Coming back to Cervinara year after year has made us part of our little local community. It is expected that we will be present at the various functions and festivals that are scattered throughout the summer months, and when we weren’t here for most of them, people began to ask where we were. Today while having my first cappuccino with my husband at the local bar, several people commented on our long absence and how they were glad to see us in our usual spots. For some, the wrinkles were a little more pronounced, the bellies a little bit bigger, the hair a little bit whiter. For others, their weight loss and poor color marked health problems that are worrisome. But the biggest changes always come with the little ones.
Last night was the Festa dell’Immacolata, where the statue of the Madonna comes out of our church and is paraded through the streets all through the town. She is accompanied by dozens of people, young and old alike, dressed in costumes and representing everything from angels, to wise men, to the Holy Family. Unlike other processions, this one covers all the neighborhoods, not just Ioffredo and Castello. It starts at the church and proceeds up the hill to the end of the inhabited area, taking detours down small alleyways and into dead end corners, then back down the hill into Valle, then downtown into Salamona and back up through Ferrari, and into the church again. This is a slow march that takes over three hours and it is a challenging one that I don’t do.
But I was out to view the removal of the Madonna, and I joined the procession for the first two legs of the walk, and it gave me the opportunity to see all the children and how they have grown. The first ones I noticed were the angels. They were all children from four to sixyears old, dressed in shiny white robes with garland wings. I knew all of these little ones and had seen them grow from pacifier-sucking toddlers into sweet young cherubs. The little girl who used to flirt with the bar customers by peaking out through the Venetian blind slats, chubby little Salvatore who has strung out some as he’s gotten taller but who still has bowed legs from carrying around so much extra weight, little Ilaria with her black pony tail looking so proud to be following the group….they all made me realize the passage of time and the years that I have spent here.
Then there was Marta, who was dressed as a young Mary. Last year she spent hours coloring in the tiles of our courtyard with sidewalk chalk; last night she was a dignified young lady. And there was Margherita, who last year danced around the piazza at the concert, unconcerned about what anyone else thought of her; she was a bit more reserved this year and it made me sad that she was more concerned with her “image” than with her love of the music. And there was the blond boy, whose first communion I saw two years ago. Last night he was kicking around a soccer ball and I swear I could see the first sign of a mustache on him! I don’t know all their names, but I know their faces and their changes, and it makes me feel good that I am able to see them grow and progress year after year.
I have had a hard time being here this year, away from my first grandchild. He’s four months old now and I am missing him terribly. The daily photo updates help, but when I look at how quickly my little friends in Cervinara are changing, I realize just what I am missing. We will continue to come here; it is our home away from home. But I don’t think we’ll be staying for quite so long in the future. I always love to see the familiar faces, but there is a special little one back in Connecticut now that I just won’t be able to stay away from for long!