What do a Zia, a Pope, and an Elf have to do with Today’s Pasta?

I thought that the combination of last week’s photo with this post’s title might capture your attention and, now that they have, I’ll waste none of your time.

First off, the Kitchens are now open again and I hope everyone’s Holiday and week went well. Thank you all for leaving Holiday wishes and “Likes” during my absence. You see, tomorrow is my Zia’s 90th birthday and I was in Michigan last Saturday for her surprise birthday party. (Happy Birthday, Bella!) What does this have to do with the riddle in the title? I’ll get there. Relax. In fact, grab yourself something to drink. A little Vin Santo would be appropriate.

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As one would expect, during a celebration so grand as a 90th birthday party, stories are told involving the honoree and any number of the guests. My story, my favorite “Zia Story”, is one I’ve saved for just this occasion. My family and friends have heard it countless times, bless their hearts, and now it’s your turn.

During Mom’s illness, there were many evenings during which Zia and I passed the time chatting while watching television. Very often, my travels in Italy were the topic of discussion. I had tried, a number of times, to get Mom to come with me but her fear of flying was too great. Zia had no such fear and many of our evening chats ended with, “Well, maybe someday …”

After Mom passed, I continued to go to Michigan to help settle her affairs, as one might expect. During one of those trips. Zia and I decided that we could both use a little vacation and a trip to Italy was planned. The tragedy of 9/11 delayed our holiday and we left for the Old Country the following March. We spent a few days in Venice before taking a train to Florence. A few days after that and we were on a train heading for Rome.

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The Grand Canal of Venice

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Oops! Forgive me. I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. Before leaving the States, I spoke with a “regular” at the bar who was employed by American Express. (This is when AmEx still employed thousands of agents to handle all of your travel needs.) He suggested that we attend the Pope’s public Mass, conducted every Wednesday in St. Peter’s Square. I agreed and he made the necessary arrangements. Later I called the number he supplied and was told where in Vatican City to fetch our tickets. Being that Zia would be in a wheelchair — the day would be far too long and arduous for her to remain on her feet — the woman explained that we would be seated “off to the side with the other disabled.”  After Mass, she continued, the Holy Father would turn to give us all “a special blessing.” I was quite pleased and we were all set to go. Now, back to our story …

We arrived in Rome on a Thursday. There’d been a transit strike that day and we were lucky to get out of Florence. Over the next few days, we toured the Eternal City. Having been to Rome a few times, I made sure that we didn’t miss a church, museum, or marble chunk of ancient Rome. We sipped caffè on the Via Veneto, tossed coins in the Trevi Fountain, got stiff necks in the Sistine Chapel, and never met a gelato we didn’t like. We saw — and did — it all. On Tuesday, we travelled to Vatican City, picked up our tickets, and spent the rest of the day sight-seeing. After breakfast Wednesday morning, we hailed a taxi and headed back to Vatican City to watch Pope John-Paul II celebrate Mass.

By the time we got to St. Peter’s, the crowd had already begun to gather. For security purposes, the Square was cordoned off and everyone formed a queue to the right, walking along the colonnade. With me pushing Zia in her wheelchair, we joined them and it really wasn’t long before we got to the head of the line where metal detectors waited. A Swiss Guard motioned for us to leave the line and to use a detector reserved for people in our circumstance. Suddenly we were “special,” though we’d yet to realize just how much.

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The Ponte Vecchio of Florence

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After passing through the metal detector, we rolled alongside of the throng, passing across the front of the Square. The Altar sat atop a stage directly to our right and the Square, now filling with people, was to our left. When we got to the end of the stage, the Faithful turned to the left to finish circling the Square before being allowed to enter the viewing area from the back. Not us, however. Just before we were to turn, one of the Swiss Guards motioned for us to come to him.  We had to cross through the people and once we neared the Guard, he unhooked a velvet rope and indicated that we were to go that way. (See? “Special.”)  Alone, we made our way down a passageway, wondering all the while what was going on. At its end we had no choice but to turn to the right and, this time there was a ramp that ran parallel to the passage we had just traversed. Once we started up that ramp, it became clear that we were headed to the stage where the Altar stood.

Dumbfounded, we arrived at the top of the ramp not knowing which way to turn or what to do. Before us was St Peter’s Square, filling with people, and to our left was the Altar in the center of a stage that had been divided into large sections, some with seats. A gentleman in a gray tux with tails motioned for us to come to him and he positioned us in a section to the right of where the Altar stood.  I was given a chair and sat next to Zia in her wheelchair, The Pope would say Mass directly in front of us. Across, on the other side of the Altar, some newlywed couples sat, still dressed in their wedding finery. To their side were children, some of whom had apparently recently received their First Holy Communion. The view from that side was partly blocked by sound and lighting equipment. For reasons that would soon become clear, our view had no such obstructions. No one, save the Cardinals that attended him, would have a better view of that Mass than did Zia on that day. Needless to say, I was in a state of utter disbelief and Zia, wiping away tears, thanked me profusely. But wait, there’s more.

After what seemed like an eternity, we could hear a roar rising from the crowd. At the other end of the Square, the Pope could be seen riding the Pope Mobile through the Faithful. A few minutes later, he was riding up a ramp, passing between us and the Altar, naught but a few feet separating us. Had we left Vatican City right then, Zia would have been one very happy Bartolini — but there’s still more to this tale.

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The Pope said Mass a mere 20 feet before us and the service took a little longer than one might expect, for he delivered his sermon in three languages, Italian, English, and Polish. And all the while Zia tearfully thanked me. It was near the end of the Mass when things really got interesting.

I was standing for the service’s final prayers when another man dressed in a gray tuxedo with tails indicated that he wanted me. He was standing behind the Altar, out-of-sight of the congregation, and as I stepped forward, all I could think was that this cannot be good. As I’ve said many times since, if I could have found a way to hide, to ‘blend in”, I surely would have. But when you’re one of the few standing on a stage in an area meant for wheelchairs, you’re a tad bit conspicuous. With no place to hide, I stepped forward and he immediately made it clear that he wanted me to push Zia. So, I pushed my bewildered Zia the 20 or so feet towards him and, as I did, others in wheelchairs began to queue up behind us.  When we got to him, he turned her chair so that we were facing the crowd and we then realized what was in store. About 15 feet before us was another similarly attired gentleman who began to wave us on. Our gentleman gave me a shove and suddenly we were leading a procession to meet Pope John-Paul II.

Poor Zia. By the time we reached the “waving man”, the two of us were a mess. Zia was sobbing and I frantically searched the clouded sky, fully expecting my death by lightning bolt. We turned to the left and there, 5 feet before us, stood His Holiness who, at this point in his life, was quite frail. Dressed in his familiar white robes, he stood, hunched over, facing away from us. We approached and, as if Cecil B. DeMille was in control of the lighting, the sun burst through the clouds. Pope John Paul turned to face us and we were both struck by how blue his eyes were, especially when contrasted against his pale complexion and now gleaming white vestments. “Stunning” does not begin to describe the effect. Shock turned to awe as he smiled, grabbed Zia’s hand, and blessed us. Within seconds, we were on our way towards another waving man who directed us to an “exit ramp.” Soon we were  heading back to the Square and we decided that we’d leave immediately. Speaking for myself and myself alone, never was the phrase “getting the hell out of here” more appropriate.

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The Colosseum of Rome

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We reached the bottom of the ramp and through the corridor we rushed. When we re-entered the Square, there, on the 2 Jumbotrons for all to see, was a photo of our meeting the Holy Father, Zia in tears and me looking like a deer in headlights.  No, we do not have that picture. We were asked if we wanted a picture taken when we were first situated on the stage but we misunderstood, thinking he was going to take a picture of us seated there. Remember, we didn’t know that we were going to actually meet the Pope.

With our ginormous faces looming above, I quickly pushed Zia through St. Peter’s Square and out on to the street. Virtually no one else had left yet but then again few, if any, had received the “full Papal Treatment” that we had already experienced.  So, with little competition, we easily hailed a cab and within minutes were on our way back to our hotel, all the while Zia continued to wipe away tears as she thanked me.

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And this is the end of Part I. You’ve now learned how Zia and Pope John-Paul II are connected — he is now her “Papa John” — and in Part II tomorrow Santa’s role will be revealed. All 3 of them, as you’ll learn, have a part to play in bringing you that dish of pasta pictured above.

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118 thoughts on “What do a Zia, a Pope, and an Elf have to do with Today’s Pasta?

  1. Oh my God! What a story, John! Pope John Paul II was “my Pope” the One I grew up with, I loved him deeply and was really sorry when he died. You are a lucky guy!
    Can’t wait to read part II !!
    Happy birthday to Zia, she’s like part of the family now 🙂

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    • Thank you, Giovanna. My Zia shares your admiration for Pope John-Paul and considers him her patron now. That was an incredible day and experience for us.
      Zia will be happy to read you birthday wishes later today. Thank you. 🙂

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  2. Although I’m no fan of the pope this is a great story! I’ve had similar (if not equally impressive!) experiences getting a ‘special treatment’ when visiting museums with a friend in a wheel chair. Parking for free right outside the museum, jumping the line, free entrance for me, and shortcuts through hidden passages to get to parts of the exhibition that would otherwise require climbing stairs with a wheelchair.
    Looking forward to the rest of your story…

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    • Thanks, Stefan. We’d received special treatment throughout our holiday because of “the chair.” This, though, went beyond our wildest dreams. I could not have been happier for my Zia. That was a most memorable day.

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  3. Thank you for walking with us thru’ this beautiful story and may the blessings then received keep your Zia in health, peace and contentment for the days and years to come . .

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  4. What a fantastic story. It’s like something you wonder if it could ever be true. Amazing. What an incredible experience. No wonder was Zia was in tears. I can’t wait for the next installment xx

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    • Thank you, Charlie. The entire experience was so unexpected, almost surreal. We thought we’d be mere faces in the crowd and there we were shaking the Pope’s hand. I am still amazed!

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  5. Oh my! What an amazing story. I was on the edge of my seat with excitement all through the telling. A wonderful experience to have been a part of.. You and your Zia were blessed as soon as you arrived and than received a double portion of blessings from the Pope. I can’t wait to hear the remainder of the story. Happy 90th Birthday to your Zia. I believe you both were blessed with a long life. I was honored to be presented before the Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1966. The Bishop Wright became a Cardinal and I have a wonderful photos of the occasion of our meeting. Thank you for sharing.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

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    • Having met the Bishop, you have a good idea of what this meant for my Zia — except for the element of surprise. We really had no idea of what was in store. I’m sure your comment will please Zia when she reads it tonight. Thank you, Francine.

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    • You’re so right, Marianne. It was an incredible stroke of luck, one that my Zia will never forget. Just to make sure her great-grandchildren know the story (and the rest of the family never forgets), I sign their birthday/Christmas cards with: “The Uncle that pushed your dear, sweet Nonna in her wheelchair across Rome’s 7 Hills so that she could meet the soon-to-be Saint, Pope John-Paul II”. Gets them every time. 🙂

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  6. DO NOT BE AFRAID…was his message to the world. OK, so you got me crying too. John that is a wonderful story. I love Blessed John Paul so much. To think Zia got to touch him!!! That is just so wonderful, she must feel so blessed, I know I would. Happy Birthday Zia, many, many more…

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    • Thank you s much, Maria. Judging by your earlier comments, I just knew that you would truly appreciate how much this meant to Zia. That trip was a wonderful experience and that afternoon in St. Peter’s was so far beyond our expectations. I’m so glad we did it together.

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  7. Who needs a photo, with a memory like that?
    Such a wonderful story, John…even a non-Catholic like me knew he was a wise, kind, and special man, even in the pantheon of Popes.
    Much love to your Zia on her birthday; hope her party was loads of fun!

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    • Zia will love reading your comment and birthday wishes later tonight, Marie. Thank you.
      That was truly a remarkable day. It just kept getting more and more incredible at every turn. What an experience!

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  8. Wowee, wow! What an experience. Loved reading your story and can’t only imagine how overwhelming it must have been. I got a tear in my eye as I read your words telling about Zia’s tears. Happy 90th birthday to her. Your title of the post was definitely eye-catching. Looking forward to the next installment.Sounds like you had the perfect holiday celebration.

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    • Thank you, Ruth! That was such a fantastic day and overwhelming experience. I was lucky to have a wheelchair to hold on to and push. WIthout it, to be honest, I probably would have been sobbing right along with Zia. To say we were surprised is a gross understatement.
      Yes, it was a wonderful celebration and I’ll be sure to point out your birthday wishes to Zia tomorrow. Thank you on her behalf.

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    • On behalf of Zia, thank you, Mandy, although she’s sure to read your comment tonight, if she hasn’t already. That was a most incredible day that we shared and I was happy to tell it again for you all. 🙂

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  9. Zia, dear… Happy Birthday! My Mom is right behind you, she will turn 90 next September, and I wish I can be there in Brazil to celebrate

    Loved this story, my Mom never travels, but she would have enjoyed that Pope bit, she is a devout catholic and well, I just wish she could have been a bit more adventurous in her life. But, no sense worrying about this type of stuff. You are what you are, you live what you choose to live, and what happens happens.

    Great post, I look forward to the next chapter….

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    • Thanks, Sally. I’m sure Zia will be very pleased to see so many birthday wishes. I hope you’re mistaken and can make it to your Mother’s birthday celebration next September. A lot can happen in a year… 🙂

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  10. That is a “right place at the right time” moment of moments. I can just imagine your sweet Zia overcome with joy to realize something so dear to her heart–what a fortunate man you are to be part of that with her, to witness something so special in the life of someone you care so much about. Ah, Italy, it is a wondrous place to be sure. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Judy. We had such a great holiday and meeting the Pope was as incredible as it was surprising. It was a wonderful thing to see and be a part of and we speak of it many times, always with a smile.

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  11. Happy 90th Birthday Zia!!!!! That;s a beautiful photo of Zia.
    John, thanks for sharing this heartwarming story and taking me along on the journey through your writing. Looking forward to chapter 2.

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  12. Oh Zia, happy, happy 90th beautiful lady!!!!!!

    Dear John, you sure know how to make a Wednesday morning exciting. You have taken my breath away on a day where I thought the most exciting thing was going to be making Raviolo Al’Uovo. Wrong I was! I can’t even imagine how much this meant to Zia (and you!)…I have nothing to compare it too. Breathtaking my dear, simply stunning. I can’t believe there is a part 2!!

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    • Thanks, John. That Italian vacation will creep into the conversation every time Zia and I get together. And, of course, so will “Papa John,” truly a once in a lifetime experience.
      I should have played the lottery that day. 🙂

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  13. What an incredible story John; although I wouldn’t share your excitement to meet the Pope, I can certainly understand it. Your trip to Italy must have been epic! I was in Florence about 20 years ago and loved it, the Ponte Vecchio was amazing! And all the sites. The statue of David was incredible. We were in Venice about 5 years ago and I have such a vying to go back.
    We took my Mother’s husband to Hungary, England and France the year my dear Mother passed and I know what joy it brought him; I’m sure it was one of your dear Zia’s highlights, particularly with the personal blessing from your dear Pope.

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    • Thank you, Eva. For Zia, this was about the best thing that could have happened — and so very unexpected. That entire morning/afternoon was just one surprise after another until the Pope was holding her hand. And it was a real treat to be there with her. Truly an unforgettable experience.

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  14. Oh John that was an incredible story and so beautifully told. I was there with you and Zia wondering what the hell was going on and feeling excited, nervous, hopeful and tearful. What a truly special experience and that fact that you and Zia exerienced it together makes it even more wonderful. Now I am left wondering…so how does the rest of the story fit in?! Can´t wait 🙂 Glad she had a surprise party and Birthday Greetings to her on her very special day!

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    • Thank you so much, Tanya. Considering how similar our family backgrounds are, I thought you would appreciate what this meant to her — and how wonderful it was for me to be there to witness the event. Truthfully, we still find the whole experience hard to believe. We went from getting out of a taxi to being on the stage, within a few feet of the Pope, in minutes. The Fates were very kind to us that day!

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  15. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story, John. What a truly memorable experience getting to meet the Pope. And you’re so lucky to have someone like Zia in your life. A very happy 90th to her!!!

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    • Thanks, Caroline, and you’re right. I’m very lucky on both counts, having a wonderful Zia and having shared this experience with her. I’ll be sure to send along your birthday wishes. Thanks!

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  16. Now that is an amazing story. There’s just one problem – how in the world do you top that? A new pair of slippers just doesn’t quite live up to that event for Zia. Happy birthday to Zia, she’s a very lucky lady in many ways.

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    • We were both lucky, Tanya. Zia was seated or her knees surely would have buckled. I was happy to have her wheelchair to hold on to. We were so very unprepared. Thank goodness we Bartolini have such strong hearts because mine was racing the entire time.

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  17. I teared up just reading this story, John! This would be a special blessing for almost anyone, but I can easily understand that for your Zia it would be unbelievable. I can just imagine a lifetime’s worth of devotion coming to the surface and being acknowledged. The timing of 9/11 and the loss of your mother/her sister would also make this trip even more significant, so what a pleasure it is to read about your grand adventure. And now I really want to send another kind of blessing in honor of her 90th birthday. I have so much love for the oldest generation in our family, I can easily understand how important Zia is in your life. Love seeing a picture of this wonderful lady! 🙂

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    • You are so right, Debra. Zia would have very happy to just attend the Mass and sit in the audience. To watch the Pope hold her hand, knowing what that meant for her, was something really quite special. I may joke about it but I wouldn’t trade that day for 1000 others.
      I’m sure she’ll be very pleased to read your comment, Debra. Thank you.

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  18. You are amazing….a great! nephew, son and friend…Thank you for being who you are and being so able to write it. Can’t wait for the next installment.
    from your good friend Jaimes’ sister, Karen

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    • Hello, Karen! So glad to “see” you here! I hear my Traveling Companion had a wonderful visit. I’m happy for you both.
      That was a very special day and meant the World to my Zia. And I got to witness the entire thing. How lucky can you get?
      Tomorrow’s post may not have a Pope but it does feature one very special Santa, as I’m sure you know. 🙂

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  19. Fantastic story. I love that you both had no expectations but despite doubting it had the sense of adventure to go with the ride… and we’re so wonderfully rewarded by an unforgettable experience that you shared, and value so much 🙂

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    • Thank you EllaDee for leaving such a nice comment. I think if we had any idea that we would be up on the stage, on camera in front of the masses, holding the Pope’s hand, we would have lost our nerve and stayed at the hotel. Ignorance is bliss sometimes. And what a reward!

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    • Thanks, April. Remember, there are 2 of us telling this tale. Our circle of family and friends probably know this story as well as my Zia and I. 🙂
      Zia will be very happy to read your birthday wishes. Thank you.

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  20. John, this was a beautiful real life story and I feel as if I was there in the way you walked us through it. How amazing! Happy birthday to Zia!!

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    • Thanks, Judy, for your comment and birthday wishes. That was one absolutely incredible day and so very unexpected. I still find it hard to believe. Someone “Up There” smiled upon us that day.

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  21. OK – now I’m sobbing and covered with goosebumps!! What a story! If it had been my mom, she would have peed in her pants. Hell – I would have peed in my pants! 🙂 Talk about a once in a lifetime experience and being the right place at the right time! Thanks for sharing this story!!!! And what a lovely woman Zia is! Oh — to live to be 90!

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    • Thanks for such a great comment! As I’ve mentioned, I’m just lucky to have had that wheelchair to hang on to. Everything seemed to happen so fast and was such a surprise. This “stuff” ain’t for the faint fo heart, that’s for sure. And you haven’t lived until you see your face on a Jumbotron. The horror!!!!

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  22. Pingback: What do a Zia, a Pope, and an Elf have to do with Today’s Pasta? (Part 2) | from the Bartolini kitchens

    • Thank you for your kind words. I’m so glad that you enjoyed my favorite “Zia story.”
      I’ve never heard of “The Moth” radio hour and will check it out. Thank you for the suggestion. 🙂

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  23. John, two nights ago this was my bedtime story to myself! My dreams all night long were elevated because of it! What a wonderful, FANTASTIC story!!! Few could ever top it. One of the sweetest images for me was that of your Zia’s repeated thanks and tears!! (I want to hug her!!) How incredible that the two of you have that spectacular memory to share! How very priceless is that! (and your photographs are wonderful!)

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    • Thank you, Spree. Meeting the Pope meant — and still means — so much to my Zia. I think of it often and it is sure to come up every time I visit her. I feel very lucky to have been there with her. It was a very special day and high point of my life. Top it? I won’t even try. 🙂

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  24. First of all.. happy birthday Zia 🙂
    I hope you had a wonderful and magical day
    John,I have said this before and I will say it again, you are a very talented story teller. I love reading your stories and this one was indeed breath taking!.. I can only imagine what the experience must have been like and what it must have meant to Zia and to you.

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    • Thank you, Sawsan. I’m sure Zia will be very happy to see your birthday wishes. You all have been so kind to her in your comments. And thats for the personal compliments. This story just seemed to write itself. The memories are still so very vivid, even 10 years later.
      That was an incredible day and I feel very fortunate to have been there with Zia. Meeting the Pope meant so very much to her. Truly a once in a lifetime experience for us both.

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    • Thanks, Barb. Yes, that was a day of many blessings, to be sure, and I feel very lucky to have been with Zia when she met the Pope. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
      🙂

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  25. What an amazing opportunity and an experience that will always change the way that you look at things again. I had chills when you talked about how emotional Zia was as this is not something that happens everyday and of course my mascara would be smearing right along with her. Take care, BAM

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  26. Oh John darling , i am so glad you collected me and made sure i read this, i have tears in my eyes remembering what you were remembering.. I am gobsmacked.. being brought up catholic myself and all.. well all i can say is.. Well.. goodness me. no wonder Zia is so special and thank god there were no thunderbolts!.. OK Off I go to part two.. celi

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    • Thanks, Celi. That was some day, wasn’t it? To be able to watch it unfold for Zia, knowing how important it was for her, was really a gift. I really was twice-blessed that day. 🙂

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  27. What an incredible experience for your Zia and for you. While meeting the Pope was obviously a moving and special experience, what really struck me in this story is what a wonderful nephew your are to your Aunt. Your affection for her is present throughout your blog, and especially so in this post. I’m sure she feels very blessed to have you in her life.

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    • Thanks, Mar, that’s very kind of you to say. We all feel blessed to have her in our lives. If I think about it, this blog would never have come about had it not been for her help. Mom never had the chance to teach me many of these recipes. I never would have “met” you or any of my blogging buddies without her help. It’s amazing to think of the number of lives affected by this one Lady — and I count the Pope among them. 🙂

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  28. Goodness, no wonder you’re her favourite nephew!! All this time I thought it was the cooking.. 😉

    What a great story John! I kept waiting for you to say that you weren’t actually meant to be up there, and it had been a case of mistaken identity, but nope, looks like it was exactly as it was meant to be! I’m so happy for Zia, she must have been unbelievably moved. You are so lucky to have her, but you know what? She’s blessed to have you. And I’m sure she feels that way too. xx

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    • Thank you, Celia, that was very kind of you to say. Given your friendship with Mrs. M, I knew you would appreciate what that day meant to Zia. It was all so unbelievable, like walking in a dream, and neither of us will ever forget it.

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  29. Excellent story John. I’m an old friend of your cousin Rick. I believe we’ve met on a few occasions, though it was probably 35 years ago… I remember your parents well. Keep up the good work. I’m looking forward to enjoying a few of the family recipes again. John

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    • Hey, John! I’m sure we did meet back then. It was just prior to my coming here to Chicago. Last weekend’s birthday party was at Rick’s son’s home and it was great seeing everyone again. Sure am glad you stopped by here, enjoyed this post, and left a comment identifying yourself. Don’t be a stranger! 🙂

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  30. Oh John, I’m so behind on reading my posts and got so excited to start reading about your trip to Italy! What an amazing trip! I can’t wait to get to Part 2, but this post had me caught up totally in your visit. I see why you and your Aunt are so close, what a special relationship you both share. Italy is definitely on my bucket list to visit.

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    • Thank you so much, Linda. That trip really cemented our relationship. Meeting a Pope will do that. 🙂
      I do hope you manage to get “over there” some day — and soon! It is amazing and you’ll wonder why you didn’t go sooner. I cannot wait for an opportunity to get back there.

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  31. Holy cow! That is incredible John! What an honor and a surprise. That just makes me smile thinking of Zia too. It all just seems so meant to be. Your pictures made me miss Rome – it was my favorite place when I visited Europe. I can’t wait to go back someday. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Kristy. It was an incredible day, that’s for sure! You’re right, too, about Rome. I cannot wait to get back there. Just to grab an espresso, find a seat in a piazza, and watch the parade of people. Then end the day with a fine meal. What’s not to love?

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      • Just back to let you know that Mr. N was curious about where tonight’s recipe came from and so he hopped on and read Part I and II. He was really blown away by the picture of the Colosseum. “Whoa! Mom come here you have to see this! This is the coolest picture of the Colosseum!”

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        • Now that’s great! I’m so glad he enjoyed the picture. I don’t know if he noticed that there’s a group of people standing in the center of the left side of the photo, overlooking what was once the arena. It may give him some perspective as to how large that place is.
          When I was Mr. N’s age, I read everything I could about the Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. It was an incredible thrill to walk among some of the ruins and actually touch them, when allowed. I hope he gets to experience that same thrill. It’s an amazing feeling. Thanks for telling me this, Kristy. I’ve wearing about as broad a smile as I can.

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  32. What an incredible story. I was raised a Catholic, and grew up with Pope John Paul II so he’s a figure who’s larger than life (even in death) to me.You conveyed all of the excitement and thrill of an unforgettable day. It is so special to be part of such a memorable event with someone so dear.

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    • Being raised Catholic, you surely know what this meant for Zia. I must admit that if I had been there by myself or with friends, I doubt if I would have been so moved. Being able to share the moment with Zia, however, meant the World. Thank you taking the time to leave such a nice comment.

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    • Welcome, Claire! That was a very special day, especially for my Aunt. Being there to see her and all it meant for her was a real gift.
      Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment.

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