out of the woodwork and told us to go see his docta’, Dr. Robert Meade, by the Old American Can Company.
I want you to know, when I first saw Dr. Meade, he didn’t just walk into that room, he strutted into the room with his silver hair…just a beautiful, robust, good man. I could cry just thinkin’ about him…”
(Which she does)
“Cuz’ he took ya’ into his arms and rocked ya’ back and forth. And then he starts singin’ opera to ya’…this beautiful Puccini aria while he’s examining you. And while he’s still gotcha in his arms, he says, ‘This is a hemangioma, a blood tumor. I’ve operated on this condition before. But this case is complicated by the fact that the blood is being pumped to the end of her nose where the blood vessels are tied in knots and don’t have a route back out. We have to operate on her as soon as she reaches 15 lbs. You need to take her home and fatten her up as fast as you can.’
He then explains that if we don’t operate, the cartilage would cause the blood vessels to explode, and you’d end up DEFORMED. So needless to say, we wa’ grateful to say the least! Cause by this time, everybody in the family is prayin’ novenas like crazy.
When we take ya’ home, it wasn’t hard for ya’ to gain a few pounds cause you were already a big baby. Ya’ weighed 10 pounds when ya were born, but ya’ peed on the scale, which put ya at 9 pounds, 14 ounces.
You were 2 months old the night of ya’ surgery – same day I turned 19. Mawmie brought a Doberge cake to the hospital, and we ate and we waited. The whole time ya’ dad is bitin’ his fingernails and starin’ into a cloud of cigarette smoke.
Five hours lat’a, I see a nurse rollin’ ya’ down the hall on a full-sized adult gurney. Ya’ taped up with ya’ head wrapped in bandages, bruises across ya’ eyes and ya’ arms in splints, strapped down like Christ on the cross. Ya’ can barely breathe cause ya’ nose is packed with gauze, and ya’ makin’ low groanin’ sounds like ya dyin’.
Of course nobody warned me of nothin’. So I think they’re killin’ ya, and I’m trying to get to you but they’re holdin’ me back as I’m screamin’, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO MA’ BABY?!”
Finally they reassure me ya’ just heavily sedated. Then they explain the plastic things on your arms are so ya’ can’t bend ya’ elbows and hurt yaself by touchin’ ya’ face and rippin’ off the bandages.
When ya see ya Dad, ya stop groanin’ and ya’ start flappin’ ya’ arms like a bird. It was the first time ya’ smiled.
So we take ya’ home and ya’ can only breathe through ya’ mouth, so when I feed ya’ a bottle, I have to put a finga’ in your mouth to break the suction or ya’ turn blue. Same thing would happen when you cry – you’d have to stop from time to time and pant like a dog. Most of the time I just let you cry because in that day we were told ‘Hands spoil a child’, so I’d walk around holdin’ ya’ in a fuckin’ plastic seat – great wisdoms from the other generation!
But lemme tell ya’, it didn’t stop there…every few months until you were 3 years old, we had to go back to the docta’s for these injections. They’d wrap ya’ up in a sheet from the neck-down so ya’ couldn’t move ya’ arms or legs. The nurse would hold ya’ head from jerkin’, and the docta’ would put this big long needle the size of a pencil lead between ya’ eyes, and move it all the way down to the tip of ya’ nose. Then he’d put this stuff in there and wiggle it around, and slide it back up.
The whole time yer’ screamin’ in pain, and I’m layin’ across ya’ body to keep ya’ from squirmin’, and whisperin’ in ya’ ear, ‘It’s ok Deli…Mommy’s here’
And the whole time I’m cryin’ too!”
(Pause as she begins to cry)
“I swear, eva’ since those days you’ve associated MY voice with the PAIN of ya’ life!”
Mom’s retelling of this story proved to be quite revealing beyond our mutual aversion to hospitals.
When I heard her say: “And all we’re thinkin’ is, ‘ We need to find out what’s wrong with ya’ and FIX it quick!”, I realized that’s been my main motto for most of my life!
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been on a quest to find what’s wrong with me and fix it. Sure, I’ve tried fixing broken relationships, a few MAD men, my dad’s addictions, my mother’s moods….but more than anything, I’ve been carrying with me an unconscious belief that there’s something inherently wrong with me.
Perhaps I’ve believed I must be defective since most of my painstaking efforts didn’t fix anything.
While I’m grateful to have avoided deformity, I’ve come to realize that often things are not supposed to be “fixed”. In fact, many of the things I once thought to be “broken”, I’ve learned to accept and appreciate. Occasionally, in retrospect, I’ve even found amusement in the most unlikely of places.
With every part and all my heart,
There’s nothing more satisfying to the schnoz than essential oils. After my mom introduced me to essential oils 15 years ago, I’ve used them since to treat anything from skin cuts and headaches, to sore throats and heartaches.
Many experts believe essential oils were human’s first medicines, predating the use of herbs. For centuries, essential oils have been used in religious rituals, and to treat many physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
The Three Kings brought gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh oils to baby Jesus. And Cleopatra, known for her beauty, used a blend of Lavender, Geranium, Sandalwood and Rose oil on her skin.
I personally use essential oils in my face/body moisturizer. They’re great for skin and leave me smelling like a spa!
My mom, Clarita, distributes Young Living essential oils, the highest quality therapeutic-grade oils on the market. She’s happy to answer any questions you have have about the oils. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are innumerable benefits to essential oils. So whether your nose is broken or not, give it a treat and try some yourself!
*If you order from the Young Living website above, you’ll need a member number since it’s a buyer’s club. Please reference my mom, Clarita Riccobono 5412