It must be genetic. That’s the only possible explanation. Of course, this really isn’t an explanation, but it will serve for now.
For many placid northern Europeans, people in Mediterranean lands must be baffling: they furiously wave their hands while peculiar noises flow forth from their mouths. Italians are particularly outlandish in this regard. And then there are the Sicilians. If the Italians gesticulate in rhythm with their words, florid Sicilians are a cut above, or below, depending upon your viewpoint. A Sicilian simply cannot talk without his whirling hands. They are what convey his real meaning — the emotional subtleties underlying his words.
And Sicilians are very emotional. I should know. For I, too, am Sicilian. And I, too, suffer from this affliction. Or, I once did, though now I suppress my uncontrollable hand waving deliberately. Actually, I am half Sicilian. My maternal grandparents were born and raised on that noble island. My father’s side, New Englanders, passed down gloom. I have suffered a lifelong conflict between these two opposing genetic strains.
I well remember the moment when this fundamental Sicilian characteristic was excised from me — out of necessity, of course. In the American society of that era one had to show proper reserve to be taken seriously. Advancement in the world precluded being too Italian, much less Sicilian.
Mom did the appropriate surgery. And surgeon she was, for Mom was a skilled and tenacious registered nurse. Given the troubles she had handled in the past, curing my Sicilian affliction was well within her capabilities. Pure Sicilian herself, of course she understood my problem, and almost certainly had undergone a similar discipline.
Mom’s operation on me occurred one afternoon when I was particularly excited by some event of the day, talking a mile a minute, pouring out all the wonder I had recently experienced. Mom, with the voice of authority, commanded a cease fire. She grabbed my hands, put them together in her firm grip and said: “Talk.” I opened my mouth and . . . nothing came out! I literally could not say a word without my hands being in motion. I tried. I really did. But nothing.
After a bit Mom released my hands and allowed me to speak. Haltingly I was able to convey some of what had excited me, but the emotional fire was gone.
After that initial trauma we had several sessions of basic training in American customs and civilized discourse. Dad sat on the sidelines, watching with amusement.
Eventually the newfound discipline stuck and I can now usually converse without waving my hands. But sometimes my excitement does get the better of me and I temporarily revert to my Sicilian heritage. Fortunately, my friends let these brief moments of insanity pass without comment.
© 2022 Chester L. Richards. All rights reserved.
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From Chester L. Richards
Hello, and happy to see you here! A little about what's behind these stories: Having retired from the world of aerospace engineering, I now spend time reading, inventing, listening to music, taking photographs and sharing them with friends. And writing stories. Often about people I've met as I've traveled to exotic places, learned about music, surfing, white water rafting, optics, photography. Every story is true. I hope you enjoy them.