At the age of three I moved with my parents and my brother to Italy. I remember the trip vividly, though in bits and pieces from a child’s point of view. Our family stayed in a hotel in the middle of the city of Vicenza while my parents looked for a place to live. This in itself was a great adventure. Ultimately my parents found a place to live to the town of Caldogno, to the north of Vicenza, along the provincial road to Dueville, in the direction of the mountainous region of Asiago.
We moved into the ground floor of a two-story , white house paved with marble. Angela, our neighbor from upstairs, had a balcony and hung over it often to talk at length with my Mom. Luigi lived nextdoor. He was our “landlord” my mother explained. This sounded quite mysterious to me at the age of three. Luigi had thick dark glasses, wore a navy blue beret and had a leather satchel across his shoulder. He drove about on a scooter. He took care of our garden.
Like other residents of Caldogno, Luigi was curious to get to know us. We were the only “foreigners” in the area. My mother and I had bright red hair which seemed to catch even more attention than our origin. Luigi came to visit often, invariably bringing something under his arm for our family to eat and enjoy. His visits were vivacious, filled with gestures and laughter. Ending a conversation with Luigi was fairly prolonged, as places to visit and food to eat were discussed and shared. Of course my sense of time was that of a child of three. I did my best to avoid Luigi for the last goodbyes by hiding behind my mother’s legs if at all possible. Luigi always ended his visit by pinching my cheek, combining his pinch with a particularly painful twist. He meant well however, compensating by saying “che bella bambina”, otherwise translated as ” what a pretty little girl.” The comment eased the pain!
The first Christmas I recall was in Caldogno in the house with marble floors. I remember that there were visitors and that the table was full of dishes prepared by my mother with recipes from back home. I also remember her talking about what she had made. I cannot recall who was at dinner that first year in Italy. I do remember my mother explaining with patience and pride what an American Christmas was comprised of. She served cranberry relish, corn bread, mashed potatoes and of course a turkey with stuffing made of apples and mushrooms. I am sure there were even more dishes at our table. My childhood memory does not recall which dessert my mother made, but surely it was pumpkin and cherry pie? I do remember the red stockings hanging in the Christmas tree in the living room. The stockings had our names on them, written with miniature pearls and decorated with snowmen. Our stockings had been filled with walnuts and tangerines by Santa and his elves.
Buon natale a tutti.