Monday, May 13, 2013


The puppies

"If the landscape of human emotion
were to exist in a country, it would
be Italy."
~ Lisa Fantino

There is a longer story involved in the beginning of this short one, but I'll just give you the background that is important to this particular part.

We are staying in the most wonderful apartment in Sulmona, the "large" town that is about 5 kilometers from my grandparents' village, Pettorano sul Gizio.  The owners of the apartment, Novelia and Peppe, have been absolutely wonderful to us.  They picked us up from the train station Saturday, took us on a private tour of the historical abbey where Novelia works, treated us to olive oil gelato (Don't knock it.  It's great.), gave us homemade pasta (in addition to fruit, bread, wine, cheese, and more), and invited us to go to a small mountain town near Scanno yesterday.  

Unfortunately, it was raining when we got close to the town (the name of which I forget), so Novelia asked if we wanted to go to Pettorano.  Back down the mountain we came, and soon we were parking at the bottom of the hill in Pettorano.

"Can you show us your grandfather's house?" Novelia asked me. 

"Of course," I said.

"Can you find it from here?" Mike asked since we parked in an area a bit of a distance from the house.

"I think so. I just need to get my bearings."

(A bit of background for those of you who are new to my story:  In 2010, Mike and I came to Pettorano to get my grandparents' birth certificates.  While we were there, the city clerk pointed to a house on the street below the city hall and told me that my grandfather had been born and raised in that house. The house was still in the family, and my second-cousin's widow, Rosa, still lived there. We met Rosa and, in fact, saw her when we returned in 2011.)

We walked up the hill and up a number of steps from one street to another and finally came to Via San Antonio.

"If we go to the nd of this street," I informed them, "we'll be near the house."  Sure enough, within three or four minutes, we were at the intersection where Grandpa's street connected with Via San Antonio.  "There's the house."  I was so happy to see it again.

A little old woman was sitting on the landing outside of the front door.  "Oh, my gosh," I said to Michael, "Rosa is outside."  I ran over to her and grabbed her hand.  "Rosa, do you remember me?  It's Cristina from America. Cousin of Cesidio."  She stared at me..

Rosa and Moi

I could tell she didn't recognize me and that she was not feeling well.  "She seems so frail," I said to Mike.  Novelia and Peppe walked up, and I asked Novelia to translate my poor Italian for Rosa.  

"She is having stomach problems," Novelia told me, "and she has to go to the hospital Tuesday. She is sorry she doesn't remember you."  My heart sank.  "How old are you, Signora?"

"Eighty-eight," Rosa replied.  I understood that.  She and Novelia talked a little more, and Rosa got up and grabbed my arm.

"She wants you to go in and have coffee," Novelia interpreted for me.

"No. No. No." I was not going to impose on my poor cousin.  "Tell her I'll come back another day when she feels better."   It took some doing, but we left Rosa and headed back to the car.  I was on the verge of tears, so emotional at being back in Pettorano, seeing Rosa so frail. . . 

On the way back down Via San Antonio, we saw two women talking. A little dog started barking at us as we approached.

"Oh, Pooky," I sang to her, "no barking.  I love doggies."  The dog was not bilingual, didn't understand me, and continued barking.

"She has puppies," one of the ladies said.

"Oh, she's protecting them.  I understand."  I did.  "Where are the puppies?"

"Can we see the puppies?" Mike and Novelia asked.  The woman invited us into her house and took us into the living room where the puppies were.  She and I got down on our knees while everyone else stood.  She handed me the little white female, and I cooed at her.  Her little tail wiggled.

"Do you want coffee?" the lady asked.  

"No, thank you," I replied.  She and Novelia talked for a bit, and Novelia told her my story.  Novelia turned to me.

"She really wants you to have coffee," she said.  "She knows your cousins.  

We had coffee (the Italian kind  ;-)  ).

In Emma's house, clockwise from me: Novelia, Peppe, Zia & Anna

Emma (I asked her name at some point.) went upstairs for a minute and returned shortly with a book.  Writtn by Benigno Suffoletta, Ricordando is an anthology of poems and stories about the author's family.

"She wants you to have this," Novelia said.  "She says it has some stories about your family and Pettorano."

I had barely been able to thank Emma when the doorbell rang, and Anna and her mother (Emma's cousin and aunt) walkd in.  Zia (Anna's mother) knew members of my family, too, so for the next hour, we all talked about my relatives, Pettorano, and life.

When we left, Mike and I were part of their family, too, or so they made us feel.

"This is how we Abruzzese are," Novelia said.  "We open our hearts."

"That's true," Mike said.  "Everytime we come here, they take us into their houses and give us things. They don't even know us."

That is Pettorano, and that's just one reason I love it so.

Tomorrow:  My hair finally wore me down so much that I had to go to a hair salon.

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