Our youngest just finished his semester in Spain. Haven’t eyeballed his report card yet, but the buzz on the street is that Ricky passed. Now hubby and I decided way last year before the lad left, we couldn’t let the tall dude have all the fun. Nope. Heck, I’ve been saving quarters for 10 long years for such an adventure. Here is a little trivia for ya. Do you know that a quart-sized Mason jar will hold 150 bucks worth of quarters? The teller at my bank shuddered every day for about a week as I carried in my sack of rolled quarters. But seriously, I digress. The problem was we didn’t really want to go to Spain. It is why earlier this month we spent a glorious week in Rome. I’m still pinching myself. We hung out a few days by ourselves, just the hubster and I, with our handy Italian phrase book in one hand and a gelato (Italian ice cream) cone in the other. My absolute favorite gelato flavor is fragiole. Ricky flew over and joined us in the middle of our trip for several days and then the three of us flew home together. We did all the usual touristy stuff in Rome, like exploring the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. We also threw exactly three coins in the Trevi Fountain. My boys marveled at the hole in the ceiling of the Pantheon, while later that day, I left drool on the windows of the trendy shops opposite the Spanish Steps. We even managed to cram our itinerary with some of the macabre, like the Cappuccin Crypt, and going in the wrong direction on the Metro subway, just to make it really unforgettable. The crypt is in the basement of a church near the Piazza Barberini. I just love that name … Barberini. I think he was a cardinal way back when. The bones of more than 4,000 monks who died between 1528 and 1870 are all stacked up very artistically in about five rooms down a long hallway. Trust me … this is one activity for the bigger kids on your list. Cameras weren’t allowed, or I’d show you a picture. The kicker is a message on the wall. It read, “We were what you are … you will become what we are now.” Kinda puts things in perspective, don’t it? We came back over the pond with over 700 digital pictures of our escapades. That is lots of saying “formaggio” (Italian for “cheese”) for the camera. Oh, and the stories! My most memorable is when Rick nearly got arrested at St. Peter’s Basilica. No seriously, he didn’t do anything bad, and I don’t really believe he was really in any danger of getting arrested. Think about it … where would they detain the guy? I’ll admit the thought crossed my mind that the Vatican could certainly have an ancient cell or two, with chains and everything, for unruly guests, but come on … it’s the Vatican. Our son hadn’t joined us in Rome yet. I remember we had just finished touring St. Peter’s. Before leaving the basilica, my husband, Rick, overheard a couple of English-speaking tourists brag about their blue tickets for seats inside St. Peter’s on Sunday. One of those new energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs switched to the “on” position in our heads. Those without a blue ticket wound up sweating in the piazza. But the tourists walked off so fast, we didn’t have all the skinny on how to actually procure the tickets. Rick proceeded to quiz various Vatican employees. Sadly, their English, and our Italian, was severely lacking. It wasn’t long before we figured out it was the Swiss Guard we needed to see. Now we just had to find one. Strolling toward the square’s exit, I turned to my left. There two Swiss Guards stood at the top of a secluded staircase about 50 yards off. Several little nuns dressed in gray stood in line behind a barrier at the bottom of the steps. I stopped to watch. The nuns waited to walk up the steps one at a time. “Rick, there they are. Stand in line behind those nuns and wait your turn. I’ll stay right here,” I whispered. Rick disappeared on the other side of a huge thick column to hang with the little nuns. It was then I noticed the little office with a policeman sitting inside. “Hey, get over here,” the policeman shouted. There was a pregnant pause, and then he hollered some more. I soon figured out he was yelling at my husband. “Didn’t you hear me yelling at you? You have to have my permission to stand in that line,” the angry policeman said in English as he stomped 50 feet around the column toward Rick. Rick profusely apologized indicating he didn’t hear him, didn’t know the protocol, and that he was trying to get some tickets for Sunday’s Mass. The grumpy policeman angrily waved Rick on. I watched as a rattled Rick walked up the steps to the Swiss Guards. When he reached the top, one of the Swiss Guards respectfully saluted. I couldn’t hear the exchange, but it wasn’t long before Rick walked down the steps to where I was standing. The angry policeman sneered as Rick walked past. Geez, wouldn’t you know Rick would cross the one cranky Vatican dude that was having a bad hair day. “How many tickets did you get?” I asked, as we walked as far away from the policeman as possible toward the exit of St. Peter’s square. “Two,” said Rick, and then, “I forgot to get one for Ricky.” Stay tuned for “Say formaggio, part due … or the tale of the extra blue ticket.” Dixie Frantz is a Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past twelve years. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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