Saturday, February 27, 2010

Once Upon a Time, a St. David's Day in Italy

My favorite St. David's Day (March 1) memory is a daffodil quest in southern Italy. I was visiting friends for a few weeks, near Naples. One of this delightful duo was shy about his southern accent & still-tentative English. My southern dialect--forget it; "regular Italian" - it kept slipping into French. Our Italian-speaking link was doing something important --foraging for dinner ingredients. Me? Of course, I was obsessed with flowers & on this weekend, daffodils. I forgot the Italian word, if I ever knew it. Finally after squeaking out 'spring, 'yellow,' & I don't remember what else in Italian, S. lit up & said, "trombone?" I, being an ass, said,"No, no. Trombone? What? No that's an instrument in inglese." Finally, slow me, oh. Daffodils. They are trumpet-shaped--ah.

The sight of an older man pretend-playing a horn instrument & a younger, somewhat exasperated English-speaking woman performing the universal hand-to-head circling motion amused a bunch of bored children with no immediate interests except a Saturday gelato. We made a little bow to the kids, & slunk away. After the forager returned, she explained what was what (after laughing a bit too much--ahem), & S. became obsessed with the idea that I should have trombone. I was embarrassed that I had not only called him crazy in a public market, but now I had given him a new mission. He's one of those lovely people around whom one should be careful to express any wish that he could possibly (& maybe not even possibly) fulfill.

Later that evening, as I fussed with the sitting room brazier, tossing in clementine peels to achieve the most fragrant scent, I looked up & there he was in the doorway, holding a gigantic bunch of the longest-stemmed daffodils I'd ever seen. Before or since. I don't know where or when he got them that day, but being an Italian he possessed a sense of the dramatic moment & thus waited for a post-dinner flourish.

Here are some lovely links to a celebration of St. David's Day weekend in Rome (yes, yes), the end of which involves daffodil distribution. Also, here is a link to a current National Museum of Wales exhibit: Italian Memories in Wales.

cariad & ciao

[photograph of Sophia Loren, I should look so good, via If It's Hip, It's Here; Scented Alley in Naples by golden puppy via flickr]


Tina Tarnoff said...

I was just thinking about buying some daffodils today, but stopped myself as I've been spending too much money on flowers. I love this story. Being a constant foreigner myself and a traveler I am so used to misunderstandings, overwhelming hand gestures and embarrassment. And the charm of it all. xoxo

lettuce said...

I'm never quite sure if I really want to have cut daffodils in the house before easter....

this year though, so desperate for spring, i'll be buying them soon as poss!

Penney said...

You know by now that I'm obsessed with daffodils!
I must get fresh ones tomorrow.. The others lasted forever!
I will be thinking of you tomorrow. My Corgi love of course, will remind me..

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Susan
Well sadly today marks the first day of Autumn for me and the weather has turned.. on cue!!

Love your story.. brings back many memories for me.. roaming the streets of Roma.. xx Julie

Susan said...

OK. For once, I'll try to respond on time.

Tina--I know just what you mean. There's been tulipmania around the apt. in Feb, so restricted self to tiny bunch from market.

Lettuce--I know, but being of Welsh's mandatory (says I).

Penney--keep everyone up-to-date with your daffodil festival work. Looking forward to it & thanks for mentioning Giulia G's blog on your site.

Julie--Oh no. It cannot just snap into autumn immediately. (Can it?) Egad. I'm sorry. Have heard out of corner of ear (is that possible?) to expect snowy showers tomorrow night/Wed. Studiously ignoring (though I did buy enough food, etc. to get us through if mini-disaster).


Angie Muresan said...

Wonderful story, Susan. I think daffodils are such happy flowers, aren't they? Perfect for the first day of March.

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

This was a beautiful...and beautifullly written story. I so rarely hang on every word in the blog world...but I did here, and it was so visual. I saw him presenting those daffodils to you. Thanks for sharing your memory, Susan.


diane said...

what a wonderful story. miss being able to post in 2012.
hope you feel better soon