The Gorgon - A diplomatic tale with a vein of truth

Since my son was quite ill over the weekend and not feeling entirely well until yesterday, I've been hard pressed to find the time to post this last week. Now, that we are back on track health-wise, at least for my little boy, my accumulated tiredness has caught up with me. I had intended to post a Leaping Thought Wednesday Post for you like always but the ideas flitted by and never stayed long enough to interest my fingers into typing them. Instead, I offer you this anecdote.


My parents once attended a party in their honor at the residence of the Italian Ambassador. The morning after, in telling me all about it, my mother said that to her surprise she and my father had walked into the entry hallway of the Embassy to find that full-length portraits of themselves (previously taken at another function) had been hung up for all the guests to see.

In greeting, the Ambassador kissed my mother's hand in the old world style and explained to her that it was especially as a tribute to her beauty and charm (and I can only just fantasize how deliciously accented this whole explanation must have been) that the enlarged photographs had been commissioned for the occasion.

, very soon after that party took place, at my geography class, all the children were assigned a country to make a presentation about. Mine was Italy. Upon learning of my task, my father asked me whether I should like some help with the project and when I said that I would, he wasted no time going directly to the top of the mountain so to speak. The next day he telephoned the aforementioned Ambassador and asked for literature or pamphlets that the Italian Embassy might keep on hand. The idea was that I would have something interesting and official-looking to hand out to my classmates during my presentation. The Ambassador delivered on this and offered something more. He extended me a private invitation to tour his home and meet him. He said to bring a list of questions I might wish to ask him about his country in order to flesh out further what I was planning to say in front of the class.

On the afternoon of my interview, my mother rushed me out of my school uniform and dressed me up in one of my formal outfits. While she made me presentable she drilled me on a long list of no-nos with regards to how I should behave:

1. Answer in full sentences and only when spoken to Milena.
2. Don't be too familiar (i.e. cheeky or ask questions not related to the project).
3. Remember to behave like the señorita that you are.
4. Sit with your legs crossed at the ankles. Do not fidget and do not slouch.
5. Remember to say thank you for everything that is offered to you and above all, remember that the Ambassador is your father's colleague. Do not do anything that might embarrass your father.

In my head, as she externally burdened me with all the stalwarts of decorum do nots, I simultaneously ran my abbreviated list of her admonishments:

1. Don't speak - check. But how am I supposed to ask questions then?
2. No impertinences -
I'll try, but in my defense, I don't deliberately set out to be impertinent.
3. Be a señorita -
Isn't that what you constantly tell me I am?
4. ... at ankles -
and my back straight. I know, I know. So tiresome but I'll do it anyway.
5. Thank yous - plenty of them.
I'll say grazie - should I say grazie? Would it sound too offish to show him I knew what grazie meant or, should I just stick with a plain English thank you?
6. Colleague
of papi's - (here I descended into my mental valley girl voice - like yeah, as if I did not know that already, excuuuuse me....)

Satisfied that she had at least done everything motherly possible to make me look neat and proper, she gave me her most fraught with dire consequences look of you behave and then sent me off to the Italian Embassy in my father's official car with Mr. Leonel, our Colombian driver. Handing me formally into the backseat, which was a place I hardly ever sat in, as I usually drove by his side to school in the mornings, Mr. Leonel winked at me in reassurance.

When we drove up, I remember that the Ambassador came out to the door of his home to meet me. I noticed that there was an intricate looking floor pattern in the entry hall. I knew nothing of architectural styles then and what my brain supplies for me now is probably incorrect, so I won't even attempt to describe the place to you except to tell you this much, it was fancy. There was a lot of marble and lots of golden, shiny looking things. While I was guided to a sitting room/library of sorts, he asked if I should care for something to drink and eat. I said that I would and I remembered to tag on the thank you my mother had exhorted me to since, I had forgotten in my awe to use my practiced grazie.

What would you like to drink
, he asked. Some water please I said. While a maid was waved off to get it, I self-consciously looked about the room as I felt him studying me. After a bit of prolonged silence, he cleared his throat as if meaning to get to business and asked me if I had any questions for him. Yes, I said. Where is my mother's photograph? The beginnings of a smile played on his lips. My mother told me it was as tall as she is and that you kissed her hand and called her pretty. I told him I thought my mother was pretty too. He laughed outright. I did too. It was infectious his laughter. It broke the ice.

So your mother told you about the photograph did she?
Yes, I said.

And now you want to know where it is, no?

Yes, I said again.

I've hidden it
, he answered.

I've got a Gorgon for a wife, and she doesn't like your mother's pretty photo hanging in our hall
What's a Gorgon? And why did you hang it in the first place then? I asked.

I'm Italian
, he replied and shrugged as if that explained everything. I like pretty things.
I see, I said (but I really didn't). Why can't you hang your wife then? Isn't she pretty too?

The answer to that question I never got. But he was swiping away at tears of laughter as my water came followed by some cookies on a platter and a teacup with a teapot on a silver tray. I felt gypped.

Have you read any Greek mythology? he asked.
Ever the calculating little thing I was, I answered that not yet but that I was sure I would someday. Even that young, I knew enough to always present myself as the budding possibility rather than a dead ending street.

Well, a Gorgon is... and he paused - a Gorgon is a female who turns your head to stone if you look at her directly in the eyes.

Out loud I said, wow! what a nifty trick!

Still smiling at me he curiously replied: Yes, and I do believe that you too will learn to master it.


  1. Gorgon has been my screen name for a number of years, since Freshman year of college. But I wasn't the Gorgon, that was my friend. I was another charecter from literature but that name was taken. So I stole Gorgon and remained her.

    Good story btw

  2. Great story (and well-told, as usual)! What an interesting childhood you had -- thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Sister Sassy: I've been thinking of you with all the you know what in the news. How have you been? Love your profile photo by the way. Did you really take on Gorgon as your screen name? How wonderful. I was always partial to Medusa and the Harpies myself but that's just because I'm a little morbid. Glad you liked it. This morning, speaking to my sister on the phone, she reminded me of many other such incidents. I think you'll see more of these cropping up here in the future. They make good fodder for telling.

    Robyn: Thanks. I've been missing knowing of you and Bear. Moving over to your blog as we speak. And you know, I never viewed it as 'interesting,' my childhood. It was pretty normal looking while I was in it. That of course is born of a child's absolute conviction that the life they live is the same as everyone else's. Only in growing up do we appreciate the luck or the lack of it.

  4. I'm laughing and nodding...it all seems to apt, the Italian ambassador with a weakness for beautiful women and a shrew-like wife. It's so perfect. So cinematic. So Italian. Thanks for sharing that one!

  5. A charming, funny story; told beautifully, as usual.

    Have you changed your feed at all? I still have you listed in Bloglines, but it never shows up when updated....

  6. That would be a nifty trick- I wish I could do it!

  7. The sign of great writing: I'm picturing your experience.

  8. What a marvelous story! It just kept getting better and better until the very end, which was perfectly satisfying. :)

    Melissa Donovan at Writing Forward
    Writing Forward

  9. Cce: Now I'm the one who is flattered. For you to call a post of mine cinematic is the height film-like accolades since I'm hard pressed to think of many people who can paint as well with words as you can. And I made you laugh! That's wonderful. I'm pleased.

    HPKT: I did. I did. I changed the feed and just for you. It still doesn't work? This is me groaning out loud. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Feeling incredibly lame in the technical department. I'll get back to it.

    ThomasLB: I'm sure you (of all people) would! Unfortunately, only ladies can manage it. Very gender specific this stone turning thing. ;-)

    Dave: Wow! Thanks. Didn't realize how visual the whole telling was. Blushing pink with pleasure as I write.

    Melissa: Oh my God! Hi Melissa. My palms are sweating. You are my bloggie Brad Pitt. I won't say Angelina (though you are female) because she wouldn't make me nervous but, you do. In a good way mind you. Thanks for stopping by my blog. You know, I'm going to have to take a page from you as of today, and start speaking about underwear. Obviously, it has its draws. ;-) Thank you for the kind words. They mean much coming from you.

  10. I hope your son is feeling better.

    Way cool story.

  11. What a wonderful childhood you had being in such a cosmopolitan, expat setting! You must have many more of those stories and how exciting it must have been to lived that life!



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