Monday, December 12, 2011

Gifts of the Heart

I don't know about you but I've been enjoying the monthly posts by the great gals of the Italy Blogging Roundtable.  It's interesting to see how each writer explores the monthly theme.  I know some of them and admire all of them.  So when they opened up the topic for anyone to participate this time around I couldn't resist.  The theme is gifts (or presents).

I like presents.  I mean, really...who doesn't?  It means someone is thinking of you, right?  And as much as I like to rip open the wrapping paper, it's just as much a pleasure (if not more so) to make or choose a gift, tie it up with a bow and present it to someone I care about. 

I was thinking about gifts I've received through the years.  Sure there were some great surprises - the hand-woven wool coat from Chimayo, New Mexico that Bryan gave me one year, a gorgeous and warm wrap that was made in the centuries-old Spanish tradition.  Beautiful, because he had seen me admire it and went back to get it for me without ever letting the secret slip.  I was speechless when I opened it (and if you know me, you know I'm rarely without words!)  The downpayment on our first house from Bryan's parents; the airline tickets for our first trip to Italy from mine - generous and indelibly memorable presents.

But the ones I think are most imprinted are the simple ones.  Every year my grandmother gave us fresh grapefruit from Florida, for instance.  Not a major expense, but when you live in frigid northern Ohio, the taste of fresh citrus imported from the sunny south is fabulous.  I remember one year she wrapped three grapefruit in white tissue paper and formed a snowman, complete with cut-out paper hat, little pieces of charcoal glued on for eyes and a pipe-cleaner smile. 

Simple pleasures, simple me they mean a lot.  And the past year in this village we've received many amazing gifts.  There have been warm invitations for coffee or a meal.  There was the asparagus hunting lesson (with cooking tips thrown in for good measure).  We've been gifted with countless bottles of homemade wine, so many fresh vegetables and orchard fruit that I didn't have to go to the fruttivendolo for weeks, farm fresh eggs, local honey, hand-made pasta, and home-cured salami and pancetta, and enough caffe' to keep us caffeinated for months.  Our neighbors made a lovely fireplace broom - which sits proudly next to our caminetto but is much to pretty to dirty.  And of course there was the wonderful furry surprise that has become part of the family.  (Lucano is on my lap with his head resting on my arm as I type this.  He doesn't seem to mind the rhymic tapping.) 

People have opened their larders wide and shared the bounty of their lands and their skills, which has deeply touched us.  But as much as we enjoy being invited to partake, we have also been invited to participate, giving us the gift of community and feeling like we've become a part of it. 

I wasn't here long when the local community center asked if I'd organize English classes; some of those students have become true friends.  We've lent a helping hand in local festas, and have given free translation when asked as a way of giving back.  We like being involved.  I love the local word for that - "inserire".  Several people commented that we've "inserito" into the village.  Literally it means "inserted" but they're really saying we've joined in and become a part of it.  Without their knowing it, those little words were a gift, too, making us realize we're accepted. 

People here have given from their gardens, but many given from the heart in the form of friendship and a sense of belonging.  And who could ask for more than that? 

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Be sure to check out the wonderful writings of the cool chicks who make up Italy Blogging Roundtable :


LindyLou Mac said...

What a lovely post, I think it is wonderful how accepting the Italian villagers can be of us as gli stranieri that have chosen to live amongst them. Just like yours our neighbours here could not be kinder.

Alexandra said...

Hooray valerie! somehow i missed that you posted for the roundtable - thank you!! You're right that it's the simplest and most thoughtful gifts in life that are the ones we remember most.
As a side note, I too received Florida grapefruits shipped from snowbird grandma (oops almost typoed snowboarding, ha ha!) in the days pre-importation when in Canada all we had to eat in the winter was golf balls and snow.

Lenora Boyle said...

Thanks for this amazing post about the gift of being included in the community. Your blog makes me feel like I am there in Italy. That's why I nominated your site for the Versatile Blogger Award. I hope this brings more visitors to your site too. Last week I was nominated by CulturalComments Blog in Vernazza. You can see your nomination with the rules at my blog:

Lenora Boyle said...

SO SORRY. Here is the CORRECT link for you to read about the Versatile Blogger Award I nominated you for.

Valerie said...

LindyLou - It's so nice to have great neighbors. Mine just knocked on the door with chocolate ravioli! :)

Alexandra - Haha, like your Canadian humor. Your grandma was a grapefruit provider, too? Cool! How did your HHI episode turn out?

Lenora - Thanks; very sweet! #2 on your list of 7 things about you is very touching.