Memoir Under the Fig Tree

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I Remember Nana (Ch. XII, p. 87)

There was not a trace of the young Antonia Maria Delpopolo in the grandmotherly woman I came to know as Nana. While I outgrew her short, stout frame by the time I was nine years old, I do not recall a time when I felt more than a child in her presence.

Nana spoke in a soothing Sicilian dialect which bore little resemblance to the classical Tuscan Italian, the language of Dante. I understood and loved her foreign sounding words. She understood English but would not utter a syllable of it. When surprised, frustrated, or otherwise excited, she broke her usual reserve with arms lifted to the heavens and uttered the all-purpose expletive, "Madonna!"

It was to this modest, painfully shy woman that I turned for food and sympathy, both doled out at her kitchen table in a room full of fragrances that I will never forget. She was my teacher and my Mother Confessor. Her wisdom was equal parts voodoo, Catholicism, and old country customs liberally mixed with a fear of the unknown and a haunting melancholy.

Nana, Antonia Maria Delpopolo
Antonia Maria Delpopolo

Making A Living... Making A Life (Ch. XV111, p. 171)

Francesco Paolo Scafidi
Francesco Paolo Scafidi
Frank Scafidi worked hard to have a simple life in Vermont. His surviving daughters assure me that "Papa was content in America." Unlike my grandmother, who shed a lifetime of tears for the parents, sisters, and brother with whom she longed to be reunited, my grandfather had no interest in returning to the meager prospects of his homeland. He read the letters addressed to him from his family in private, sealing the news in the locked compartments of his heart. He chose to remember the time he left, when all of Europe was on the move and the young men and women of Sicily were fleeing in droves and in all directions.

In contrast, he loved the liberties that attracted him to his adopted country and the community of "Little Randazzo," which he and his compatriots created in Rutland. Even as I struggle to connect the elegant character in studio portraits and the dutiful laborer bent on fulfilling his dreams, I want to believe that what his daughters tell me is true.

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