The smiles are wide here. They are full of hope and filled with laughter. This, I learned at a traditional Sardinian family gathering. There were twenty-one Sards, one Italian and one Canadian at this festival held a few mountains over from ours. From the moment we entered the door with our ‘permesso,’ the radiant smiles never stopped.
After making the round of the usual kiss on both cheeks, to everyone in attendance, we set upon duties for the nightly meal. Mine consisted of grating five pounds of mozzerella, gran padano and of course pecorino cheese. Others busied themselves with the cutting of baby tomatoes, onions, artichokes, the washing of rucola and the slicing of fresh local salami. There were black olives, green olives, hot peppers, regular peppers, wild mushrooms and even fresh boar sausage. All of these ingredients would be put on fifteen pizzas and laid to cook in an ancient stone oven.
We gathered ourselves at the large oak table, raised our glasses, said our salutes and dug in. People laughed, we shared stores, all the while we drank too much wine and ate too much pizza; a true Sardinian family gathering was in full swing and it was blissful. I felt at home amongst these strangers; a kind old woman (eighty-eight) sat down beside me. Zia put her hand on my knee and asked for my name, her kind eyes delving deep into my retinas., her energy mixing with mine. It was as if she was my grandmother and she knew everything about me; her eye’s gave it away.
I asked my husband what relation Zia is to him and he told me, “she’s my Zia (aunt). ” In Sardinia the younger generation calls ALL elders Zia or Zio – it’s a beautiful sign of respect. But I said, ‘Zia looks just like you.’ My husband looked at me and told me that this Zia is his mother’s sister. Real true blood! My heart raced and I looked at Zia and she, with her knowing eyes left her hand firmly planted on my knee.
My husband’s mother passed two weeks after my husband was born in 1969. She had complications during child-birth and my husband would grow up never knowing his mother. He has one remaining Zia, one remaining true blood and I met her in the flesh. I spoke with Zia for several minutes and for some reason I asked her when her birthday is. I had a strange feeling about this woman albeit a strange good aura kind of feeling. Zia told me in her hushed aged voice that her birthday is the same as mine. I could feel her bony hands clutching mine, I could feel her heart beat through our faced palms.
In that moment I feel in love with Zia. After all the pizza eaten and mirto drank we said our goodbyes; with forty-six kisses out-of-the-way we made our way to the car. I told my husband that I wanted to kidnap Zia and he asked why. I said that I thought she was beautiful, that her spirit is full and she has a knowing eye, and that we share the same birthday. But above all, I told him, just because she’s your true blood.