From the Sky - Part XIX

"It was a buffet instead of family style. That was the least of the sins. And they had polenta," said Rae, "The mother of the groom was first in line, and she stirred it counterclockwise."

"They also had fried bananas for dessert. The bananas were cut in half," said Sal.

"Cut, Renata, not broken!" cried Rae.

"And our bread! Do you remember the bread, Rae?" gasped Sal.

Aunt Rae leaned in close to me: "Fresh bread. From our bakery, no less! And when I cut it, there was a big hole in the middle!"

"Coffin bread!" whispered Aunt Sal.

"Are you saying grandfather died because there was a hole in your bread?" I'm sure I sounded incredulous, and I remember fighting the urge to laugh.

They said nothing, they just stared at me, and I realized that yes, that's precisely what they believed. I suddenly remembered something: "Isn't Camille still married? Don't they have a mess of kids? Doesn't her husband own a string of sandwich shops? Where was the great disaster all the omens predicted? This is why Dad calls all of this a 'bunch of junk.'"

Aunt Rae leaned in close and said: "Uncle Gio was cursed, but who fell out of the honey locust tree?"

"Oh Renata," Aunt Sal added, shaking her head, "Don't you see? Curses are capricious."

"But Camille is living a fairy tale life!" I exclaimed. I'm certain I sounded a little …perhaps a lot …condescending.

"Yin and yang," said Rae.

"Karma, if you will," Sal added, nodding.

"What in heaven's name are you talking about? You're not making any sense!"

"There were two weddings, Renata, remember?" Rae said softly.

"Camille was blessed by good magic," said Sal, "And we all know what happened to Bitsy Clancy."

And in unison they crossed themselves and then spent nearly half an hour telling me about all of the other signs that manifested before Gio's serenade. They blamed it all on the mystery women, and called her a witch; a strega.

"The woman who nearly destroyed our family, who set in motion all that followed, was a powerful strega, we're sure of it," said Aunt Rae. "Dark magic, Renata. Very dark indeed."

There was no changing their minds. This is what they believed then, and what they still believe now. I realized only later that Zia never returned to the table that night. She drank her wine in the kitchen, did the dishes, and went to watch television with my father. Zia rarely leaves the table when there is tiramisu to be had. It was a small blip at the time, but it makes a lot of sense now, especially now that I know the whole story…

Ying, Yang and Stregas...


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