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MOTHER, WOUNDED, ARRIVES AT THE STABLE
I still remember my auntís eyes, sad and full of tears, when she watched zizi disappear from view.
She walked around the stable again, the stench was unbearable; in a corner, she saw a few bundles of straw and hay and walked toward that corner to prepare to breastfeed Livia; that poor little one, had been almost forgotten because of the dayís events. My aunt sat on a bundle of straw and started to breastfeed. Livia suckled for a while, then began to cry, then she fed a bit more, then she began to cry again. My aunt cuddled her, she hugged her tight, but there was no stopping Livia from crying. Then my aunt went through all the motions that a breastfeeding mother goes through and realized that as much as Livia suckled, there was no milk; the shock of the bombing had taken away her milk. Livia was three weeks old and didnít have any milk. My poor dear aunt! She was just 21 and in only three weeks she had become a mother, and had found herself in an area full of artillery, cannons and bombardments. She knew nothing of her husband, who was in the military (my uncle Fiorenzo); and we didnít know where he was. Now she couldnít even feed her small daughter. She was a sad sight.
Other evacuees started arriving, driven, as we had been, by the fear of remaining in a besieged town. Whole families arrived, tired, hungry, distraught. They stopped at the same stable we were in. They didnít care much about the smell of animals, they had herds of their own and they were accustomed to the smell. Every time I saw someone arrive, I ran to them in search of my mother and I would ask everyone if they had seen her. No one answered meÖno one knew anything. And my grandmother, where was my grandmother? No one had seen her since the morning, she set out early to check on the large country house after some passersby had mentioned that it had been occupied by German Control, which had installed an anti-aircraft cannon in front of the door. My grandmother was a small and round lady, but strong, courageous and determined, and no cannon or Military Control would have been able to dissuade her from going. It seemed as if I was the only one who cared about these two women, while others were intent on saving themselves and escaping the serious danger that now hung over our heads. The time that passed seemed to never end and it began to get cold, very cold. Someone started a small fire in the middle of the stable and we all sat around it, though no one spoke; everyone was completely lost in his or her own thoughts. At a certain point, I thought I heard a feeble call from afar, which seemed to me to be the voice of my mother. My eyes widened and I opened my mouth to say something, but I wasnít able to make any sound. My aunt had also heard it, and we both ran out together to see. From the top of the hill where we were standing, we could see who was walking up from the Canari ditch. We saw two figures coming towards us. I recognized my Uncle Michelangelo, but I didnít recognize the woman he was helping along. And yet she called my name, albeit in a weak voice.
As those two figures came closer and I saw that that woman who was dripping blood from one knee and who seemed more like a rag than a person was my mother!
Her dress was torn to shreds, she had no shoes, her hair was a mess and her knee was wounded. As soon as she saw me, she tore herself from my uncle and ran towards me. She didnít make it, though, and tripped, fell over, got back up and my uncle helped her stand. I yelled her name and ran towards her and jumped into her arms; she almost wasnít able to hold up and wobbled a bit, but she didnít fall, and she hugged me to her while she repeated: Delia, my little one!! Youíre alive!! Youíre alive!! From the fountain where she had been, she had seen the nine Spitfires bomb the town and she also saw that our house had been badly damaged, so she feared the worst. I will never be able to describe the joy, elation and happiness that I felt when I saw my mother again, felt her sweet embrace and felt myself cuddled with such love as only a mother can give. Aunt Tina was next to her; the two women looked at each other for a moment and then hugged. We then went back into the stable. Mother was very pale. She sat down next to the small fire and took Livia into her arms, but had to give the baby back to my aunt.
The other women came close and bandaged the wound as well as possible with some shreds of cloth that they had been able to bring with them; they offered some bread and cheese and started asking mother a thousand questions.
And my mother told of how, while she was washing at the fountain, one of the bombs released from those nine aircraft that bombarded the town fell very close to where she was standing. The enormous rush of air caused by the explosion lacerated her dress, reducing it to shreds, while her shoes were literally ripped from her feet and thrown far from her, towards the ditch; a bomb chip wounded her in the knee, and even the clothes she was washing had been thrown all over the place. Dazed and in a state of shock, she turned toward the town, she saw all the bombs that were falling, she heard the anti-aircraft cannon and saw the village enveloped in black smoke.
She didnít think of herself, but immediately started walking to get back to the village. The fountain where she had been washing clothes was a few kilometers outside the village. She took some time to get there because of her wounded knee and the fact that she had no shoes. When she finally arrived, we had already left to take shelter in the Canari stable. Even more dazed and weakened from the loss of blood that continued to drip, she started looking for us by asking each passerby if they had seen us; finally, someone had told her the direction in which we had headed. While she was walking, she bumped into uncle Michelangelo, who had gone to search for her and Grandmother Rosa.
DELIA SOCCI SKIDMORE