One by one they filed in, sitting around the smoky fire in the dark, dingy room. The entire village, it seemed, wanted a look at the Americans. While I in turn, through teary, smoke-filled eyes, examined them. My husband’s paesani, for this was his birthplace, the very home he was born in!
Life in that isolated village seemed of another era.
Shut in, not only by the surrounding mountains, but by time, which seemed to stand still. Everything, from the wrinkled grannies to the thick-walled ancient homes, spoke of the past.
Quaint and picturesque.
A long, winding cobble-stoned staircase climbed the mountainside to the ancestral home, quaint and picturesque in every way. (A poetical way, I’ve read, to describe crude and primitive.) Electricity often failed. Water lacked most of the day. Dim, gloomy, grimy homes heated by flickering fires. Quaint and picturesque indeed!
“This was 20th century Europe? 1989? Perhaps we’d caught the wrong plane!” Like snapshots from an ancient album, they returned from country gardens. Kerchief-covered women, bundles of kindling wood balanced on their heads.
Their husbands, stooped from age as well as labor, leading equally ancient, produce-burdened donkeys. Home from working the land. Which was, as it always had been, their life and sustenance.
A Medieval life, flowing with the rhythm of the seasons and the weather, belied only by the electric wires and few passing cars. Little educated, they lived much as their grandparents before them had. Locked away in the past, and the memory of time.
But somehow, we were strangely one with these enchanting, colorful folk.
Many of whom remembered the mischievous 3-year old boy who had migrated to America in the early 1960’s. And so, like aunties and uncles, they came to call, welcoming home one of their own.
Enchanting and colorful.
Enchanting and colorful, or critical and tradition-bound? We used too much water. (No one needs to bathe every day!) I did too much laundry. (Why did we change so often?) And I did laundry on the wrong day. (Wash day was only Tuesday!)
These were Italians? Hospitable, cheerful, and generous? OK, no doubt about it, I thought, we’d taken the wrong plane! And I just wanted to go home!
Life is full of the unexpected.
Stuff we’re not ready for, and don’t know how to handle. But nothing takes the Lord by surprise! And he helped us adapt to all the unexpected ‘quaint’ surprises. He enabled us to stay and make a new home here. We learned to accept, and even be grateful for all the quaintness. And little by little, we fell in love with this picturesque land and it’s colorful people.
It’s home! And I’m glad we didn’t catch the wrong plane!
IMAGES are my own.