IL PADRE DI DELIA
English version Italian version
Summer was back and my green dress was still hanging inside my closet where I had left it the previous year, since that time when my father had forbidden me from wearing it. I still hadn’t understood the reason why he had forbidden me from wearing it and neither my mother nor my grandmother would talk to me about it. It would have been really great to wear it, I thought. It was made of cotton and it would have kept me cool during the hot sunny days. But the dress still remained on its hanger; it seemed that the dress itself was sad for having been discarded while it was still new. Sometimes, to avoid seeing it, I would hide it behind another dress in the closet. I felt sad and confused and I was sure to be the ugliest girl of the village. One day I gathered up my courage and, I resolutely confronted my mother. I told her I wanted to know the reason why I could not wear the dress and that I did not want to hear excuses or vague reasons why the dress was making my father so nervous. Mom started to smile in a funny and sarcastic way; she shook her head and said “The sleeves are too short.” “The sleeves are too short?” I repeated “but there are no sleeves”. I said. “Exactly” my mom said. Exactly what? There were no sleeves. My mother smiled again and said that since I had reached my adolescence such a “brazen” dress was not appropriate. “That is it?” I said flabbergasted. My Mother answered nodding "yes."
A little confused, but without thinking twice about it, I went to the seamstress. I explained to her what the problem with the sleeves was. She said that maybe she could do something. She turned the dress around and looked at the stitching. She twitched her mouth, pressed her lips together and shook her head from one side to the other indicating a negative answer. Then she said that maybe she could cut some fabric from the hem, re-do the dress a little shorter and with the salvaged fabric she could make a pair of short sleeves. I sighed in relief and gave her the dress. A few days later she gave me back the dress with new sleeves made taken from the fabric in the hem. This time, when I hung it inside the closet, I was smiling. Sunday came and I was getting ready to go to the mass. I put on my green dress, I looked at myself in the mirror and I did not like the way I looked at all. It was clear that the sleeves had been added on and this took away from that cute look the dress had. I decided to wear it anyway, but I wasn't thinking that I looked like a movie star anymore.
In those times it was trendy to wear your hair “bobbed” and I dared to fix my hair that way without saying anything to my mother. So it was a big surprise when I came downstairs and my mother actually liked the hairstyle.
That first day things went very well. After the procession ended, I took off my dress and I hung it carefully in the closet. I walked away but not before I looked at it one more time and touched it gently. I put on my everyday dress and went down to the kitchen.
The next time I wore the dress it was another holiday. With my friends, I went to Mass as usual. In the afternoon we went to see the nuns for Sunday school. After the lesson and after we said the prayers to all the Saints, the nuns asked us to go with them to the cemetery to pray for the dead. After the rite, we could go play. More exactly the youngest ones played while we, who were a little older (today they would call us teenagers), felt much more sophisticated and would sit in group to talk about serious and important things such as the last songs from the Sanremo Music Festival, the singers we liked the most and if someone had somehow obtained the latest editions of the magazines Sogno and Luna Park. Thinking about it now, we were not that different from today’s teenagers.
At that time, courting was done from a distance. In those times in the small villages, if a boy was the same age or older than a girl, it was forbidden to talk to them. When a boy was interested, he would look at a girl from a distance to get himself noticed. If the girl noticed, and she always noticed, she would soon receive a letter which would be delivered to her by the girl’s best friend: a love declaration, as we would call it. We would read the letter anxiously, but even if there was some interest in the boy, we would always reply “no,” hoping to interest the boy even more. It was an old, old technique, but still it worked. The boys had been falling for it forever, or at least this is what they let us believe. Now it is impossible to know whether or not they were pretending for our benefit and so maybe they knew the rules of the game very well and then acted accordingly.
Delia Socci Skidmore