Anna Foschi Ciampolini
Born in Florence, Italy, lives in Vancouver. A short story writer, she has co-edited three anthologies (Emigrante, Writers in Transition, Strange Peregrinations: Italian-Canadian Literary Landscapes). She was awarded literary prizes in Italy and Canada, including the 2007 First Prize Città di Forlì-AUSER and the 2010 First prize Italian Week-Ottawa. Her articles, interviews and literary reviews were published in Canada, Italy, U.S.A. and Costa Rica.
She is the founder of the Literary Prize F.G.Bressani of the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver and a co-founder and two-time President of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers.
Ariadne’s note: “Anna has been on the World Poetry Cafe Radio Show before and we have had the pleasure of hearing her read at The World Poetry Readings Series at the Vancouver Public Library, Vancouver, BC, Canada. We are honoured to feature her delightful story about the immigrant experience.”
Anna writes: This is an excerpt from “A Travel Imagined”, my three part short story published in “Sweet Lemons2: International Writings with a Sicilian Accent” edited by Delia De Santis and Venera Fazio (Legas Sicilian Studies, Ottawa, 2010). The anthology is a collection of works by Canadian and international writers, all inspired by personal memories or by the history, customs and folklore of Sicily. “Sweet Lemons2 is a collective resistance against the erasure of the Italian immigrant and post-immigrant narrative.”- Kenneth Scambray, Preface, Sweet Lemons2.
A Travel Imagined.
“Is Taormina very far from here?”
“It’s far. It’s very far.”
“How is it? Is it a beautiful place?”
“It’s very beautiful: the sea, the palm trees. They have wonderful palm trees over there.”
My mother is sitting in her bedroom, in front of the vanity’s large oblong mirror. She is putting on her make up, taking what for me looks like an eternity for just dusting a little bit of face powder on her face and dab some lipstick on. She applies a coat of mascara to her eyelashes, moistening the minuscule brush with her saliva and then rubbing it a few times over the cake mascara set in a tin box.
“When did you go to Taormina?”
“I told you: during our honeymoon, in 1935. In those days, the most popular destination for honeymooners was the trip to Rome, Naples and Pompei. We continued traveling down the South and went to Sicily, to Taormina. It was a high class place, even back then.”
There is a hint of pride in her voice when she says that. She checks her make-up and starts brushing her hair. Inside the vanity’s drawers there are several multicolored, tantalizing tiny bottles and boxes. If I could distract her for a moment, I could grab and hide the little bottle full of red nail enamel. She never uses it anyway and she would not notice its disappearance. I have been keeping an eye on the red bottle for a few days. I want it. I want to play with it and paint my dolls’ faces.
“When are we going to Taormina?”
“Who knows? Maybe, I‘ll never go back. It’s so far away. What are you doing? Go get dressed, put on your coat.”
She has already put her hat on, and is lowering the hat-veil on her face. I like it when she is wearing the veil like that; she looks like a movie star. However, today there is nothing I can do for the matter of the red nail enamel. To steal it, I will have to wait for a better moment. Meanwhile, I try to imagine this Taormina place and its palm trees. They must be huge, vivid green palm trees, gently swaying with the breeze like the ones you see at the movies: Taormina, a posh place, with luxury hotels, gala soirees and elegant people, like in the movies.
The primizie, the first fruits from Sicily were finally arriving on the market. People had to wait for them because only seasonal fruit was available back then. The blood oranges were the most precious, tarocchi, sanguinelli, each fruit wrapped in tissue paper decorated with mythical, fascinating characters like the Trinacria, a mysterious woman’s face with three legs sprouting from her head forming a circle, and the beautiful, big-breasted, dark-haired peasant girls in their tight fitting, laced up bodices, offering a fruit with a provocative smile. There was the traditional, brightly colored Sicilian cart pulled by a donkey wearing sumptuous adornments studded with pieces of mirrors and decorated with feathers; on other tissue papers, right at the centre, there was a majestic, bright yellow Sun surrounded by its baroquely elaborated sun rays. All those strange, enchanting creatures and archaic symbols printed on the thin, translucent paper transformed each fruit into a unique masterpiece.
A pile of Sicilian oranges, still wrapped, is lovingly arranged on a plate at the centre of the dining table. We eat them at lunch, unwrapping and peeling them with great concentration, the dark red juice staining our hands. The tissue paper is smoothed out, folded and kept for playing with my dolls.
Anna Foschi Ciampolini (C)