In my country


DB-17420



Translation by Yaiza Cañizares

6.45 pm. It is about to begin the yoga lesson. I arrived earlier. The instructor is talking to a lady who is usually my next-mat neighbour. I sit between them because I listened to their conversation. The woman takes her cellphone and shows us pictures from Accumuli taken some time ago. They are rubble, it is the earthquake.

- I have a small house in Umbria - I tell her - twenty kilometers from Norcia and twenty from Visso. My father was from that area. Last Monday I was in a meeting with the Civil Protection for the practicability of my home.

- What a mess! - she continued - I spent my childhood and my adolescence up there, and look now…

 

The others are arriving one after another and the lesson has to start. I sit cross-legged with my hands on my knees, but it’s hard to get relaxed now. The childhood and adolescence: those words  have opened the box of my memories.

That day, while I was waiting for the chief of the Civil Protection, I went to visit my father's grave. The cemetery is located just outside the village. While I was walking, I looked at those places that somehow had marked my summer days. Up there, right in the middle of the mountain that dominates the center of the village, when we were young boys, we had built a hut: just a slum of bamboo sticks, but for us it was a luxury chalet, a place where smoke and eat all the fruits stolen in the fields. From there, no one could find us without we could see him coming up. At those times, it was a relief to have some moments of control over  our own adolescence. In that part of the Valnerina, the road where the trail begins to climb up to the top, it is now  closed for the landslide.

Once, the village was developed around the historic center. There were two bars nearby and people used to come out from one to enter in the other.

The first bar was spacious and we could sit to plan some project to escape from the boredom of the hottest hours. The second bar was smaller, but the warehouse was used as a game room: billiards, pinball machines and jukeboxes that we played using only one coin for the whole evening. On the other side of the road, a grocery store would serve slices of chocolate  for snack and breakfast with capture flavour of old times. We used to wait for the baker´s van to help him unload the baskets of bread. The smell of white pizza with rosemary and red pizza with anchovies are memories that still nourish my salivation today.

Every 15 of August the village would expect the match between bachelors and married men which, in reality, was a parade of carts from  both parts. During the journey from the village´s center to the stadium both teams would exchange jokes and hard hits: it was a war!

Peace would only arrive in the evening with a barbecue in the village square: toasted bread, sausages and fogliata, an Umbrian pie made of vegetables, bacon and pecorino cheese. And of course, wine! Later,  people would dance all night long, waiting for the fireworks. We discovered so many things in summer, sex and the first binges, terrifying  jokes, and all the other experiences that would have been useful later in life.

Today the center, it’s been moved. A bar, a restaurant, a butcher´s and a supermarket are located at the entrance, near the sign of Welcome in Borgo Cerreto. Next to Nera’s riverside. beyond the river, a green sea of fields are irrigated by a source that gushes from the mountain. They extend beneath the valley crossed by the ancient path of the Spoleto-Norcia railway: a series of tunnels, bridges and viaducts form the rock. My uncle was the stationmaster of the hamlet of Saint Anatolia.

The entire area has become an immense parking area, where people park their cars the whole night; thenwaken up by the lights and the rescue sirens.

Not only does the earth but also the soul shakes, and the origins resting here as well. We would run among the poppies and every day we could hear the sound of Sunday. We have never been so free.

 


The Italian version of this post



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© ENRICO MATTIOLI 2017


 

© Enrico Mattioli 2017