Agnes “Noni” Ricci is my grandmother. The first worldly gift I ever received was a small, embroidered pillow that Noni gave me on the day of my birth that reads Grandparents are to spoil you and protect you from your parents. In the twenty-three years that have elapsed since Noni gave me that pillow she has fulfilled her grandparently duties past measure. Her ambrosial French Toast breakfast knows no equal. She is a consummate observer of any holiday that even hints at justifying a card. An entire drawer in my freshman year desk at college was exhausted, engorged with Noni cards by spring semester’s end. She knew I would swiftly misspend the cash she sent. Yet, not once in my life have the cards ever relented. They arrive forever early, addressed and wishing-well in her indelible, flawless script. In my infancy, I coined the name Noni, unable to correctly pronounce the correct Italian word for grandmother nonna. Phonetically, the word noni means grandparents, and time has shown my misnomer to be apt, as Noni’s worth demands the plurality. She could out-grandma three grandmas. She is my favorite coworker. I still sleep with that small, embroidered pillow.
Interview 2: Agnes “Noni” Ricci
The Basic Info Portion of the Interview
CP: Where and when were you born?
Noni: St. Joe’s Hospital Philadelphia Pennsylvania May 2nd 1941.
CP: That’s one down.
Noni: One down.
CP: What was your first job?
Noni: Secretary to the Vice President of First National Bank in Seaside Heights NJ.
CP: What is your animus or power animal?
Noni: A TIGER!
CP: Any reason?
Noni: Because it shows strength.
CP: And its stripes…
CP: What were your parents’ names and professions?
Noni: Florence Mitchell was my mother. She was tax collector of Seaside Park, and…Archibald Mitchell was a housepainter.
Note: No gripes against my name (it’s memorable, and women seem to love the way it comes out of their mouthes), but had my parents named me Archibald after my maternal great-grandfather I sincerely believe I would already be President of the United States of America.
CP: (Furious) I DID NOT KNOW THAT!?!
CP: Can you name every pet you’ve ever had over the course of your life?
Noni: The name or the breed of the dogs?
CP: Doesn’t matter. Either, but preferably, both?
Noni: A Boxer, a German Shepherd, a Huskie, a Poodle, and Foxy [a collie, my (CP’s) childhood dog]. I can’t remember their names, but I do remember your grandfather throwing the poodle across a parking lot after it bit your Aunt Colleen.
The Sentence Completion Portion of the Interview
CP: My name is Noni, I have just constructed a time machine and intend to travel to my favorite historical era to live out the rest of my earthly days. That era is the _______.
Noni: The 1800’s. Because it was a gay time, and a happy time.
CP: What about the fashion?
CP: And bustiers!
Noni: Bustiers! Yeah!
Note: This answer and the ensuing dialogue paint a fascinating mental image.
CP: My name is Noni and the one thing I absolutely have to do every day is _______.
Noni: Have my coffee.
CP: My name is Noni, and in my previous life I was ________.
Noni: (laughs) The leader of a country.
CP: Which country?
CP: Male leader or female leader?
CP: Pre-industrial England or Post-Industrial England?
CP: The best-industrial.
CP: My name is Noni, and I just won a billion Canadian dollars. I’m totally going to ______.
Noni: Spend it on my children and grandchildren and buy a big house for all of them.
CP: My name is Noni, my most treasured possession is ______.
Noni: My grandmother’s rosary beads.
The Basically Personal Info Portion of the Interview
CP: Can you describe yourself in three words that begin with the letter W?
BT: Let’s see, Wonderful. Warrior. Whimsical.
CP: Great words.
CP: Would you ever bungee jump, spelunk, base jump, or sky dive?
Noni: Sky dive maybe.
Note: There was a collective gasp from everyone in earshot.
Peanut Gallery: Why don’t ya get a tattoo while ya skydive, Noni.
CP: Where were you when JFK was assassinated?
Noni: I was on an escalator in the Morristown Mall in Morristown New Jersey.
Note: An escalator is an excellent literary symbol for transition and uncertainty. The Mall is an excellent symbol of statsis, entrapment, and spiritual death.
CP: Where were you when Martin Luther King was assassinated?
Noni: Working on the boardwalk.
CP: Where were you when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated?
Noni: Home. I saw it on TV.
CP: John Lennon?
CP: Bob Marley?
Noni: That I don’t remember.
CP: Jam Master J?
Noni: Don’t remember!
CP: Marvin Gaye?
Noni: Home! I saw it on the news.
CP: Do you believe in the afterlife? If so, what type?
CP: What would you be reincarnated as?
Noni: (laughs) A queen! Ha, ha!
CP: You’ve dealt with a few domineering male personalities in your life. Firstly, my grandfather and namesake, Carmen Ricci, who purportedly shoved a full-grown man into a garbage can, totaled a Rolls Royce exacting revenge on a teenage boy that catcalled my mother, and broke all the bones in an opposing player’s hand during a high school football game. Then my father, a man deaf to reason with the organizational panache of a Midwestern Tornado. Then me, Carmen Petaccio, a faultless genius that spends too much money on haircuts. Do you feel as though you possess a preternatural, almost supernatural degree of patience and poise?
Noni: Yes, and I attained it with age.
CP: What historical figure do you most identify with and why?
BT: Queen Elizabeth 1.
Noni: (cont.) She helped to unify the country, supported and inspired Shakespeare, and defeated the Spanish Armada, all after her mother was beheaded by her father.
CP: Whoa! History lesson courtesy of Prof. Noni!
CP: Would you ever exchange lives with someone else? If so, who?
CP: If you were forced to?
CP: Could you name one way in which you envy kids that grow up today, as well as name one way that you’re glad you grew up when you did?
Noni: Information is more readily available to children today. I suppose I envy that? More exposure to the world I guess. My day what I liked about growing up…not much. Being forced into the world unwillingly at an early age. There isn’t much to like.
CP: If someone wrote your biography, what would the title be? Whimsical Warrior?
Peanut Gallery: The Lady Behind the Mask!
Noni: That’s a good one. I like…The Matriarch.
CP: If you could have dinner with any three people living or dead, who would those three people be?
BT: My grandmother definitely. Judas, and John F. Kennedy Jr.
CP: An eclectic mix to say the least.
CP: If you could redo any moment in your life, what moment would you choose?
Noni: When I got married! Ha, ha. It’s hard to pick one moment.
CP: I know I would pick all of them.
The Word Association Portion of the Interview
The Favorite Anythings Portion of the Interview
CP: What’s your favorite midnight snack?
BT: I’m never awake at midnight.
CP: Who is your favorite fashion icon?
BT: I’m going to say Oscar De La Renta.
CP: Who’s your favorite phrase in the English language?
BT: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
CP: What’s your favorite mythological creature?
CP: Creature, not character.
Noni: Give me an example.
CP: Cyclops, Centaur, Dryad, Nymph, Charybdis, Elf.
Noni: Elf sounds good.
Noni’s Question for Carmen’s End of the Month Self-Interview
Q2: Where do you [Carmen Petaccio] see yourself in twenty years ?