My search for the friends from my last trip has been a bit disheartening. I returned immediately to my old neighborhood, eagerly anticipating a visit with Miss Cranky and Teresita. The bench in the Piazza Cimilonga was empy. A knot of concern formed in my stomach. I was washed in sadness as I arrived at Teresa house to find it closed up and denuded of plants. This could not be good. Continuing on I found some children, (one, the infamous GUIDO) who recognized me. The girl began practicing her English. Our conversation drew her mother outside. We greeted each other and I asked her about Miss Cranky, who was her mother. I learned that she had died, but not how or when. In addition to my sadness I had an instantaneous inappropriate thought of the earrings. I hoped that her daughter had kept them.
I asked the daughter about Teresa and I couldn’t understand her response. I commiserated for a bit and left to find Mariaucha. I found her door open but she must have been resting because she didn’t answer my call. On to Casa Cielo to learn that Teresita is in a care facility at a neighboring town. I returned to centro in the late afternoon seeking my ex-pat friend, Jessica, whose phone was not picking up. And again in the evening for the passegio without finding Tonino, Rosa Alba or Lavinia. Sad, but not totally discouraged, I have returned each day and was finally rewarded after a couple of days. I found Tonino having coffee and spoke (as much as possible) with him for a bit. I had a happy and affectionate reunion with Rosa Alba. Joy of all joy, Lavinia and both of her sisters were at the paseggio last night. I had given up after circling our bench several time and went up the hill to greet Mariaucha. (More on that later.) On my way past the Palacio I spotted two women in the distance who looked familiar. “Maria?”, I called. She turned around and threw her hands in the air.
Lavinia and I couldn’t stop smiling at each other. And how fortunate to see Maria. She lives in Napoli and only visits periodically. I was even more grateful to learn that Paola was also in town. We made our way to the bench for old time’s sake before Lavinia jumped up and told us all to follow. I could only make out that she wanted to present me to someone. We walked up one of the narrow lanes and she called through the gates at a group of people sitting in a walled garden. It was a magical place. I recognized one couple from my previous visit. I tried to join in and to understand when they were talking to me or about me. Mostly, tho, I sat in this dimly lit back yard enjoying the murmur of voices and the chirping of insects. The vines and trees softened the ancient rock walls creating an atmosphere of mystery and cozy charm all at the same time. The flowered plastic tablecloth gave a bit of color. I don’t know…it was so foreign…so familiar…so perfect. The joy of finding my friends and of being invited to share in such an intimate gathering will go into my bank of precious memories. I will find a way to visit Teresa.
I will locate Antonio. But I’ll spend happy and busy times with my family before I am able to visit much with my friends again. Still, I’m home. To one of my homes.