The final week in October ended on a high as it was a time for celebration. Within the space of a few days were my parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary and my mother’s 85th birthday. Some time previously I had written to our family in Atina, telling them about these up and coming special events. Our cousins soon paid us a visit, and it was then that they revealed their cunning plan. What if Tina and Hugh were to have a little service at the church in Atina to bless their 50 years of marriage?
On the date of their special Anniversary we left Itri bright and early and arrived in Atina just ahead of the rest of the Italian family clan. At Mario and Mara’s house we were served coffee, gold sugared almonds and delicious homemade biscuits dusted with icing sugar. We then all made our way up the cobblestone steps of Via Dollabella
to the old piazza and the ancient cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
On entering we discovered that Sunday Mass was already well underway and that the church was crammed full of worshipers, both old and young.
Although now a lapsed believer, I found it brought back reminiscences of things long forgotten, memories that had been deeply planted within me during my childhood. The hairs on the back of my neck tingled as the beautiful singing of the choir soared up to the vaulted arches and echoed around the exquisite ornamental interior.
Tina, in her youth, had also been a member of the choir of St Peter’s Italian Church “Little Italy” within the Clerkenwell district of London. In fact her family had lived just around the corner in Herbal Hill, and their whole life had revolved around this church. I will never forget the emotion that Mamma showed that day, for it was here, in Atina, in this very building, that many of her family ancestors had been baptised, made their First Communions, Confirmations, had been married and buried. Her grandfather, Carmine, had been a sacristan in this very church and had collapsed and died of a sudden heart attack whilst serving during Mass here. Thus our lives had deep connections with this very special edifice.
When the service had concluded we, the family, were ushered to an ornate, guilded side chapel, which cousin Mara had beautifully decorated with splendid displays of gold coloured roses.
Here the kind and gently spoken priest conducted a simple service in Italian, the theme of which was “the importance of love in God’s teaching”. He then gave thanks for Tina and Hugh’s 50 years of marriage, and he blessed the rings of the radiant, happy couple and congratulated them on their grand achievement.
From the church we went on to a splendid local restaurant, “Il Vicolo”, for a delicious Italian meal of abundant courses.
Cousin Elena had specially baked a mouth-watering hazelnut cake and we all toasted the special couple with a glass of “Prosecco”. It was an occasion to remember, a celebration of Tina and Hughs golden years, to treasure for many years to come.
There followed a week of prolonged celebration as letters, cards and packages arrived in the post from destinations far and wide, and a few days later Paul’s father and sister flew out to join us. During the daytime the weather was still fine so we held a little “afternoon tea party” on the patio at the rented villa. We invited some of our Italian friends who came laden with yet more more flowers, gifts and best wishes.
We also had a lunchtime BBQ and invited the builders, who had become very fond of Mamma. She loved to chat to them in Italian and to hear their beautiful dialect, which was so very similar to that spoken by her parents.