belly button

My belly button is going to change tomorrow. Not a big deal. (So, if surgery is not a big deal, why have I not told anybody about it?) I guess I’m embarrassed. It’s a herniated homely little annoying thing. And yet, it’s disturbing to disrupt it. I’ve always had this belly button. It is going to be very strange to look down and see an altered knot. And they do have to slice me open like a boiled egg and dig in there and sew things up. I was so very cool about it all until now, 3am, where I start to imagine my obituary, “Lucia Frangione passed away Dec 29, 2014, due to a rare fatal reaction to anesthetic. She leaves behind a grieving daughter, a bereft fellow and a handful of friends and family and fans who can’t believe she risked her life because her belly button bugged her.”???????????????????????????????????????

I clean my house in the middle of the night so at least when people come rooting through stuff it will be tidy.  I mark one of my student’s assignments. I worry about who is going to finish my opera for me. I think over my life and decide it has been very good and I have done enough to make some kind of difference.  I wonder if Pacific Theatre will put a plaque on the back of a chair with my name on it? Doubt it. Not in the budget. And what will it be for my daughter to think I chose an innie over her?

Silly thoughts. I go to bed and pat my belly good-bye.

I was born two months early and back in 1969 that was saying something. Apparently I was long dark skinny and hairy and my Uncle Kim wrinkled up his nose, “I thought you said she was cute?” I was in an incubator. They gave a little scrawny baby a big name. During this time my belly button started to come undone, so they poured acid on it and sealed it up again. This is what my Dad told me. It is only now that i am revisiting this story I’ve always grown up with and thinking to myself WHAT THE HELL?! That can’t be true! But I have believed it, all my life. Whenever I look at my belly button I’m always a little concerned it’s going to come undone again and I’m going to go squealing and flying around the room like an untied balloon, making a dreadful mess of the walls.

Newborn-incubator-torontoMy Mom is going to have to set me straight, after forty five years, I have never questioned the reasoning behind this very deep odd button I have. And that’s when I get a little emotional. My belly button is the physical proof that I was once attached to her. That twenty one year old beauty who should have never believed the dashing Italian guy with the Elvis curl when he said he understood the rhythm method. That slender fawn, shaking in the kitchen while Nonna screamed and literally pulled out tufts of her hair that floated around on the table cloth when her favoured son announced he was marrying an English girl. That young strong determined woman who proved them all wrong. She was a very faithful wife and a very devoted mother and Nonna grew to love her. She went into labour while picking cherries in the Okanagan and Dad drove her all the way to Calgary to give birth to me, early delivery. And then…she hung her head over the incubator for weeks and weeks, watching me breathe. Wondering how her life was going to unfold with this complicated man and this scrawny little inconvenient baby whose belly button can’t even stay together.

UnknownI wake up after the operation groggy as hell. There is a significant incision, some gross bloody drain tubes hanging out of me and a thick white patch over my centre where the mysterious new button is. “Come on, roll over, be brave.” says the crisp nurse with tulip pink lips. Oh my God it hurts like hell. “Good girl.” I realize in this moment I am far more incapacitated than I anticipated.

My great big fellow whisks me home and is strong enough to lift me into bed, thank God. And he lets me sleep. When I wake, he’s very quiet, studying me. He makes me tea. “What? What is it?” I ask. “I don’t know how to tell you this…” He looks at me with a blank helplessness and I know whatever he’s going to say is going to rock my world.


The knot in my stomach reaches reaches reaches deep, to my name sake, to Lucia Frangione, to the centre of me where she is. And for the past three days in my painkiller pain filled grief sleep and half waking I dream of the generations that went into making me and how I have made a daughter out of it all.

I blubber a little baby boo boo because it hurts too much to heave. I am not going to be well enough to travel to her funeral.

But that’s okay. She will understand. I traveled during her life. I traveled to her home town in Italy. I have traveled to her childhood days through photo albums. I have traveled through the war with her and through married at thirteen. I have traveled with the priest to Jerusalem and traveled through the dark sickness that was my Dad’s last ten years of life. I traveled with her in my imagination through a spiritual journey in Espresso. One of the final things she said to me is, “I love you because you’re my grandchild, but you have also made me your friend.”

I pat the knot in the middle of me. Nothing is coming undone.




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