This bright sun-glazed morning I was thinking about my Emilio while walking to the village. Most mornings we had sat together in contented silence, awaiting the sunrise as it slowly splashed its light upon the beckoning hills surrounding our small stone cottage near Montaione. Emilio left this beautiful land nearly ten years ago, yet I still sit silently in the morning twilight, thankful for the many years he was by my side, often accompanying me on daily strolls to the mercato all’aperto. We walked hand in hand, waving to neighbors along the way, taking in the vine-strewn land as the grape harvest was underway, and always, loving the faces of the village market as we shopped for our daily fare. It was a routine I relished. The sights, the sounds, the smells enlivened my senses, but the people…now they were a delight to my spirit.
As I walked toward the village this morning, I prayed expectantly as I had every morning: Lord make known to me the path of life today.(1) He always met me along that road as we journeyed to the village together.
Upon entering Montaione , I hobbled along the cobblestone street to the village piazza, laying my wooden cane astride a stone bench where I enjoyed a perfect view of the splendid market. Antonia waved as she noticed me at my usual spot.
“Come stai, Maria?” she said with a smile, offering me a hot cup of caffe’.
“Bene grazie, Antonia. Dio vi benedica.” I wonder what the Lord will show me today?
Soon I spied a young couple entering the market, smiling adoringly into each other’s eyes. I noticed the sparkling diamond ring on the girls left hand as they picked the choicest tomatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic while chattering , perhaps discussing the evening menu. The young man stole away for a few minutes, picking a colorful flower bouquet which he presented to the delighted girl. I prayed that the strength of their young married love would be sustained so they would live the blessed life that was shared by Emilio and I. And the Lord impressed upon me to pray this over their lives… put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…and beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.(2)
My prayer was interrupted by a bouncing ball that landed right at my feet. As I picked it up, two young boys appeared, wide-eyed and apologetic as they came to retrieve their ball, obviously enjoying a morning of summer play in the warm Tuscan sun.
“Here, here ragazzi, some coins for you to buy fruit at the market, then you can play all morning!”
“Grazie, grazie!” they chimed in unison. It was a delight to observe the boys enjoying the apples and red grapes grown in the nearby vineyards. Keep them safe and bless them as they grow, Lord. Give your angels charge over them to guard them in all their ways.(3)
Adolfo and Bettina arrived as usual as the village chimes announced the hour…it was eleven o’clock.
“Buongiorno miei amici!” I greeted the couple at a small market table.
“Ciao cara Maria!” they replied as we took our seats.
Aldolpho purchased cheese, bread, and a variety of fruits for the modest lunch we would share as we had so many times before. I offered a blessing for our food and companionship. Oh, how I missed Emilio’s presence in our gatherings. Adolpho had been his childhood friend and Bettina his cousin, marrying some fifty years ago as a result of Emilio’s self proclaimed matchmaking success. One year later, Emilio and I became husband and wife.
Great friends for many years, today our little trio partook of rich reminiscence and lingering laughter while savoring our shared lunch. After our meal was complete and goodbyes were exchanged, I perused the market for the ingredients of my evening meal…a little fish and some vegetables packed neatly away into my market bag, and began my sojourn homeward.
And so the parade of faces buying every sort of staple at the mercato all’aperto filled my mornings with joy and a lighthearted peace as I gave voice to the prayers God whispered in my heart. And Antonia made sure my cup was always full, just like the Lord.
* Italian translations: piazza= town square/center, mercato all’aperto= outdoor market , Come stai? =how are you? bene grazie= fine thank you , Dio vi benedica= God bless you , ragazzi= young boys , buongiorno meie amici= good morning my friends , ciao cara= hello dear
* Scripture paraphrases(NAS): 1) Psalm 16:11 2) Colossians 3:12-14 3) Psalm 91:11
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