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THE LAND AND THE ROSE
The few properties that were good were not enough; as the population increased, the resources diminished. The best properties were divided in tiny plots, so you had to try to cultivate even the plots that were not quite suitable (hills, mountains, dry areas). As a matter of fact, every available piece of land was cultivated. After the sowing, we had to do the “novene” (9 days of prayer) to make it rain and wake up the dry areas so that we could have a good harvest. When the green spikes started to become golden and moved to the caress of the light breeze that came down from the mountain, dark clouds started to appear on the horizon, getting closer and closer and threatening the harvest, the farmer would go out to observe the dark clouds. From there, a distant, muffled sound came. A strange peace came over the village while the sky became darker and darker. The birds went back to their nests while the other animals were completely silent and still. The farmer blinked his eyes and shook his head. The clouds did not portend anything good; it was drawing closer, dark and threatening. These clouds were bringing hail and a hail storm would have ruined the entire harvest. We would go to warn the bell-ringer and he would ring the bells to drive away the black clouds. Outside their windows, the old people would place Crosses and statues of the Saints facing towards the clouds. They would cross their fingers and pray to the Saints so that the cloud would go towards the mountains and not towards the fields. Most often neither their prayers nor the bells nor the saints were able to stop the clouds which were “blowing” and which swept down on the fields destroying the harvest. The large families knew that the harvest would be poor and that the family would suffer. While corn and wheat were cultivated in the fields, everybody had also a small garden near their house. In these gardens people used to plant vegetables in all the available land, even in the higher parts, leaving only a narrow strip for a pathway to allow passage. Nobody remembered the fresh vegetables, the ones that were eaten right after they were picked, which were available only while they were in season. I remember one year, a long time ago, when a friend gave me a rose bush which I planted in a corner of my garden. I thought that the rose would grow along the wall and that I would be able to see many roses as they blossomed from my balcony. I used to go every day to water the plant and see how much it had grown or if there were fresh buds growing on it. I would look at the plant and caress it as if I wanted it to grow right in front of me. I dreamt of the day when I would pick the red roses and put them in a vase on the table. One sad day, I went and saw that someone had uprooted my rose bush and thrown it on top of the garbage to sit in the sun, where it had become completely dried out. I looked around with tears in my eyes. I looked at the place where I had planted it; somebody, maybe my grandmother, had dug up that spot and planted something else, and by doing so, they had unceremoniously dug up my rose bush. After a while, I noticed that where my rose bush was there were now garlic and onion plants, while my rose bush lay dead and discarded on the side in the pile of garden debris. I felt abandoned and neglected; I wanted to know why onions were more important than roses. But I was still a little girl and I did not reason with a mature brain like my grandmother. She knew the importance of the onions. I did not plant any more roses. Instead I planted carnations in the pots on the balcony, right next to pots of parsley and basil. They lived well together and my geraniums added color to the front of the house with their bright hues.
Delia Socci Skidmore