Because we didn’t have television, computers, or any other type of home entertainment, during the long winter evenings we listened to stories. My grandmother could tell fantastic tales of fairies and monsters. My cousins and other neighborhood kids will gather in our kitchen/living room to listen to Grandma spin her magic.
There were a few occasion when she would be up until late to finish a chore, and I would ask my grandfather to tell me a bedtime story. My grand father’s stories were ‘real life’ ones. According to him, of course. Back then I never doubted him and as I grew older and reflected on it, I began to think that indeed they were true slices of his life and that at some level they were meant to teach me something. I hope I didn’t disappoint him.
My grandfather had four brothers and two sisters. They lived in a big stone house his dad built. Eventually my grandfather went on to build his own house, next to the family home. He would tell me they didn’t have much money and his brothers and he only had two pairs of good shoes among them. They took turns to wear them, so on Sundays, they couldn’t all go to the same mass, they would go two at a time.
I digress—this story is about one of the sisters.
Some young man came courting, and since everyone agreed with the choice, the two families would meet to discuss wedding plans. A lunch was set up for a Sunday after church, and it would be at the young woman’s (my great aunt) house.
My great grandparents only had one good tablecloth. My great grandmother, her name was Teresa, washed the tablecloth on Saturday morning and hung it in the attic to dry because it was raining.
Sunday morning came around, and she sent one of the kids to get the tablecloth so she could iron it (they used coals in the ironing iron). Unfortunately, the cloth got caught on the cloth pins and tore. It wasn’t a big tear, but the tablecloth was ripped. What to do? Stores are closed on Sunday in Italy—yes, they still are—and even if that wasn’t the case, there wasn’t any money for fancy tablecloths.
My grandfather swears the household was in panic mode because the family of the groom-to-be was wealthy and they were hoping to make a good impression. The table was set with the holey cover. The tear ended up close to the place where one of the brothers would usually sit. That’s when an idea was conceived; to place a bread roll on top of the hole, it covered it perfectly. Since Italians tend to put breads and rolls directly on the tablecloth by the plates, this would not be unusual. But what if one of the guests would pick that specific roll to eat? Easy—an empty flour bag was filled with bread rolls and my grandfather was assigned the task of replacing the roll anytime someone would grab it. The trick must have worked because the sister did marry the suitor after all. And they lived happily ever after. Not sure about the happily part, however, since Italy didn’t have divorce until 1972, there wasn’t much one could do about it. At least not legally. End of the story.