Picture It, Sicily... Page 1 of 2
When Sophia felt like imparting wisdom on Dorothy, Rose or Blanche, she would often turn to a story from the old country which began "Picture it, Sicily, 19...".
Sophia: Let me tell you a story. Sicily, 1912. Picture this: Two young girls, best friends, who shared three things: a pizza recipe, some dough, and a dream. Everything is going great until one day, a fast-talking pepperoni salesman gallops into town. Of course, both girls are impressed. He dates one one night, the other, the next night. Pretty soon, he drives a wedge between them. Before you know it, the pizza suffers, the business suffers, the friendship suffers. The girls part company and head for America, never to see one another again. Rose, one of those girls was me. The other one you probably know as Mama Celeste.
Rose: Sophia, what's the point?
Sophia: The point is, I lost a fortune!
Sophia: Reminds me of the place I met Charles de Gaulle. We were lovers, you know.
Dorothy: Ma, that's a lie.
Sophia: Who asked you?
Sophia: Picture it: Sicily, 1921. A beautiful young peasant girl saves her lira and takes a trip to Paris, the city of lights, also the only place a guy can wear a cape without getting a lot of funny looks. She wanders into a restaurant and ends up sharing a table with a dashing young Frenchman. They drink, they talk, they burn a cork and draw mustaches on each other.
Sophia: Just wanted to see if you were listening. Anyway, the next thing she knows, it's hours later, the place is empty, and the Frenchman's got his schnoz down her blouse. This begins a beautiful love affair. Kids, I was that peasant girl, and the schnoz was Charles the Mole.
Raymond: Charles the Mole?
Sophia: Yeah, Charles the Mole. He was the wheel man for Louie the Ice Pick.
Dorothy: Ma, you said Charles de Gaulle.
Sophia: Yeah, right! I slept with Charles de Gaulle. I could've been the first lady of France, but I married your father instead. A man who cleans his toenails with a shrimp fork.
Sophia: Dorothy, let me tell you a story. Picture it. Sicily, 1922. A young military officer stationed far from home. He wanders the streets seeking a friendly face and a glass of Chianti. Finally, he happens into a dusty little cafe where he finds both. The man laughs for the first time in months. And finds inspiration in a beautiful peasant girl, wise beyond her years. When the cafe is closed, she takes him home with her. Three glorious days, they make love and drink wine. He returns to his command prepared to lead his people through whatever battles need to be fought. Dorothy, that young peasant girl was me. And that young man was Winston Churchill.
Dorothy: Ma, you made that whole thing up. Now what is your point?
Sophia: That I made it up. It was a little lie that gave me a lot of pleasure. If Rose is happy, and there was no harm done, let her have that.
Sophia: Let me tell you a story, Dorothy. Picture it: Sicily, 1920. Two young girls pack their bags and leave their tiny village to seek fame and fortune and a meal cooked without oregano. Their journey takes them to a seaside town where a ship prepares to depart for the New World. They're just-
Dorothy: The New World?
Sophia: Hey, anybody can say Baltimore. There's an art to telling these stories.
Sophia: Where was I?
Dorothy: Departing for the New World.
Sophia: Oh, right. Anyway, the price of steerage turns out to be 900,000 lire. Or approximately a buck and a quarter. Which is exactly the amount of each girl's life savings.
Sophia: That's why this is a story instead of an immigration report. May I continue? One girl chooses to spend her money and take a chance on adventure. The other plays it cautiously and books only a ferry to Sardinia, saving the rest of her money for a rainy day.
Dorothy: Lemme guess, Ma. You were the one who chose adventure.
Sophia: You also would've said Baltimore instead of the New World. You're no good at this, Dorothy. I'm the girl who played it safe. Maybe if I'd made the other choice, I'd have been prime minister of Israel instead of my good friend Golda Meir.
Dorothy: Ma, you never met Golda Meir!
Sophia: Please! I almost married her husband, the man who perfected the hot dog.
Dorothy & Sophia: Oscar Meyer.
Sophia: Picture it. Sicily, 1912. A beautiful, young peasant girl with clear, olive skin meets an exciting but penniless Spanish artist. There's an instant attraction. They laugh, they sing. They slam down a few boilermakers. Shortly afterwards, he's arrested for showing her how he can hold his palette without using his hands. But I digress. He paints her portrait and they make passionate love. She spends much of the next day in the shower with a loofah sponge, scrubbing his fingerprints off her body. She sees the portrait and is insulted. It looks nothing like her. And she storms out of his life forever. That peasant girl was me and that painter was Pablo Picasso.
Dorothy: Ma, I have a feeling you're lying.
Rose: Be positive, Dorothy.
Dorothy: OK, I'm positive you're lying.
Dorothy: I'm scared. I don't know what to do.
Sophia: First of all, don't think your problem is so unique. People do crazy things for love all the time. Let me tell you a little story. Picture this: Sicily, August 1908. No, that's not it. But if you ever need a story about jealousy, this one is a pip.
Dorothy: Ma, just go to sleep.
Sophia: No, no. I remember. Havana, 1957. No, I was never in Havana.
Sophia: I meant Brooklyn, 1958. No, that's not it. I don't believe it. I'm dry! I got nothing!
Sophia: Wait, McCracken. Before you begin, I wanna tell you something. I'm no novice when it comes to negotiations.
Mr. McCracken: Oh, really?
Sophia: Let me tell you a story. Picture it: Sicily, 1922. An attractive peasant girl, who has saved her lira, embarks on a glorious vacation to a Crimean resort on the Black Sea. For weeks, she frolics at the seaside resort and enjoys the company of many young men, all of whom adore her.
Edna: All of them?
Sophia: Shut up, Edna. I work alone. All of them. When it's time to return to Sicily, three different suitors beg her to stay. But she can't decide who to choose, so she chooses none of them. But she agrees to meet with them at the same resort many years later. To her trio of suitors, that eventful gathering was referred to as "Rendezvous With Sophia." But to the rest of the world, it was better known as the Yalta Conference.
Blanche: Hi, Sophia. Boy, I tell you, there is nothing more invigorating than spending a little time on a boat.
Sophia: Oh, yeah? Not when I sailed to America. Picture it. There we were, a tired, poor, huddled mass eating marinara sauce out of a can. It was hell. And the entertainment? Some guy from Palermo forgot his accordion, so he sat around singing "0 Solo Mio" while squeezing a monkey.
Sophia: Sophia what? It was the worst time of my life. If it weren't for pin the tail on the French, we would've gone stir-crazy.
Sophia: Bruno Bonofiglio.
Dorothy: Ma! I was asleep!
Sophia: So was I. That's when it came to me. Picture this. Sicily, 1922. The village is in a terrible wine crisis. It's the peak of the wine season. And all our grape stompers are ravaged by an outbreak of athlete's foot. Soon the Chianti has a green hue and tastes like Desenex. They call in Sicily's foremost podiatrist, Bruno Bonofiglio. He's the one who prescribed arch supports for Mussolini.
Dorothy: Must have really helped his lower back when they hung him by his heels.
Sophia: Forget him. I'm talking about Bruno Bonofiglio. I take one look at him, and I have a hunch he's trouble. But nobody believes me. So, what happens? He cures everybody and wine sales skyrocket.
Dorothy: Wait a minute, wait a minute. Ma. Unless I'm missing something, your hunch was wrong.
Sophia: My hunches are never wrong. Now, everyone is living high on the hog and eating rich foods. The next thing you know, there's a gout epidemic. Nobody can stomp grapes. And Bruno makes a killing selling orthopedic sandals.
Dorothy: Don't tell me. He went to America, and changed his name to Dr. Scholl.
Sophia: No. Actually, he developed a foot fetish and suffocated when he shoved his head in a lady's rubber boot.
Dorothy: Ma, don't ever wake me up again.
Sophia: Picture it: Sicily, 1852.
Dorothy: Ma, I am in no mood. And besides, you weren't alive in 1852.
Sophia: What? We can't learn from history? It was mid-century and a disillusioned Italy looked to the house of Savoy for leadership. Giuseppe Garibaldi, our courageous leader, and not a bad dresser, thought, "Let's regain some national pride and jump into this Crimean War thing." Of course, there was a big kickoff party at Giuseppe's beach house, and everyone came. Coincidentally, this was also the night his wife Rosa hit her sexual peak.
Dorothy: Ma, I am in here because of guilt.
Sophia: This is not a story about guilt. This is a story about being a bad hostess. While Rosa had Giuseppe in the bedroom with his saber around his ankles, were strip-searching mice for a piece of cheese.
Dorothy: Ma, so what's your point? That Rosa and I throw bad parties?
Sophia: That's my minor point. My major point is that, like Rosa, you're screwing around in the bedroom when there are important things to do outside.
Dorothy: I can't believe it. That makes sense. I mean, you went the long way around but that actually makes sense.
Sophia: Let me tell you a story. Picture it. Sardinia, 1932.
Blanche: I thought these stories of yours always took place in Sicily.
Sophia: Can't a person go away for the weekend? Anyway, I'm on a tour of the great caper factories of Sardinia. I was a kooky kid going through my piccata period. A wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything. Anyway, I was I was slicing an onion when suddenly this big basil tree--
Dorothy: Ma, what the hell are you talking about? You're not making any sense.
Sophia: I was hoping the late hour would help to mask that. I don't have a story about taking advantage of a dead guy for money. I got a great story about a Moroccan and a monkey, but that really comes under the heading of lust.
Sophia: I think my milestone birthday was when I turned 50.
Dorothy: Oh, Ma, I remember your 50th. We were supposed to go to a party at Guido's, but you were fighting with Pop.
Sophia: Oh, yeah.
Dorothy: Oh, I'll never forget it. It was Brooklyn, April, 1956.
Sophia: I tell the stories around here. Picture it: Brooklyn, April, 1956...
Dorothy: Mail call. Ah, Ma. Here's a letter for you from Palermo.
Sophia: Oh, it's the latest chess move from my old rival Serafina Gambrotsi.
Dorothy: Ma, how long has this chess game by mail been going on? What, it must be ten years now, huh?
Sophia: And it's going to keep on going until I beat Serafina at something.
Dorothy: What are you talking about?
Sophia: Picture it. Sicily, 1920. Serafina and I were both crazy about Marco the Goat Boy. In appearance, an Adonis. In behavior, horny as a toad. Little did I know he had a thing for hairy fat girls. If I were fatter and hairier, Dorothy, Marco the Goat Boy could've been your father.
Dorothy: I think we all grieve. Ma, that was 70 years ago. I was sure you'd forgotten.
Sophia: I forget nothing. So, any mail?
Blanche: Dorothy, shall I get Angela's luggage?
Dorothy: She doesn't have any luggage.
Angela: No, I never travel with luggage. Ever since the time I found a dead man in my suitcase.
Blanche: You found a dead man in your suitcase?
Angela: Right. Picture it. New York City. 1956. I was a young widow returning to Sicily. There I was on the boat alone, watching Lady Liberty grow smaller in the distance. When suddenly I heard a voice from the vicinity of my knees. I looked down. There was a midget. It turns out that his name was Peewee Bonbunzi, and he was fleeing from the Mob. For the next few days, we ate together, laughed together, and went for short walks in circles. And then, one day, suddenly Peewee disappeared. Well, we docked in Sicily and I was going through customs. And I noticed a strange odor coming from my suitcase. I thought it was the veal shank that I was bringing over for Mother's Day. But when the customs man opened the suitcase, there was Peewee. Someone had stuffed him in my suitcase between the veal shank and my beaver coat. Well, the Mob had gotten Peewee after all.
Blanche: Oh, God, you must have been heartbroken.
Angela: I was absolutely devastated. I mean, first I had to burn the suitcase and then the beaver coat. And the veal shank never did taste right.
Dorothy: Oh, Aunt Angela, you made that up.
Angela: Hey, I'm 80. As long as I keep talking, I know my heart is still beating.
Blanche: Angela, may I offer you something to eat?
Angela: As long as it isn't veal. Why it's not because of Peewee. I had some on the plane.
John Porter: OK, let's fill this out.
Sophia: Uh, please.
John Porter: And you are?
Sophia: Sophia. Sophia Pe- Hawkins.
John Porter: OK, Mrs. Pehawkins, um... Maybe you can tell me a little bit about your mother's history?
Sophia: Picture it. Sicily, 1900. An olive-skinned woman sets sail for the new world.
John Porter: I was talking about her medical history.
Sophia: So was I. You think that was a pleasure cruise? There was smallpox, scurvy, typhoid. And that was business class.