by Mariagrazia Sinibaldi – from Gatineau (Canada)
The number 17, as you know, is a despicable number: coward, untrue and traitor. What would it have cost it to stay home and wait for the return of the signora Vecchiottina whom, with her 80 (and counting) years of age, had decided to travel across the ocean for her granddaughters’ graduation, already eighteen years old, but for her, signora Vecchiottina, always her “PIZZIRICCHIA”, her sweetie pie. Besides, just across the ocean, his cousin 17 served as a good luck charm!
But no sir! Her 17, stealthily, maliciously, had glued himself to her, and had arrived with her in Canada and when best he pleased, not caring about the local customs, struck mercilessly…
The signora Vecchiottina was caught off guard.
This is how things took place:
The morning after arriving in Gatineau (francophone part of Ottawa, for those who don’t know), she had decided, in the absence of her daughter in law and of her granddaughter, that she would leave the house and go on a sightseeing tour of the beautiful neighbourhood full of lush trees, of houses all different from each other, of gardens with emerald green grass and bunches of flowers in various dazzling colours. «Don’t go left», had recommended her daughter in law, “because there it’s all downhill… And then, to come back up, what an effort!”
The signora Vecchiottina at 11:15 in the morning started her little adventure; out of the door, happily, leaving the front door open, like her daughter in law recommended (this too, what freedom!) had turned right, like she had been instructed…
And of course the houses were all different from one another: that one was on two floors, that other one has a little veranda, and on the grass, this one has a little cluster of truly violet lilies, and the other one a flowerbed with yellow violets. God, how wonderful! The tall tall tress had shiny leaves, as if it had rained, but actually no, it was the clean air and bright sun.
The signora was very enthusiast. Arrived at crossroad, she turned right: everything was once again different. She then noticed a boxwood hedge, pruned in a twist, which she thought really ugly: in fact, she thought of it as the only ugly thing in the neighbourhood.
And perhaps, in this section, more rich people live… look at that, larger lawns, a few fences, and some motorboats parked besides humongous caravans (here everything is immense, thought the signora Vecchiottina). Well, while walking and thinking the signora Vecchiottina turned right at another corner and ended up on a really long road, lined with the usual houses, the usual lawns, the usual gardens, the usual flowers. So, the usual things.
She looked at the time and fell from the skies. It was already 12:45, she had walked for and hour and a half and she didn’t feel tired whatsoever. But, being a prudent person, decided to go back home. She spun around and retraced her steps to try to get home, or so she thought. And if before she had turned right logically, now, she would have to turn left. But in which little road, with houses that once looked all different from each other, and now all looked the same? And she started to wonder around, looking for her little house on one floor and with the door open. She turned left, she turned right, left and left again. And the houses, started to look more and more familiar, the gardens with usual flowerbeds. She recognized the awful boxwood hedge pruned in a twist, she indeed recognized it, but when had she last seen it? Before or after…?
The sun was scorching, she took her light blue cardigan off and took another breath. She took another look at her watch: it was already 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The signora Vecchiottina thought of it wise to stop and rest for a little bit. She looked around and realized that among all the houses, and the gardens, and the flowerbeds, there were no benches to rest on.
She just wanted to shout out and beg for a little piece of heaven to rest!
But whom could she have asked if no one was around?
She didn’t even have the strength to give up hope or to yell out MANNAGGIA, which was always so liberating for her.
But, way, a vision! A nice young lady at the horizon!
«Excuse me, young lady – squeaked our signora, in her broken French -, do you know a lady named Lina who has an eighteen year old daughter named Jasmine, who live around here»? No, the young girl didn’t know them but, super efficiently, with her multifunctional phone she found her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter. But no address. A kind man with a moustache approached them, and in a very tight and québécois-heavy accent, spoke with the young woman. The signora Vecchiottina didn’t understand much, all she got out of the quick-fired conversation was: «elle est déshydratée», she is dehydrated, and realized that she looked a little desperate. At the mention of a glass of water, she whispered a meagre oui, and was brought a beer mug (complete with handle) of half a liter, containing water and a lot of ice. The signora Vecchiottina had the terrible flash back of a story she was told as a young girl of a great ruler whom died of congestion after a rigorous hunting trip. She just didn’t care at that point, and drank, sip by sip at first, but in the end she was taking huge gulps.
At the invite to sit under a shaded veranda, the signora accepted, just like she accepted a second glass of water, and, without any regard, asked for a third one. And finally, she took a deep breath. In less than fifteen minutes, the signora Vecchiottina had drunk her daily requirement of liquids. At that moment her unusual rescuers asked her age and when they realized that they were dealing with a lady in her eighties, discussed in a concerned matter and made their grand decision: they were going to call the police.
Even though she didn’t have the strength to reply, the signora got mad at herself: but how could this be happening? She had travelled across the world, navigated through the old towns of the Maghreb wthout ever getting lost, and now she was forced to require the police’s help to find her way home in a neighbourhood the size of blip in the ocean!!! She specified, a little mad, «I do not have Alzheimer’s».
The police car came and the young police officer, complete with his uniform and boots, walking backwards was signalling with his hands and saying: «Venez, venez madame. Venez, venez madame». And so she did, dragging her feet, ten meters, twenty meters a few more steps. «Voilà madame, voici votre maison».
The signora Vecchiottina walked into the house, threw herself on the sofa and looked at her swollen feet, looking like two bread loafs, and thought: «next time I go outside of Italy, I will bring with me some miraculous remedy to refresh my feet»
It was 5:30 pm of the 17th of June 2015.
(Translated into English by Jasmine Bonapace-Cianciotta
ha collaborato Luca Bartolommei)
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