BY SANDRA MALATESTA
And on this occasion I really want to think back to the shops of when I was little. Those shops that in the evening were closed by two huge wooden doors and with a long iron bolt. The workshop of shoemakers, tailors, knife grinders, shipwrights, carpenters, blacksmiths, the many craftsmen who had golden hands as they said then, the barbers, those who carded the wool, those who sold little things. The shop was simple with a small wooden counter behind which was the craftsman, and where you went as if you were going to a place today where young people have aperitifs. In those shops, many men after work went to spend a few half hours meeting friends. They talked a little about everything and someone stood at the door to see who was passing. Some mothers with her children went to the seamstresses or shoemakers that I loved so much. In particular, I liked watching a shoemaker work who was from Bologna but had married Iolanda (Mormile if I remember the surname correctly). “U Scarpiell” they called him and he had the shop where Testone later opened the pastry shop. I sat on a little chair and watched how he put the soles on and how I liked it if he had some centrella nailed to me on that heavy iron foot in which he fixed the shoe and that yellow glue with a perfume that made me sniffle. He then emigrated to Switzerland with his family and that shop remained closed for a while. I don’t remember Grandma Nannina’s shop with all those jute sacks where there were beans, chickpeas, lentils and more, but I remember when Rosinella from the cooperative took the crushed chestnuts to put them in the bread paper and hand them to me. The butcher had a kind of large and broad smoothed log of wood placed on three feet and on top of that he placed the meat to be beaten or cut. Going to buy something from those who knew me and talked to me marked me positively on a human level.
I didn’t willingly go to buy stockfish and cod from the vaccara, instead I willingly went to her daughter Rosetta in Via Roma who sold everything in her shop, handkerchiefs, hats, bags and worked a lot with raffia and I sat next to her and watched how she worked . There were some very good women at making raffia bags and hats, and the baskets were worked and then exported through some intermediaries who every two weeks passed by the houses or shops to collect the works. Usually they gave the iron bases and the skeins of raffia, and then paid a certain amount per basket, let’s even say a pittance per basket, but some families made a lot of them and scraped together that money to go on. We used to go to the carpenter to get sawdust to make draft excluders. Many young boys who stopped studying went to work in various shops to learn a trade. And growing up I would sometimes sit outside at the shops and wait for them to come out for a while to talk and then I’d go home.
Can you think that at 15 I was happy just to be able to go to a friend’s to see her for a moment and organize our Sunday afternoon appointment? If it is true that everything passes, it is also true that the memories of the beautiful moments remain inside, they are ours, no one can take them away and among these beautiful moments in me there are those spent in the old shops talking to the craftsmen..and with my friends and friends. I thank Antonio Lubrano for a good part of the photos he gave me.