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UNCLE FIORENZO AND GRANDMOTHER
We were still in the stable and it was getting late; still no news of grandmother. Sadness and fear permeated through every thing and every person. The small fire that we had started began to slowly die down. Livia would occasionally fall asleep, but only for a short time, then she would wake up and start crying again, trying to feed; Aunt Tina didn’t know what to do, and as hard as she tried, the milk was gone forever.
The other children had fallen asleep, rocked in their mother’s arms. One of the mothers in the stable, after having breastfed her baby, offered to breastfeed Livia as well.
After Livia had had some milk, she finally fell asleep.
The women and older people seated on the floor and lost in their own thoughts, each with a far away look, studied the walls of the stable. We could hear the cannons rumbling from afar.
I had fallen asleep seated on the floor, with my head in my mother’s lap. The wound on her knee had been bandaged with rags that one of the women had had with her, and at least for now the wound wasn’t dripping blood anymore. One of the older men stood up and went to the door of the stable, stopped, and looked out with his hand over his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun. He took a few more steps outside, continuing to look into the distance, towards the ditch.
After a few minutes, he came back inside and said: “There are two people that are coming towards us.” Others who were curious got up and went towards the door. One of the two figures coming towards the stable was a man with a long shaggy beard, long hair and dressed in rags. The other figure was a woman wearing a traditional dress.
I was awakened by a murmuring of voices, and I had a hard time opening my eyes, as it was the first time in a while that I had slept peacefully. A young man that seemed to have aged beyond his years, and who gave the impression of being a beggar stepped forward. He held the small Livia in his arms and was hugging Aunt Tina to himself. My aunt was looking around, a bit embarrassed.
All eyes were on her; she tried to slip away from the man’s grip, but he wouldn’t let her go. I heard my mother call him by his name: “Fiorenzo” she said “and where did you come from?” I knew that name. It was my uncle Fiorenzo, Livia’s father; but I didn’t recognize the person in front of me. I remembered my uncle as a handsome man, always well dressed, generally attractive. He told us that he had been hiding in the forest in the mountains for many weeks; he would live perched in trees or in caves to escape capture by the Germans. He would eat snow and every once in a while he would leave his hiding place to wander the mountains to look for the scattered cottages of mountain dwellers.
The mountain dwellers had herds and supplies. They had come to know all the escapees that were hidden in the forest and who came to them to ask for a bit of food. The mountain people shared bread, milk and cheese with them, with the
DELIA SOCCI SKIDMORE