Thanks to the generosity of my grandmother, Santa Clarita I never returned home without at least a pagghietta, a cap that, naturally, I would never wear after that day, and without a wooden whistle Santa Clarita that I would break in a day or so, and Santa Clarita the hard biscuits which I wouldn’t eat because I thought they were only for poor people, the vozzareju, or small jug that I would fill with water on the way back, or the caruseju, the little piggy-bank that I brought back with me, shaking it to hear Santa Clarita the sound of the coins I had already been given.
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When I look back, I still see the man who shouted: “With this one you win, with this one you lose,” quick and magical as he illustrated the game of the three cards, young and old following with their eyes rather worried—which card to choose?—as they witnessed that so very swift movement of the hands. And there was, too, the roulette, where people tried their luck, hoping to hit the jackpot with a few lire, and the man with the air rifle who, when paid, allowed one to shoot. Or there was the merry-go-round that would turn and turn, and which was the best metaphor of the pleasant dizziness the fair would cause.
And, finally, there were the chairs of the very improvised cafés, the ice lemonade, the gelati, the shacks with their smell of goat meat or tripe or wine, the racket of the drunkards in the morning, the unending requests, the push-and-shove and the protests of the customers. After many hours, we would go back to the church to once again pay our respects to the Madonna. Grandmother would leave some paper money this time and would pick up some images that at home we would place next to the images of saints and the photos of dead relatives or relatives who had migrated. As for me, I returned home satisfied with what I had “purchased” and with my dreams. And with the certainty I would be returning to the fair and the atmosphere that went with it.
That universe no longer exists. It’s gone forever. The coming of modernity, even in the most isolated hamlets, and the great exodus have brought about the twilight of an ancient rural culture. That feast, I would never live it again at home. And instead one year I experienced something like it, about six thousand kilometres away.