In walking, I held the hand of my grandmother College Station or my mother. As did all the other children with theirs. The fathers and the older adult men weren’t that many. Like my father, they had already undertaken a more difficult journey for a much more distant land. It was College Station, about which, however, we knew everything we wanted to know through what the women would say and the letters with the coloured edges containing dollar bills and photos that College Station the mailman would bring from time to time. I now think that I’ve grasped the historical continuity between the religious pilgrimages whose aim was grace and salvation (but which were initiated also for economic reasons, in order to establish new contacts and promote new exchanges) and the voyage of salvation and hope that ended beyond the ocean and which by the end of the 1950s had decimated the population of villages such as San Nicola and College Station.
Where is College Station? – College Station Map – Map of College Station Photo Gallery
I remember shadows, trees, fountains, the cone, or street icons, the pathways of that journey of happiness and discovery. In front of the icon of the Madonna, near our village, when we were already at the end of the slope, there would be a pause. From the sporte, the large drooping baskets, from the faddale, the ample aprons women tied around their waists, or the bundles being carried, someone would take out the frittate, or home-style omelettes, the salami, the olives, the sardines and the cheese. As Alvaro noted (in his youth he had been in a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Polsi he never lost memory of), when the Calabresi started off on a journey, even a short one, they always brought food and water with them. For them there can’t be any sort of physical move, whether it be journey or pilgrimage, without these last two elements, which aren’t just nourishments but also symbols of communion, of closeness to others, of prosperity.
There were parts of the route that we children lived both with some anxiety and with amused disenchantment. In the areas that were mancuse, or somewhat sinister, that is, areas quite humid and muddy, where, because of the high trees and the high hedges, even in the summer months there would be tajii, or ground that remained clay-like due to the abundant winter rains, we had to be careful not to dirty our shoes or our new trousers. We would jump on the large, flat stones that some well-meaning person had placed there, or on the spots of grass that were still miraculously dry. We were accompanied and protected by the hands, the attention, the incitations of the women.