IL PADRE DI DELIA
English version Italian version
THE PARTITION WALL
Parental control had become even more intense during that time of the year.
I could go out only if my sisters were with me, or with the Nuns on Sunday afternoon. Every once in a while though, I tempted fate and stayed out with my friends even after the nuns had returned to the convent. If, God forbid, a guy passed by, probably a brother of one of my friends, I get a slap and a stern warning and told that “Next Sunday you are not going out”.
We lived in a house that sat in front of the square and it was like living in a house made of glass; whatever we said or did, everyone saw and heard. This really annoyed my father. He loved his privacy and could not tolerate any intrusion into his private life. He was convinced that if the door to the house was not completely shut, people passing by would crane their necks to take a look and know what was going on inside. One day a mason armed with his trowel, measuring tape, plumb line, level and the other tools of his trade, came to the house. He measured the wall, the floor and the door. Used his plumb line, looked up and down and muttered something. He drew something on a piece of paper with a very short pencil that had been sharpened too many times and was now hard to hold with two fingers. Everything was done very carefully. He put the piece of paper and pencil back in his pocket and said that he would come back in a few days.
And he did come back. He came with a sack of cement, bricks, sand, a long trowel and a cement-mixing tub. He started working immediately. He used his plumb line to measure the distance between the two walls and then made some marks on the floor; then he started mixing cement and sand. I was confused; I had no idea what he was going to build. I went to grandma and before I even opened my mouth, she said that my father wanted to build a cement wall between the kitchen and the front door so that people could not see us when the door was open. “But why?” I asked. My grandmother said that my father did not like that people walking in the square could see the women of the house inside. I did not understand much; we had lived like that forever and now he was changing everything. I was not very happy with the idea. I did not understand how that would have looked and I did not understand the need for that.
A wall from the floor to the ceiling was built; it even came up to the staircase and stopped with an opening that opened into the kitchen. It gave me a feeling of oppression, almost like a prison. It wasn’t right, I said to myself; my father was intolerant towards everything. Now, when you went into the house, there was a hallway, and we had a wall in front of us that blocked everything. A few months passed and then winter came. One day my uncle came, with his truck loaded with a cardboard container. He called over a boy to help him and together they unloaded the container and brought it inside. When they opened it, an opaque glass door came out of the box. The blacksmith came shortly afterwards. He took measurements and drew markings on the side of the arch. I watched him as he measured the floor by putting one foot in front of the other; then he got his toolbox out and started to work. After a short time, the new opaque glass door, with a nice gold handle, was installed. He opened it and closed it a few times and then he turned to us and with his sweep of his hands; he presented his masterpiece to us. I have to say that the new entryway was nice; the glass door seemed like a piece of jewelry next to the austere walls. We needed time to get used to opening it and closing it. We would just go to leave and then suddenly, we had to stop to open it. My grandmother, when she was distracted, would even hit her head on the door. Thanks to the new door and the wall, no one could spy on us when we were inside. As nice as the new door was, with the newly painted hallway and kitchen, I still felt bothered and anxious about it. I was convinced that my father had really exaggerated the situation this time, by blocking us off from the outside world. “Your father makes the decisions” my mom would say, “Everything he does; he does for our own good”. I wasn’t too sure of that. It was useless to complain; no one would have listened and I probably would have even been yelled at for whining.
Delia Socci Skidmore