My grandmother continued explaining: «In the front pocket, there are some paper napkins, knives and forks, camping cups and a first-aid kit with plasters, cotton gauze, disinfectant, bandages and a strip of cotton wool.»
My mother came back into the kitchen with a little pile of linen in her hands and said: «I’m putting some spare clothes into this pocket of the backpack, in case you dirty yourselves or get your clothes wet. There are two pairs of trousers, two t-shirts, two pairs of underpants and two pairs of socks. Do you think I should put in two pairs of shoes too?»
«There’s no need Mum. We’re coming back this evening. Come on, the backpacks are heavy enough already and Matteo will make me carry the heaviest one.»
«c’am’a’ffari, semu pronti?» (so, what are we doing then – are we ready?) My father asked as he came to the door. «I’ve been to the square and the coaches are already there, along with a lot of your friends.»
«Good morning. I’ve got to have my breakfast.» Said Matteo, still in his pyjamas, as he sat down at the kitchen table.
«Get a move on!» I yelled at him. «I’m going to go without you!»
«Really, you’re going without me? You’d abandon your little brother?» He yawned.
My brother was able to make light of critical moments, taking the pressure off and uplifting every difficult discussion. He was the likeable one in the family.
I, on the other hand, wanted to be precise and punctual. I didn’t like making mistakes. I did not want to give the adults any reason to scold me.
Five minutes later, Matteo had already gulped down his breakfast, washed and dressed and was outside in the garden calling me. «Well? Are you going to keep me waiting much longer?»
«At least come and take a backpack. What a pain!», I complained.
My father kissed my mother on the cheek and took both backpacks. «What on earth have you put in here, Carmela? The picciriddi are not moving house. They’ll be back this evening.» He winked at her and went outside.
«Which teacher is accompanying you?» My father asked, taking my brother by the hand, before crossing the road.
«Dad, let go of my hand. I’m twelve years old.» Matteo protested, yanking his hand out of my father’s to free himself.
«Vidi si ti dugnu na manciata I bastunati .» (you see if I don’t give you a handful of wallops) Threatened my father, letting go of his hand anyway.
«I think the Italian teacher or the math’s teacher is coming with us.» I said, trying to draw the attention away from the scolding.
My father was a kind man, but he demanded respect, especially when we were in public.
«Hello Tommy. Hello Matteo. Good morning Mr. Caruso. Come with me. We’ll sit in the seats at the back.» Nino had kept the best seats on the coach for us – those in the back row. That was where the liveliest boys always sat, those who entertained everyone during the trip and who sung at the top of their voices for the whole journey. Being one of them was a privilege.
«Bye Dad, we’re leaving now.» I hesitated for a moment, wondering whether to kiss him goodbye or not. I would have liked to, but he understood this time.
He stayed standing upright and, smiling, gave us a friendly slap on the back. «Have fun and behave yourselves.»
He asked the driver what time we would be back, while Matteo and I took our seats on the coach.
A few people stopped him to say hello. One man raised his hat and two women smiled slightly, lowering their heads a little.
Before leaving, my father waved us goodbye.
He was a strong man, respected by all, and I wanted to be like him when I grew up.
III – LUNA
I don’t remember why I found myself at the ciumara (torrent) with my brother and Serafino, but I always ended up having to watch over Matteo and he always got me into trouble.
Some years before, the course of a small torrent that ran through our village had been diverted and its dry bed was to become a tarmac road. The long bureaucratic process had prevented the work from ever being started and what everyone called the ciumara became an illegal rubbish dump.
That morning, we didn’t have any lessons at school and, to pass time, we had gone to the dump to look for old stuff. You could find all sorts of things there: furniture, broken household appliances, tools, engine parts.
«Tommy, get something to open this washing machine with.» My brother yelled, as he stood on a mound of junk.
«I haven’t brought anything with me, Matteo.» I answered, looking up at him, while Serafino joined him, rummaging in the little backpack he had with him.
«Don’t worry. I’ve got my father’s tools. I took them from his storeroom without telling him.»
«Matteo, hold this thing still.» He said while they fumbled with the rusty lid.
«Be careful. It’s about to fall. Put it on a firm surface.» I suggested, getting closer to them.
«We’ve nearly finished. Move away from it. It might fa…»
The washing machine slipped off the rock it was resting on.
Luckily it only brushed against me without hurting me, but I lost my balance and fell to the ground, grazing my forehead.
«Are you stupid or what? Why would you stand under it?», Matteo protested, telling me I was to blame for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. «Get up. You haven’t hurt yourself at all.»
«I don’t know if it’s possible to be more idiotic than you two.» I said, getting up, with blood trickling down my temple. «I told you to put it on flat ground.»
«In fact, we’ve put it on the ground, now.» Serafino cut him short, coming to my aid.
«You’ve split my head open. Now what’s Mum going to say!»
«Oh, come on, you’ve hardly even scratched yourself. Put some cold water on it.» Matteo consoled me, putting a hand on my shoulder and accompanying me to the square with the fountain in the middle.
Our curiosity about how the mechanical parts of objects worked made us spend our free time taking apart those that we found at the ciumara.
My father was a do-it-yourself enthusiast and he often helped us create strange machines that sometimes worked and other times served only to develop our imagination.
I was born in Messina and raised in a traditional Sicilian family. I am the youngest of three sisters. I worked 10 years at a travel agency and then as a tour guide. Travelling is my passion. My writing career began somewhat by accident when I participated in a literary competition and won first prize. Two years later I tried my hand at the writing competition once again, my entry won first prize again! My first novel, "Her name was Aprile" was born after chronicling stories from a boy’s youth and the disappointments of lost love. In writing about these events, the characters came to life and the story wrote itself.