Monday, September 15, 2008

Basilicata: Buon Compleanno

While visiting my ancestral town we found ourselves with invitations to a party. Just as we were feeling really and truly flattered, we discovered that everyone in town was invited. The occasion was Carmela's birthday; Carmela likes a party and the comune was only too happy to oblige her. After all, she is Anzi's first centenarian.

Fliers went up all over the village inviting the good citizenry to come celebrate. A stage was erected in the main piazza and a long table prepared off to the side. A special mass was said in Carmela's honor and the congregation presented her with a lovely painting. After a benediction and a prayer of thanks for her presence and devotion, the full-to-overflowing church emptied out into the piazza.

Carmela slowly made her way through the crowd, waving and echoing her grazie to the many auguri called out her way. She walked up to the stage and listened as the mayor sang (well, recited) her praises. He bored everyone, as mayoral speeches tend to do, and we peeked to see if Carmela herself was getting antsy in an "I don't have all day" kind of way. Maybe she was whispering, "Not getting any younger over here, sindaco!" But no, she was listening intently and enjoying the procedings.


Carmela lives alone up one of the steep, narrow streets. She still follows the "early to bed, early to rise" creed of her generation, and still cooks. When she speaks, her voice is still clear and strong. The years have passed quickly, she says.

Bottles of Prosecco were opened and Carmela was toasted (she enjoyed a glass herself). An enormous torta was cut and served around. Under brilliant sunlight the piazza was filled with her family and friends, and her joyful face showed her pleasure in the event and in her town. Children danced together off to the side while adults milled about and chatted amiably while balancing plates of cake.
While it's a small town, it was by far the largest birthday party I've ever attended. Buon compleanno, Carmela!

5 comments:

janie said...

How wonderful to be able to take part in this celebration!

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

Auguri to Carmela! What a great festa to happen upon :)

Valerie said...

It was a very sweet festa for a very sweet lady. She's really amazing! I couldn't believe when I saw her making her way up those really step streets. God love her!

charlie said...

How lovely for the whole town to throw her a party!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

go Carmela. I bet those steps help her stay in shape. I love that the whole town went to her party.