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  • Memories of a Special Lady

    by Flora Mitidiero Raehl

    In a few short days I will once again be in Italy, in my father's hometown of Alessandria del Carretto, a small mountain village in Calabria. And although I am very excited each time I travel to this remote, but beautifully serene village, I always start out with a fair amount of nervousness as well. I'm not the kind of person who does well if all my I's aren't dotted and my T's aren't crossed, but for everyone who knows my family dynamic, when travelling this distance with my senior citizen father anything can happen. One year dad travelled "home" alone but didn't go along with our preplanned itinerary and was missing for almost 12 hours, with me filing a missing person's report – luckily it was just a miscommunication between my VERY hard of hearing father and me. Dad's next trip back home ended in a monumental catastrophe - my father became very ill and when he returned to the States ended up in the hospital for many months. Three short years ago I foolishly agreed to let my father, who was 75 at the time, take yet another trip "home." Dad being dad managed to escape my ever vigilant eye on many occasions during this trip and once again became ill and ended up in the hospital IN ITALY for five days. Trust me friends, THAT was an experience I never want to have again! In the end, things always work out just fine, but I think you can understand all the things I am imagining that could go wrong on this trip. Add that to all the unknowns this time around ...

    Me: Who's picking us up at the airport? Dad: Don't worry,

    Me: Is the bathroom renovation complete? Dad: Don't worry,

    Me: I need to get supplies for the mountain house, can we go to the city first? Dad: I'm not sure, but don't worry.

    All dad keeps telling me is "don't worry, I took care of it." So we might not have a ride home, may not be able to eat or take a shower but we'll be on Italian soil so "don't worry." Oh boy ...

    But even more than my nervousness about travelling once again with a mischievously stubborn Italian man, is my sadness at the death of a wonderful woman. I am travelling to my father's hometown with a heavy heart this year because a close family friend recently passed away and Alessandria del Carretto is just not going to be the same without Comare Teresa. The first time I went to Italy I was 10 and I was the flower girl for Comare Teresa's wedding, which in Italian terms forged a forever bond between our families. Since then, I've been back to Italy many times, and each trip brought Comare Teresa's family and mine closer. It doesn't hurt that she married my mother's cousin Domenico or that her house is just a few doors away from my dad's house. Each day we were in Alessandria involved morning espresso, going to the market together, many meals with the best lasagna and zuppa de pesce I've ever had, the ever coveted daily shower, since my dad's house didn't have a properly equipped bathroom OR hot water, and sitting on the front stoop every evening enjoying good conversation, and the beautifully serene night skies of Alessandria del Carretto. My memories of my travelling to Alessandria are very special to me and my family and to this day my kids tell stories of going to Comare Teresa's house and playing with the cats and the chickens, and we chuckle at the "family" photos of all of us and how our appearances have changed over the years. But some things will never change. For example, as in every Italian family, food is of the utmost importance and the last time my mother went to Italy she returned to America with some precious cargo — Comare Teresa's recipe for biscotti. And although it started out as somewhat of a science experiment trying to convert European measurements to America's, once we figured it out, there's no better biscotti in the world than Comare Teresa's. In a small mountain village, where money is short and modern conveniences are scarce, kindness and generosity become the most important commodities, and no one was more giving or generous than Comare Teresa and even though she's no longer with us, her spirit and our memories of her will always have a special place in our hearts.

    Article Published 8/9/11


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