Sunday, July 15, 2012

Berowne's 126

(For Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "A" is for "addio")
The above prompt is perfect – it reminds me of the girl I met in Rome in World War II named Miss Mountain of Flowers.
I told the first part of the story last week; now let me tell the rest.
I had studied Italian on the ship on the way over so she and I were able to sit together on a park bench and have a fairly successful conversation.
When I learned her story, I realized that she was as intelligent as she was attractive, someone whom we back home would have called a girl-next-door type, who was desperately doing what was necessary to save her family because of the huge problems the war had brought.
For the past several years there had been no work for her father, little food for her brother and sister, and they had stood to lose their apartment. She had stepped up, becoming the family’s sole breadwinner.
She startled me a bit by inviting me to come home with her and meet her folks.
It was very interesting, though strange, to visit her place. I felt like the Gentleman Caller of “The Glass Menagerie” as I said hello to everyone. I was pleased to see they were friendly.
No one there would smoke even one cigarette of the carton of Lucky Strikes I contributed to the family’s economy. American cigarettes were coin of the realm, like cash. One pack could provide food and other necessities of life. Even one American cigarette could get some fruit or vegetables at a street market.
Suddenly her younger sister came home; she stood in the doorway and cried “Salve!” (“Hail!”) - pretty much like a younger sister in our country might come home and say “Hi!”
The kid sister’s arrival made quite an impression on me. In Rome, as you know, history is everywhere; the city has been around for millennia. I suddenly thought that two thousand or so years ago, Roman girls were coming home, perhaps in this very spot, and saying “Salve!” to their families, using that exact same word and probably with the same pronunciation.
However, to get back to my story.
Miss Mountain of Flowers and I retired, with as much decorum as the situation permitted, to her room. I was surprised by what I saw.

There was a new bicycle there, rather like the one in the above picture, but it was a much better version – shinier, more impressive, a spanking bright red and silver beauty.
I was fascinated.
Someone thought enough of this girl to give her a great new bike in wartime. But how did they get such a thing?
I would have thought that in the six years of war no country in Europe would have been able to turn out such a bicycle.
She told me the story.
She had been given the bike when she was fourteen, just before the war came to change everything. Because of the turmoil in the streets of Rome at the time, she had never dared take it downstairs and ride it; she was sure that someone would take it from her.
It belonged in the sun, but she kept it in the shade in her room all those years. She polished it regularly, waiting for the day when the war would end and the future would be limitless and peace would return to the streets of the city. She was not a child any more – she was a young woman of twenty-one years – but her great ambition was to be able to take it downstairs and try it out.
The war was horrible, so many thousands – millions – of lives lost, so much tragedy. This was, in contrast, a very unimportant story. But I couldn’t help feeling that this too, in its small way, was a poignant tale:
A girl who kept a beloved new bicycle in her room for seven years, waiting for the day when peace would come so she’d be able to ride it for the first time.
We got to know each other well, in a few days. We became friends.
The Great War had ended, but communications must have been tangled because the Japanese somehow never got the memo. The battle raged on in the Pacific, so I had to say addio and leave.
She gave me a picture of herself taken before the war, back when she was enjoying a day on the beach at Rimini. She wrote on the photo:
“A te il ricordo. A me la gioia di essere ricordata.”
“To you the memory. To me the joy of being remembered.”

I still feel, after all these years, the strength of il recordo.
(Submitted also to Sunday Scribblings)

51 comments:

Laurie Kolp said...

Aww... so sweet that you kept the photo all these years. She must have been a very special friend. I love your stories!

Berowne said...

As I love your comments - thanks, Laurie.

Sue said...

A touching and poignant story, and I love that you've hung unto the picture of her for so many years.

I hope she got to have some wonderful days riding that bicycle.

=)

Leslie: said...

What a wonderful memory! Did you ever get in contact with her after the war to find out how she was or if she got to ride that beautiful bicycle?

Heaven said...

What a lovely and heart felt memory ~ Thanks for sharing your story ~

Tess Kincaid said...

I love the charming bit about Salve! And I'm envious of the bicycle...she loved it like I would have...

Helen said...

This story of yours, of hers, made me tingle to the bottom of my toes!! You are quite the man! And ~ a story teller extraordinaire!!

Josie Two Shoes said...

A wonderful memory shared well! Another limitless factor of being human... our ability to save up memories and revisit them!

becca said...

beautiful story of a nice memory

Irish Gumbo said...

That, my man, was heartbreak/beautiful. Molto buono!

chiccoreal said...

Dear Berowne: Bravo~! There is great realism and penetrating poignancy in this portrait of the woman with the brand new bike waiting like a bride to ride into the peaceful sunset. One question; Is it a true story? I know it is!

christopher said...

Well done. Salve!

Tigerbrite said...

A Touching Story. Thanks :)

Berowne said...

chiccoreal: "One question; Is it a true story?"
Yes, it happened pretty much as written.

Berowne said...

Irish Gumbo: "That, my man, was heartbreak/beautiful."
What a wonderful comment; thanks.

Linda said...

It must have felt wonderful to share the experience of family and home with this Italian family, you being so far removed from your own family experience. In spite of the war, the joy in your story shines. Thank you for sharing. =D

Roger Owen Green said...

Well told.
it's astonishing how poignant the simple things, such as riding a bike, can be when it's taken away from you.

Catfish Tales said...

I agree with you - poignantly beautiful. ThX for sharing and touching our souls with this today.

Kathe W. said...

Oh Berowne- what a wonderful write.

Day Dreamer said...

Very beautiful!

Rinkly Rimes said...

What a lovely story! There's a film in there somewhere.

Green Speck said...

Very beautiful story :-)

Kutamun said...

Great story, Berowne, reminds me of the young couple from "Titanic", despite the brevity of the interlude something of his spirit never quite left the young lady who survived , thanks

Little Nell said...

I’m so glad you listened to our pleas and gave us more. This is a simply wonderful story, beautifully and elegantly told. For some reason the ending, with that lovely quote made the hairs on the back of my neck tingle. You should submit this to a magazine it deserves a wider readership.

Dana Dampier said...

Such a wonderful story... and her note to you on the picture is wise and beautiful.Thank you for sharing!

Mama Zen said...

What a great story!

Trellissimo said...

Lovely tale, perfectly told.

Berowne said...

Little Nell: "This is a simply wonderful story, beautifully and elegantly told."
What a fine comment. Thanks, L. Nell.

Berowne said...

I am pleased indeed to have such a distinguished list of bloggers commenting - Trellissimo, Mama Zen, Dana D, Kutamun, Green Speck, R. Rimes, Day Dreamer, Kathe W, Catfish Tales and Linda - my thanks to all.

Wayne Pitchko said...

great story indeed....thanks for sharing....and the Schwinn I didn't own

Jinksy said...

The the Italian flourish at the end, which wraps up the story! :)

Karen S. said...

I really enjoyed where this one single woman took you! Wonderful writing...great bike too!

Roy Schulze said...

Damn you, Berowne! You made me cry. I got here from ABC Wednesday, where my story there is as crass as yours is beautiful.

Tina´s PicStory said...

beautiful lady!

Lyn said...

Salve!! So happy you still have "il ricordo"...lovely...

Berowne said...

Roy Schulze: "My story there is as crass as yours is beautiful."
Oh, I get pretty crass too from time to time. :-) Thanks for the comment.

Berowne said...

Lyn, Salve! back to you. I always enjoy your comments.

irene said...

What a sweet story, Berowne.

Linda Jacobs said...

Love the bicycle story in the middle of this. It's a metaphor for so many things. And love her words written on the picture!

Dandelion Girl said...

such a moving and beautifully poignant story. Her memory carries on. :)

Sheilagh Lee said...

What a courageous woman.She sounds like an amazing person to know.thanks for sharing this story,

Gattina said...

What a nice story ! In Germany it was the same situation, we were under American occupation and yes, cigarettes, chocolate and coffee were good money to get food !
Gattina
ABC Team

Lmkazmierczak said...

So glad to have the rest of the story from last week's. You paid tribute to all the daily struggles that war causes by posting this piece♫

Rene Foran said...

"The joy of being remembered"
I just love that. Your friend knew what was important. In your memory she remains forever sunning herself. She belongs in the sun :)

Helena said...

Keepsakes for a little frame are always the most precious!

While clearing the house after my mother-in-law died, I came across a picture of a soldier (WWII) that neither me nor my hubby recognised. Was signed to her and found in old handbag. Will always keep me curious!

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

beautiful...

JJRod'z

Linnea said...

What a sweet story to share with us! Thanks for visiting my "A".

Berowne said...

Linnea: "What a sweet story to share with us!"
A fine comment, Linnea, and much appreciated.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, again, your fascinating life has given us yet another snapshot of the longings, the feelings, the history of one family, of one girl caught in the crossfire and living to tell the tale. SO happy for you both, that memory probably still resonates for her as well. Amy

Berowne said...

You show great understanding of her life, Amy, as I knew you would. Thanks.

Belva Rae Staples said...

This is a sweet story and I hope she finally rode her beautiful bicycle.

 
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