When I first started blogging here, Stan advised me that personal stories are the best. I think he is right. Here comes one:
I have previously written about my motto: Labor Omnia Vincit—Work Conquers All. This motto is a quote from Vergil and as it is usually promulgated is incomplete. Here is what that wise man really said:
“Stubborn” was a word my family used often to describe me as a child. It is a critical word, I think. One that implies a deep-rooted character flaw. My mother NEVER meant it as compliment. Fast forward to 1973.
In the first warm June of our love, David proposed a trip to the beach on the upcoming Saturday. My daughter, who had just turned five, and I packed our swimsuits, sandcastle building tools, and a nice lunch.
We were waiting in the lobby of our apartment building when he drove up in his beat-up VW Beetle. The scowl on his face portended less than a fun day ahead. We got in the car, and by the time we were through the Midtown Tunnel, Kerry Ann was asleep in the backseat. “You seem upset,” I said. “What’s the matter?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” came his sullen replay.
The ride on the LIE through Queens is not what you would call picturesque, but I made do with staring out the window for a while. But then, I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Please tell me what’s bothering you?”
“I told you, I DON’T want to talk about it.”
I glanced into the back seat. The kid was out cold. “Come on,” I pleaded. “This is a trip to the beach. It’s supposed to be fun. How can we have a good time if you spend the day looking like the wrath of God?”
No answer at all came. By now, we were about to cross into Nassau County. “Okay,” I said. “Unless you tell me what’s up with you so we can clear the air, I am going to start taking off my clothes, and I will continue to do so until you start talking.” (It was the wacky Seventies, don’t forget.)
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said.
“I think it’s ridiculous to go to the beach in a bad mood.” I took off my shoes.
“Stop it,” he said.
“Talk to me,” I said. I unbuckled my belt and slid it out of the waist of my jeans.
“People are going to see you,” he said.
“It won’t do me any harm, and it might do them a lot of good,” I said. I started to unbutton my shirt.
“I will if you start talking.” I finished unbuttoning. And started to slip the shirt off my shoulders.
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember what his problem was. What I recall is that we talked it out, and soon we were on our way to a happy day at Jones Beach. Once peace had descended on him, he said, his voice full of affection and relief, “You are one persistent lady.”
“Persistent,” he had called me. Not “stubborn.” Persistent. That’s what I was.
I have thought about that conversation a lot over the years. A great deal about the joy of a lover, a husband who sees one’s faults as virtues.
But also about that fact that almost any characteristic can be expressed positively or negatively. Persistent, not stubborn. Industrious, not workaholic. Laid back, not lazy. Discerning, not judgmental. A person, regardless of his nature, can make his traits virtues, not vices.
So I retranslate the quote from Vergil: Persistent work conquers everything.
Human persistence, I believe, is the strongest force on this planet.
Annamaria - Monday