Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Local personality

Mia suocera launches into a tale about a woman who used to work with her in the creche down the road. Her daughter works in a bar I go to often with the bambino, and finally after two years she greeted us with a smile. Since we are always given a great welcome in this bar her stony-faced service always seemed strange to me. So this is how my mother-in-law got stuck into her story. Every now and again she likes to regale me with some local lore. Her eyes light up, the voice lowers and she takes up her story-telling position. This time it is about Domenica, her ex-colleague. Domenica was very strict with the daughter when she was little, giving her hardly any freedom. The creche was opposite the child's school, so she was themost punctual of mothers and the daughter never got to roam around town with her friends. So she rebelled and ran off with a married man and had a baby with him bringing shame on the family at the time, 50 odd years ago. The married man divorced his then-wife and has lived with this daughter ever since. Domenica had three children in total, and managed to buy houses for all three of them, all on her own, as her husband left her.She had no formal education and was illiterate - otherwise, mia suocera says, she would have been an excellent businesswoman. Apart from the creche, she did all sorts of odd jobs, most frequently cleaning houses and shops and even the long marble staircase in the creche itself. She also managed to get the best house of all for herself, right in the cnetre of town on the main street, in one of the beautiful old palazzi dating from the 19th century. When the owner of the house came to tell her he was selling the whole palazzo she refused to leave, telling him she would buy the apartment she was living in. He woudln't agree and sent in the builders with their buldozers. But Domenica refused to budge and such was her conviction that the builders took fright and told the owner they couldn't work there. So the owner gave in and named his price. Domenica had no money to buy it but that didn't stop her. She went out one day determined to get the money - she stepped out in front of a car and let herself get knocked down. She made a huge scene at the hospital even though she wasn't hurt that badly ... but the insurance claim covered the cost of the house! The word for this in Italian is 'grinta', of 'faccia tosta'. She made the system work for her in other ways too: she couldn't afford to take holidays because they were unpaid. SO when she needed to stay home for whatever reason, she got herself into such a statethat her blood pressure would go up, so that the doctor could easily give her a sickness certificate.

My husband asks who we are talking about. Domenica. He raiseshis eyes to heaven. Mad woman. Wild red hair out to here. We all know Domenica.

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