From small-holder to seamstress

‘And so, how did you all end up in Milan?’

‘Ah, well. So, nonna was young and she was a beautiful woman, she started having men who were… hanging around. Truckers and so on… and so they wanted to marry her… and she would say “How can I get married, with six children in tow- they’ll mistreat the children”, capisci…’

The phone rang. Having updated my mother on the tablet and our progress setting up Skype and her internet and her hand-written instructions, conversation skipped back to the tablet. She now had an email address – ‘it’s like like a postbox, but online’ – and I was scrolling through available free ebooks.

Conversation slowly meandered back to her, sowing all the while – she’d by now picked up and started mending a different dress, ASOS jersey this time.

So, the servants, they became lazzaroni, they went rogue, no, because there wasn’t a padrone – a male owner – in charge… so she’d tell nonno, my nonno Batistella, no, nonno Batistella was rich you know, you know how much land he had… what a villa he had…

Do you know what he did? He kept on counter-signing debts, you know, guaranteeing debts because his friends… he’d say “poor guy, he’s got so many children”… and nonna, my nonna, would say “No Iovanni, no Iovanni, tu ce mangi il logo, you’ll eat us out of house and home, no”. And he. Poor thing he didn’t know how to say no to anyone, so the others they wouldn’t pay and he’d have to… so much so that he ate himself out of everything. 

My nonno Batistella was rich, he wasn’t a pauper. Nonna Lina, that’s why they didn’t want her to marry father, my father, because they didn’t own anything, and she was the daughter of…

Listen there’s a small rip up here, still, but you can’t see it. You know it’s come out really well. I’m brava, even if I must say so myself – she laughed – seeing that there’s no-one here to tell me that I’m good. We did some works of art, some real pieces, even for your mother, look I made her some dresses the word had its own presence –  eh, many dresses…’

My grandfather had not wanted her to marry herself off to my father… No. Because he was not of healthy stock, because he had this, he’d had the malaria, no? And so he didn’t want them to… and then they, my father’s family, they didn’t have land, not like us

The Priest’s Law

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needles by sagit milshtein from the Noun Project

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