Sunday, March 20, 2016

We celebrate our first open house, and afterwards my residency is confirmed

We had a little rinfresco at our house yesterday evening, an open house. We decided to keep it small and invite primarily Seghieri relatives, partly because Don Seghieri from California is still visiting, and it gave him a chance to meet some of his cousins. Keeping it small also helped because Lucy and I need to concentrate every ounce—err, gram—of our energy on understanding what is being said by the Italian guests, with our language skills still not being where we would like them to be. We will have a separate open house later for the Spadoni side of the family.
Ivo (far right) proved to be the life of the party. Note the big smile on Elena's face.

Gilda, Roberta and Marilena from the Casolare dei Fiori came first, actually a day earlier than we had expected, but that was entirely my fault for putting the wrong date on the written invitation. When I had passed the invitations out, I said the event would be on Saturday from 4-6 p.m., but I had written Friday’s date, causing some confusion, naturally. I was able to send Facebook messages to most of the people to make a correction, though not everyone on the invitation list has a Facebook account.

Cousin Ivo showed up first, right at 4 p.m., with some homemade fried zucca (yellow squash) and biscotti fatto con granturco, the latter a creation all his own—cantuccini made with corn flour. The squash, corn and eggs all came from his own orto. The fried squash was particularly good.

Ivo is a fantastic character, a throwback to the times of the country’s past, a true gem. Raised in the simple life of a contadino and educated only through elementary school, he gives us a glimpse of what life was like here in the times of my grandparents. He grows and cooks his own food as much as possible. He forages in the woods for wild herbs, mushrooms and berries. And best of all, he is a friendly and free spirit who can talk and entertain with ease. Lucy asked him about jobs he has done in his lifetime, and he launched into story telling mode with vigor.

I showed Matteo some of my family tree
research on the computer.
While some of my other Italian cousins seem a little cautious, even nervous, in their conversations because they know I can’t understand everything, Ivo charges ahead, carrying on long, one-sided conversations. If I indicate by voice or expression that I haven’t understood something important, he will back up and re-explain (in truth, I never understand everything, but usually I’m satisfied if I can grasp about 80 percent). I’m sorry I can’t relay the conversation with the kind of depth it deserves, because all I can repeat are the bare facts: He was a farmer, he was in the Italian peacetime army, he drove a food delivery truck, he slaughtered rabbits and delivered the meat to local stores. I know that’s only four things, but I wasn’t taking notes and I have forgotten the rest of the story, which actually included a couple of others jobs that he only did for a day or two before he realized they weren’t for him.

I wish I could do a better job of relating what he said, but imagine listening to a combination of Andy Griffith and my uncle Roy Spadoni (for those readers who were lucky enough to know him) telling some of their life stories, and you can get a picture of what it’s like to listen to Ivo.
3 Seghieris: Flavia, Davide and Ivo.

After a little more than half an hour, Don and his party showed up, and I introduced them to Ivo. Luckily, moments later, Elena, her husband Davide and their daughter Flavia, age sixteen in a few days, arrived. Elena was desperately needed to serve as interpreter. A few minutes after, Matteo, Ivo’s twenty-seven-year-old nephew, also came. He and Flavia speak some English, so with Lucy and me included, we now had four amateur interpreters and one professional.

Even with a fairly large group, sitting in a circle in our living room, Ivo continued to take center stage telling stories from his past. Elena could translate, but we could tell that even she had difficulty. A couple of times she laughed hard enough to turn red in the face, but the interpretation couldn’t do justice to the manner in which Ivo had delivered the anecdote. The story that made her laugh the most concerned an incident when Ivo had been asked to try out for the army choir. They asked him to sing the note A. “Do you want me to sing B too?” he had asked. “No, we’ve heard enough; you’re dismissed.”

Our friend Davide Lucchesi
All in all, the open house went every bit as well as we had hoped. Lucy’s dolci had been a big hit, and nearly all of what wasn’t consumed on-site went home in plastic bags with guests. I wish a couple of other family members could have come, but we were satisfied and pleasantly exhausted when everyone left around 6:15 p.m. And then one latecomer dropped by, Davide, from the Bar alla Fortezza just down the street. Before we had wi-fi installed in our house, we had gone there regularly to use the Internet and had made his acquaintance.

Just as Davide left, we had still one more visitor, a policewoman from the city hall. She had come to verify that I have truly established residence in Montecarlo. While she declined to accept any sweets (insert favorite joke about American donut-eating cops here), we were happy to know that I had passed the last hurdle for my residency requirement. When she left, we sat down and ate the last two pieces of cream cheese pie while watching a video, entirely in English this time, as we were too tired by now to listen to any more Italian for the evening.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great house warming party. Even with one set of guests a whole day early. We hope to visit some day and meet some of your Italian friends. Was the policewomen suppose to show up or was that a compleatly random event?


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