A SETTEFRATI , UN TEMPO .....
Italian version English version
Since my fatherís return, the house had sprung to life again. Friends and relatives would often come to visit us and they would stay to talk to my father until late at night. The wine carafe was always on the table, and the more they drank, the more interesting the stories they told became. They would speak of their adventurous youth, of the war, of the flight from and of the return to the village. My father and my uncle had their own stories and adventures from the years spent in Africa: the beasts they had seen, the dangers they had lived through and the unending years in the concentration camps.
Seated on the step of the fireplace, I would listen to the adventurous stories with my mouth wide open until I fell asleep, always with my head in Grandmotherís lap.
My father had seen to redoing the electrical wiring, and so at this point we had electricity in the house.
The lamp, faithful companion of our long solitary nights, was replaced with an electric light bulb. And yet, to me it seemed as if the lamp, with its thin line of black smoke that drifted up to the ceiling and its small trembling flame, had a life and personality of its own that the electric bulb could not possess. I was almost sad to not see it anymore.
Spring was getting closer now. The warm days were getting longer and the almond tree flowers bloomed and colored the valley with shades of pink and white, mottled with red, a sure sign of a good harvest.
I was preparing for my First Holy Communion. I should have done it the year before, but my mother had wanted to wait another year in the hope that my father would return.
My grandmother called a counsel of the entire family to inform them. Everyone had agreed: it was surely right, it had to wait. In the meantime, the nuns pushed to have me take Communion at the customary age. But faced with my motherís logic, they had to give in.
My mother now smiled serenely; she no longer had that far away, sad look of those long years spent alone. But even more than seeing her happiness, it seemed to me that she had acquired a certain light and her face seemed to be illuminated by a sweet halo. But perhaps it was only my impression.
One day, that spring, she called me to her and she told me that she and my father were going away for a while. They were going to live in the big country house. I would stay with Grandmother. Surprised by this unexpected piece of news, I shrugged my shoulders; I didnít know how to react. I stayed behind with Grandmother and even she seemed a bit lost. She explained that it was good that my parents spent some time alone together in the country.
Preparations for my First Communion were going well. I was very well informed on matters of doctrine and when Arciprete Marsella came to the nunís school to test us, I answered all of his questions correctly. After a few weeks, my parents returned home. My mother had two new beautiful dresses. The dressmaker, B. di Gallinaro, had made them for her. They were of the style where the belt was tied to one side. They were made like this so if you gained or lost weight, all you had to do was move the belt. My mother wasnít losing weight.
The day before my First Communion, the dressmaker of the village, Donata, made the last alterations to my white dress; she even measured the veil with the crown. Everything was going perfectly. I was excited, tomorrow would be the big day.
The following day, I woke up early. I didnít eat breakfast; in those days, you had to fast starting at midnight before taking Communion. My grandmother and my mother helped me put on my pure white dress and veil.
I met up with the others who were also taking their First Communion at the nunsí school.
We formed a procession, going two by two, and we set out together for the church, singing hymns to Jesus. All the relatives and friends of those taking their First Communion were already at the church. And since everyone was either a friend or relative of everyone else in the village, the church was overflowing. At the moment of Communion, we were the first to receive the Host. After the mass and the prelateís speech telling us to always remain as holy as we were on this day, we went home for lunch. But not before having rinsing our mouths at the small fountain at the foot of the church stairs.
That night, the invited guests came over to celebrate. My father had invited all of his friends from Settefrati and nearby villages. There was a huge party. The evening ended late, and I was tired but excited over the events of that day
Delia Socci Skidmore