English version Italian version
MY FATHER AND I
My father was a man small in stature, but a giant in moral character. He was strong yet sensitive and had a heart of gold.
He was an honest and extremely scrupulous man; above everything else, he valued the respect and the rights of the human being.
He appeared in good health despite the long years spent in concentration camps. After his much longed for return, my two sisters, Iole and Maria, who were the joy of the family and the light of his eyes, when were born.
My father, like many men of that time, was not particularly religious, but believed deeply in the Supreme Being. He was devout to the Madonna of Canneto and helped out in any way he could during the celebrations for the Madonna.
Alberto, my father, was a scholar and an avid reader of classical literature and of the great poets, and not just Italian poets. He had memorized many famous verses and passages from the Divine Comedy and had taught them to his mother as well. Mammarosa, grandma.
She used to recite some of the passages to me, proud of showing that although she had not been schooled, she was able to quote Dante. She would do it with enthusiasm and passion, putting emphasis on certain words. At that time I did not know it, but I was absorbing what my father was teaching me: his love for reading and studying. Those life lessons have followed me to this day.
And if I was ever able to distinguish myself in some way, I owe it to my father.
Since my father and my uncle Paolo had come back, our house had become a meeting point for friends and relatives and echoed with laughter and joy. Even after he had been away for a few years, his old friends had not forgotten him and he made new friends from all walks of life, at least as much as is possible for someone from a small village.
On Saturday nights, his friends would come over to play cards, but more importantly, they would come to hear his lively stories about anything and everything he knew or heard. His keen sense of humor captured and kept the attention of everyone present.
He knew this and so he stretched out his stories on purpose to entertain his friends and himself. At the end, everyone burst into laughter and someone would always say “You just made everything up”.
He laughed and denied it and, in the meantime, filled everybody’s glasses. That was the good “genuine” wine which grandma was still making with the grapes from our own vineyard, continuing a tradition that had gone on for years. I would sit near the fireplace with grandma and my mother and listened to him carefully.
I would laugh too, but perhaps I did not understand all the jokes in his famous stories. When it was getting late, he would make a sign pointing to the upper floor. That meant it was time for us to go to bed, while he stayed a little longer with his friends. Reluctantly, I would go. He had always said to me that before I went to sleep, I had to say goodnight to all the people, saying their names one by one.
I was shy and turned all red just thinking about it and so I would just run to up the stairs saying “Goodnight everybody”. He called me back and ordered me to do what I could not do. But he was my father and you had to obey to your parents.
So, blushing all red and with my eyes cast down, I said goodnight to everyone, each of them by name. My mother always told me to obey to my father but I was not able to do it all the time. I had grown up with my mother and my grandmother and I knew what to do for them.
My father seemed too rigid to me and I did not always obey his orders. The village was re-flourishing after the destruction of the war and the people were rebuilding their houses little by little. To do so, they had to go to buy the materials from outside of town. My father and his brother bought an old truck to transport the materials and restarted the transportation business which they had before the war.
Although they asked for very little money for their transport, many people in the village could not even afford that. So for those who could not afford the service, they would have to leave early in the morning with a donkey or go by foot to the market in Atina.
I remember the women in the traditional dress wearing the ciocie (the typical local shoes). The long skirts were tied around their waists under the belts of their aprons to make them shorter and walking easier. I still remember one of those women that had her sickle with her everywhere she went.
She kept it on her back, tied to her waist with the belt of the apron. She was a very small woman but with the ciocie, the sickle and the way that the traditional costume looked in the way they shortened it and with her quick steps she seemed like a warrior to me.
At night, when they were coming back, they had their purchases in their baskets and bags carried them on their heads with confidence and ease. Others had purchased little pigs, chickens and rabbits. They had the animals walk along with them all the way back.
Often the animals stopped in the road and refused to continue the long march. The owners had to prod, push and pull the animals, but the animals refused to budge. Then my father would pass by with his truck, which was already loaded, and let the people and their animals get on it. When he arrived to the square, no one was surprised to see pigs, chickens, rabbits and even donkeys and owners getting down off the truck.
Very rarely he would come home without picking up at least one worker that was coming home from a day at work. When he was bringing home one friend in particular on the truck, whose friendship had dated back to their childhoods, he would take him to the door of his house and his friend would tell my father “Albè, you are really a good man”. My father, Alberto, never forgot those words of his old friend.
The truck was something of a novelty in the village in those times. It was always parked in front of the house. The kids would gather around it to observe it with wonder. They touched it, went around it and craning their necks to see it better; they would even bend down low to see what was hidden behind the wheels. My girl friends and I would sit in the cabin to chat. It was our private meeting place. It seems everyone had use for the truck…
Delia Socci Skidmore