Possibilities

I haven’t written a short story for awhile, so I’ll go with the prompt from Word of the Day: POSSIBILITIES

Dark Door

My spirits are as bright as the sky above as I hurry down the street of the small Italian village. I’m so thrilled to think of what Gabriel is doing for me. It’s beyond wonderful! A few more blocks — maybe fifteen minutes — and I may be meeting my great Aunt Vittoria. Oh, I hope I’ve really found her!

Just before the Second World War my grandparents, Arturo and Bianca Santini, emigrated to Toronto from this little town in the north of Italy. Still teenagers, and just married, they left most of their family behind, promising to send for the others once they’d made their fortune in the land where money grew on trees.

Talk about delusion! Life as an immigrant in Toronto turned out to be decades of hard scrabble. Yes, they’re comfortable in their old age, but never have had the cash to support other family members. Still, it’s been their intention to someday come back, revisit their childhood home and renew family ties. Grandfather’s heart problems have prevented them from making the trip now, but I determined that I would visit this village and do what I could to restore the lost family connections on their behalf.

I started working as a physiotherapist and saving my money; now, with a little help from folks and grandpas, I had enough cash to make this two-week trip. April 8, 1996 was the big day! My parents and grandparents drove me to the airport in Toronto and I was off and the adventure of a lifetime. Before I boarded Mom waved a finger at me: “Don’t let any handsome young Italian turn your head. We don’t want you staying there!”

I landed in Firenze, I rented a car and headed for Pisa — the Leaning Tower being one of the first tourist stops on my list. I visited several more spots, then headed north toward the Alps where I finally found the little village I’ve heard so much about from Grandpa and Grandma.

For the first couple of days I just wandered around, getting a feel of the place and practicing my poor Italian on the natives. If they shake their heads, I pull out my Italian phrases book and show them what I’m trying to say. They laugh, shake their heads again, and pronounce it properly, delighted when, after half a dozen tries at copying, I finally get it right.

I visited the cemetery and found the great-grandparent’s graves. I visited the town records office, where I learned that my grandfathers’ siblings all scattered after the war. There are no Santinis left here, sorry. Maybe in the next village? Grandma’s sisters likely remarried and changed their names. I should check the church records.

Those first few mornings I’ve been enjoying real Italian espressos at a little bistro that caters to tourists like me. I was there yesterday when a very handsome young man approached me. Thankfully he does okay in English and I didn’t need my little book of phrases. He introduced himself as Gabriel Venturi and excused himself for being so bold, but said I look so much like his Auntie Ginevra did when she was young. He asked where I’m from and if I have family here in the village?

Grasping at the possibility of a connection, I spilled out the story of my grandparents who left before the war. He studied me closely until I turned very pink, then he apologized for being rude and asked, “Was your Grandma a Ricci before she married?”

Hope flared like fireworks. “Yes! And her two sisters stayed here, Maria and Vittoria. Grandpa’s parents had died in an accident but three of his brothers and a sister were here when he left. All communication stopped after the war, though.”

He looked rather grave for a moment. “A lot of young men died in the war, out in the battlefields. Or in the ocean. And others emigrated, hoping for a more peaceful life elsewhere. Your grandparents did well to leave when they did. But I think I maybe can help you. Vittoria Lorenzo, my Auntie Ginevra’s mother is still alive, though she’s very old and not able to get out much. She was a Ricci before she married and I think she did have a sister who went to Canada. Of course these are very common names and perhaps no relation. Still, I’ll talk to my auntie. Meet me here tomorrow morning and I’ll see if I can arrange for you to meet them.”

My heart skipped a beat. Could this old lady really be Grandma’s sister?

Gabriel smiled. “If you would like to walk around the town with me, I’ll show you where the Ricci family lived when those girls were growing up.”

I’ll confess, my heart did flutter a bit as we walked along. This man could be a tour guide. I wondered for a moment just what he did for a living, but the chance never came up. He seems like a great person to talk to about any subject under the sun.

Not only did he show me around the town, but also bought us a delicious dinner at the hotel. I did wonder for a moment when the young waiter gave him a sly wink. They must be friends. Or maybe he thought I was Gabriel’s new girlfriend. I didn’t see any wedding ring, but I still made a point of asking him if he had a wife or sweetheart. He shook his head, looking — or trying hard to look— very dejected, then asked about my work in Toronto. Again I wanted to ask what he did for a living, but somehow we never got to that topic.

This morning he met me at the café as promised and told me he’d arranged for me to meet my possible Great-Aunt Vittoria. He said he’d go a few minutes early and explain things to her again — she’s old and very forgetful. I should wait five minutes and then walk straight uphill from the bistro, cross five streets, and turn right at Giordano. Half a block up I’d see #16. Vittoria’s daughter lives downstairs and keep a box of pink flowers in the window and there’s a birdhouse hanging by the door. He’d be sure to leave the door ajar for me; I should go up the stairs to the first floor and knock at the second door. He’ll be waiting in the apartment with Vittoria and Aunt Ginevra.

So I’m following instructions, hurrying along with high hopes my search will be rewarded. Won’t Grandma Bianca be thrilled to know her sister still lives here in the village! If it’s her…

Suddenly some other possibilities sweep through my mind. Suspicions. I’ve always had a suspicious nature and now it’s rearing its ugly head, growling like the Troll of Terror. “Is Gabriel really the helpful fellow he’s pretending to be? What if, instead of meeting a sweet old lady, I’ll be meeting a couple of thugs? How can I know?” My feet start to drag.

I turn the corner at Giordano Street and see an old man sitting on a bench. I greet him politely and ask about Vittoria… Oh, what was her married name? I ask about Ginevra. He nods and points to the house down the street. Number 16. He holds up fingers to show me, just in case I don’t get it. I wince, knowing how poor my Italian really is. He says something else and I catch it that Vittoria is very old, very old.

Somewhat reassured, I approach the door, standing ajar just as Gabriel said it would be, and see the dark stairway inside.

“I’ll gladly hand over my cash, if that’s what they want. Wait! I’m being foolish.” I take the first few steps up the shadowy staircase and heave a sigh. “At least my passport and ID are hidden at the Inn. If this is a robbery, they won’t get that.” I scold myself for being such a fraidy cat and walk up the rest of the stairs. Gabriel is too kind and friendly to be a crook. “He surely wouldn’t let anyone murder me.”

Now I’m facing the door. I give it a couple quick knocks and hold my breath. Such possibilities!

Gabriel opens the door and waves his hand, inviting me in with a flourish. I take a step forward and my eyes pop open. The little old lady sitting in a soft chair and smiling up at me is a perfect copy of Grandma Santini.

Beachcomber

The Ragtag prompt for today is BIRTHDAY.
Here’s my response, dedicated to everyone whose having a birthday today.

BEACHCOMBER

by Robert W Service

When I have come with happy heart to sixty years and ten,
I’ll buy a boat and sail away upon a summer sea;
And in a little lonely isle that’s far and far from men,
In peace and praise I’ll spend the days that God allows to me.
For I am weary of a strife so pitiless and vain;
And in a far and fairy isle, bewilderingly bright,
I’ll learn to know the leap and glow of rapture once again,
And welcome every living dawn with wonder and delight.

And there I’ll build a swan-white house above the singing foam,
With brooding eaves, where joyously rich roses climb and cling;
With crotons in a double row, like wine and honeycomb,
And flame trees dripping golden rain, and palms pavilioning.
And there I’ll let the wind and wave do what they will with me;
And I will dwell unto the end with loveliness and joy;
And drink from out the crystal spring, and eat from off the tree,
As simple as a savage is, as careless as a boy.

For I have come to think that Life’s a lamentable tale,
And all we break our hearts to win is little worth our while;
For fame and fortune in the end are comfortless and stale,
And it is best to dream and rest upon a radiant isle.
So I’ll blot out the bitter years of sufferance and scorn,
And I’ll forget the fear and fret, the poverty and pain;
And in a shy and secret isle I’ll be a man newborn,
And fashion life to heart’s desire, and seek my soul again.

For when I come with happy heart to sixty years and ten,
I fondly hope the best of life will yet remain to me;
And so I’ll burn my foolish books and break my futile pen,
And seek a tranced and tranquil isle, that dreams eternally.
I’ll turn my back on all the world, I’ll bid my friends adieu;
Unto the blink I’ll leave behind what gold I have to give;
And in a jewelled solitude I’ll mould my life anew,
And nestling close to Nature’s heart, I’ll learn at last . . . to live.

Travels Abroad

My response to the Ragtag Community prompt: DAMP

Dear Cousin Francie,

Well, Lily and I arrived back home yesterday from our two-week trip to the South seas. I know you would have loved it! I can’t tell you how many times Lilly and I said we wished you were there sharing the great times with us.

We boarded our boat on a lovely, sunny day. For the first couple of days we were travelling not far from a gorgeous luxury yacht.
Wet 8

Lilly and I chose the economy package, so our boat wasn’t as high-class, but we managed quite well, though it was a little more work. We had all the showers we wanted, but washroom facilities weren’t the best.
Wet 9

At times the wind picked up and the seas got a bit wild, which made the voyage an exciting challenge for our captain and crew.
Wet 8

We expected a shower or two even in those tropical climes but we were prepared for nature’s surprises and enjoyed our trip in spite of the occasional sprinkle.
Wet 6

We visited the local markets and chatted with the vendors:
Wet 5

And stopped at other tourist spots in the city:
Wet 1

Some of our mates managed to get some unique selfies.
Wet 7

On days at sea with nothing else to do, we invented a fun guessing game. We called it, “Who’s behind the door?”
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And of course we were delighted to catch glimpses of the creatures playing in the sea around us:
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Oh, yes, dear cousin, you certainly missed the thrill of a lifetime —and  all because you weren’t willing to leave the comforts of home. Baah! Next time we go, you’re coming along and no excuses.

Affectionately yours,
Cousin Twyleen

 

The Scottish Lowlands

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: GUEST
As my response I’ll tell you about a travel book I once read:

My Heart’s in the Lowlands – Ten days in Bonny Scotland
© 2007 by Liz Curtis Higgs, published by WaterBrook Press.

“Let’s go, shall we? Just the two of us?”

With this opening, Liz invites the reader to be her guest and travelling companion on a jaunt through the Scottish lowlands. This is the place Liz loves to visit, the setting for her novels.

Through her vivid descriptions, she allows us to experience the sights, the cuisine and the ambiance of Dumfries and Galloway. She tells of castle ruins, ancient churches, Bobby Burns’ favorite haunts,  local attractions, bed & breakfast accommodations, shops and customs.

Liz has written a number of historical romances set in the southwestern part of Scotland and has made a number of trips to the region in the course of researching her stories. This makes her a great tour guide; you’ll enjoy the role of  a good friend as she chauffeurs you around and explains the history behind the places you’re seeing.

I enjoyed this book very much when I read it the first time but when I discovered later that my Vance ancestors came from Galloway, the travelogue took on a whole new meaning for me. I’d love to visit the area from which my great-great grandfather, the widower Joseph Vance, set off to seek his fortune in the new world.

He left Scotland around 1835, traveling with his young son and his three brothers. En route to their future home in Ontario these four brothers passed through New York, where Joseph won the hand of Miss Sarah Allen, daughter of Samuel Allen, originally from Vermont. Joseph & Sarah settled in Oxford County and produced a family of six boys and one girl, Sarah Jane. My great-grandfather, Samuel was one of the youngest.

As I read Liz’s book, I realized what a contrast the tall maple forests of southern Ontario would have been from the windswept moors the Vances left. What brave souls they were!

Even if you have no family tree roots in this area, do take the tour with her if you can get your hands on a copy of her book. She’s such a pleasant travelling companion; I’m sure you’ll find it a pleasure to be her guest for a few hours of reading enjoyment.

 

Senior Travelers

My husband will vouch for me in this regard. 🙂

With a cheery wave of farewell
we’re off! Adventure lies ahead.
A rosy dawn, a beckoning road,
the time and courage to explore
new spectacles, new vistas grand,
intrigue beyond each bend.

We rumble along, anticipating
amazing sights we’ll see en route,
as we wind through sunlit valleys
and quiet hamlets where
folks behind closed doors
begin another day’s chores.

Arid lands we may encounter
with highway grey, the bushes tawny,
wildlife staring as we pass.
We’ll admire the fertile fields we see,
crisscrossed with tractor trails,
and marvel at the forests rich.

So full of life, so full of pep —
and two cups morning brew.
How soon will we be stopping
for a washroom break?

The sun is bright, the car is warm,
the tires on the pavement drone.
My eyelids start to blink…
twas early I left my bed.
Wake me up when we get
somewhere…
zzz…

Fandango’s one-word prompt today: HIGHWAY

Mirth & Melancholy

In June a pair of barn swallows started a nest on one of the rafters in our garage. Since they’re a threatened species — if not endangered by now — and since they consume huge amounts of mosquitoes, we let them stay. They’re with us such a short time. So I spread an old plastic tablecloth under their nest, we shut the garage door, and left them to it.

Those babies are trying their wings now; I’ve enjoyed stepping into the garage this week to see their progress. First little eyes and open beaks poked over the edge of the nest, now the little guys are out and around. I think some have been outdoor already; you can see their mirth as they discover the joy of flying. They’ll come back to the nest for a few nights, but soon we’ll only see them as they swoop and soar over our yard, foraging.

We’ve enjoyed their visit, but will be glad to see them gone from the garage; the hot summer days are upon us and there were a few times I worried if they could take the heat in that shut up building, even though the sides are all open where the rafters overhang the actual garage. (We need to put on siding yet.)

It brings a bit of melancholy to my mind as I see how fast summer’s passing. I’ll try to enjoy the beauty of all our seasons, but I do find the short, colorless days of winter rather depressing. So I will delight in today while it’s here. Today is the gold in our lives, the hours we’re adding to our treasure of memories. Tomorrow’s coin we haven’t seen yet.

Now I must run along. I’m cooking at the Villa again today, and tomorrow we hope to be off on a nice vacation. We plan to visit friends in the Peace River Country; we haven’t had a trip like this for a long time. Seems there’s so much to do in preparation!

One of the things I’m going to do is shut off all notifications from WordPress so I don’t have dozens of blog post announcements and comments filling my e-mail box while I’m away. I appreciate you all, my fellow bloggers and enjoy reading your posts. My apologies if you get no LIKES or comments from me for a good while.

Have a great rest-of-July. Happy blogging. Or happy traveling, if that’s your plan for this month.

Fandango’s FOWC: MELANCHOLY
Ragtag Daily Prompt: GOLD
Word of the Day prompt: MIRTH
Your Daily Word prompt: APPRECIATION