One of the things I noticed on my last two trips to Sicily was the what I call the 'Drifts of Time'.
I have been very lucky to spend time in the homes of many Sicilians. Some are relatives and some are friends. One thing I see quite often is a collection of mementos, usually kept in the corner of a bureau or on a shelf. These mementos seem to honor a lost relative, a husband or mother who has passed on. It also seems to tell a story about the steward of the mementos.
These small items: a candle, a prayer card, a few yellow and folded letters, wedding place settings, baby items. funeral cards, an old faded photograph, are collected, along with religious statues and crucifixes, and almost piled up in the corner of the shelf. They lay against each other and on each other in a random collection.
It reminds me of snow drifts. How the snow drifts into the corners of windows and door sills. How snow creeps up the wall until its weight cannot support the height and it slides down to increase the base and climb again.
This is how I see these mementos, these drifts of time.
In September of 2006 I spent a month visiting my cousins in Santa Caterina LoDico, Sicily. I was given a bedroom to stay in and it wasn't long before I realized I had been given Maria Santa's room and she had moved upstairs. Maria Santa is the matriarch of the family and is about 80 years old.
In the corner of her room is her drift of time. It honors her husband Vincenzo LoDico. Her collection of items, almost like a bird nest of objects, cover about two square feet of alcove space in one corner of the room. I was drawn to it almost immediately and studied it. There were candles, some half lit and some still new. There was a statue of the Madonna and child. There were wedding tokens and small lace items. There were cards, almost all black and white and very old. In the middle of this collection I noticed a color photograph. It was very much out of place, almost new. When I drew closer and looked at it I realized it was a photo of Maria Santa and me!
I recognized immediately that it was taken by my brother in May of 2005 when we first met our relatives in Santa Caterina LoDico. I recall it was the day we visited the church built by the LoDico's in Santa Caterina. As we left the church, Maria Santa complained of the cold and said her hands were cold. I offered her my hand and as we walked back to the house, my brother snapped a photo. I guessed he must have sent it to the family some time later.
Here it was in her drift of time.
There is a saying in
Sicilian and it is my favorite: Cu’ avi, e’ (When you have, you
With each visit I have here, I come to understand this more and more.
A week or so later, while practicing my best imitation of a Sicilian lizard (moving from one stone step to another, following the sun's rays for warmth), I noticed Maria Santa bothered by a hangnail on one of her fingers. I excused myself and brought her a small emery board from my suitcase. She thanked me, filed down the stubborn nail and then handed me back the board. I motioned for her to keep it. She smiled at me, thanked me and tucked it into her pocket.
About two days later I noticed she added it to her drift of time.
And, it was my turn to smile.