Mothers, Daughters, Nationality: The Tombola Of Fate
Our Naples-based psychiatrist thinks about a little girl she met in the rain, one of two sisters burdened with the unfairness of uncaring parents and a struggle with Italian nationality.
Last night it was pouring in Naples, and I was stuck waiting out the rain at a supermarket entrance. Next to me was a little girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old. A mini lady holding her even smaller sister with her left hand and an enormous shopping bag and umbrella with her right. She seemed to be in a hurry because suddenly she stepped into all that rain, so I held her back.
"Stop, where are you going? It's raining too much! Where do you need to go? I'll go with you; otherwise, how can you handle the umbrella by yourself?"
She looked at me with her big blue eyes, surprised, and bravely replied:
"Ma'am, I need to get to the corner of the street. If you want, you can walk with us!"
So, I took the umbrella and walked with the girls.
"What did you buy?"
"I bought ricotta and pasta, provola cheese, gnocchi, meat, and tomatoes. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to make sauce!"
"Where is your mom? Why isn't she cooking tomorrow?"
"Mom is at home. She's playing tombola (Italian bingo) with her friends, so she'll stay up late tonight. She won’t be able to get up early to make the sauce."
"What about your dad?"
"Ma'am, how should I know? Besides, dad is a man. Men can’t do these things."
When we arrived at her place, a tiny basement, we could hear the women inside drawing numbers.
She looked at me and said:
"Do you want to come in too?"
"No, thank you; I have to go."
"Tell the truth! You're Italian, and you don't like playing tombola!"
This morning, I was thinking about that phrase. By this time, the little girl will already be making the ragù sauce. Indeed, she was right; I hate tombola.
But what I hate the most is the fact that I'm Italian and she's not. Because citizenship alone is not enough to ensure a child's right to be loved and cared for. Many children can't enjoy their childhood in the indifference of all, not just those who play tombola.
And anyway, today, I'll eat gnocchi just like her and her mom. I’ll be hoping that a small gnocchi gets stuck in her mom's throat for a moment, so she feels like choking just long enough for her to come to her senses and realize what a terrible person she is.
Learn more about Worldcrunch's exclusive Dottoré! series here.
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