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ROLLING WITH JAMES JOYCE ON AN IRISH HILL

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ODE TO THE BOOKISH GIRLS

A story of Lace and familia

lace and familia Dolce e Gabbana
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“Sundays are for lace and familia…”

I attended a small gathering on Sunday afternoon on the patio of this Italian palazzo. I wasn’t sure what the occasion was but it looked fun with young women donning pop socks and cat eyeliners, wrinkles and hair brooches on the older ones; little boys running circles around the waiters and so much bread and cannoli.

It was an Italian world draped in lace, tinted by tans and amplified with voluptuousness, so you can imagine the stark contrast my lack of curves and tan brought to the party. I had been enjoying an Italian summer wearing big hats and light dresses, so as fall came around with this gathering, I decided to honour it by wearing a black lace dress, earrings that weighed down my ear lobes and dark lips.

lace and familia dolce e gabbana

“Maddalena, come here now!” shouted this old woman with silver hair, laced together with a brooch and freckled, wrinkly hands, the minute I stepped on the last stair to the patio. She was surrounded by a group of women, sitting near a long table where prosciutto, formaggi and more bread and cannoli were placed — an array that was centred by a red embroidered carpet. I approached her with a thrill; I had always wanted to experience the warmth of a carpet outside.

“Boun pomeriggio a tutti.”

“Don’t boun pomeriggio me, Maddelena! Stop driving my little Paolo crazy,” she said.

Paolo was this boy I went on a stroll with in late summer at his aunt’s orchard — the silver haired woman I learnt that day. We had spent an afternoon roaming around her large trees, holding hands, letting them fall so we can find each other again; eating mandarins plucked from her trees and spitting the pits in the earth beneath our feet while looking into each other’s eyes. I never kissed that boy.

“Zia let the poor girl be, Paolo is not a little boy anymore!” interjected this woman with dark brown hair parted down the middle.

“If you are spending time with my Paolo then you’re family now so come, let’s eat and talk about our neighbours.”

The zia made me sit near her, on this old wicker chair which rocked slightly, and she kept bringing me food while chanting, “mangia, mangia!” There was another old woman in the group, wearing thick framed glasses and looking closely at all of the young waiters who passed by her.

“I knew a boy one summer whom I never did kiss,” she said while looking at me, “Oh well, there were other boys whom I did kiss!”

“Zia!” laughed the brown haired woman; she was sitting on a chair next to her.

One of the small boys had tired of tiring the waiters, so he came and sat on the silver haired zia, where she allowed him to explore the mechanics of her black handbag. At this, she turned to me, while I was enjoying the sweet ricotta of the cannoli.

“You are too sad Maddalena, you must love every day!”

“Yes, every day a different man,” said the brown haired woman.

“Sure, but love every day nonetheless — now eat!” said the zia.

There was a young woman who had listened to all that had passed, while posing, more than standing, in her lace shoe boots and black midi skirt. She had smiled, when the others had laughed heartily and leaned closer when her zia had scolded me. She had been told more than she had dared to know about her mother’s and aunt’s love life, so she turned round to address the quiet old man wearing black; he was having his second dessert.

“What do you think about all of this nonno?”

“I think this is the best panna cotta I have ever tasted!”

“Ah nonno, you are the one to love!”

We all laughed heartily until late in the evening. Paolo arrived at one point and I caught him gazing at me, after that my eyes did not stray. I did get to slow dance with the nonno before I left them all talking loudly, as the Italian night got quieter and colder.

Story credits: Dolce & Gabbana for the images.

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