From the Sky - Part III

And the woman they both wanted?

Aunt Rae and Aunt Sal say they believe she was an Irish girl with light red hair and freckles. But Aunt Zia told me once that the woman was a strawberry blond, German, and Protestant. It's the only time I can ever recall her mentioning the woman, and she said it with conviction. I remember it was a lovely spring day, and Aunt Zia had just returned from Europe. Her mood was light and carefree. I was probably about ten years old, and for some reason I asked her about the mystery woman. She gave me those few scraps of information and never discussed the woman again. In fact, to this day Zia leaves the room if the subject comes up. It's under lock and key, you see, a door she will not open.

Oh, the misery brought upon my family by that mystery woman! I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of my aunts secretly placed a curse on her. Whoever she is and wherever she went after Grandfather and Uncle Gio fought, she might want to be very careful that her bread is right-side up on the table come suppertime. After the final rift between her suitors opened up, the woman vanished. She disappeared into the cracks and crevices of our family history, leaving us all to deal with the wreckage she left behind. But the serenade was the catalyst, says Aunt Rae. Of that she is certain.

Ah, the serenade!

Rae and Sal say Grandfather had the edge in the courtship until the night Uncle Gio sang to the mystery woman. They say that's when he stole her heart. If Uncle Gio had been born tone-deaf, perhaps everything would be different. Perhaps. But Uncle Gio could sing. Now there's an understatement for you. I'm told if he sang at a wedding every one hushed up, even the waiters, the busboys, the caterers. If he sang outdoors, birds would stop their song to hear his. It's true, I've seen it. He sang for me often when I was a child, and I could hear all of Italy in his voice. He sang in Italian. Old songs, songs sung by peasants and farmers. Melodies which were sometimes joyous and sometimes tinged with a melancholy so profound I would well up, despite the fact I had no idea what the words meant. My love of music…my career, before the effin mumps…sprang from all those melodies sung by Uncle as we sat in his kitchen eating anise cookies.

After I fell from the tree, he never sang to me again. But I could hear him at times singing in his garden, his voice drifting across his yard, floating over his fence and across the street to slip gently through my bedroom window as I studied after school, and tears would drop slowly from my eyes, smudging up my algebra or making little rivers on an English paper. His voice is gone forever now, and the world is a lesser place for it.


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