by Rita Siligato
Q: You are writing many short stories about Redenta. Is she a fictional character?
A: She is a real person, a distant relative of mine. Her real name is not Redenta, of course. I choose to call her Redenta because this is a typical Triestine name. She would be puzzled if she found out I write about her. Maybe even proud. In the uncertainty of the result, better not to let her know!
Q: Are the stories you are telling about her real?
A: The unbelievable parts are real, yes. She married in her seventies because her mother made her swear that she would never marry when she (the mother) was still alive. But she married for love, this is certain!
Q: And the Liverpool connection? Did her sister marry an Englishman?
A: Yes. They met at a ballroom dance after the war, as I say in “A Special Friend”. She totally colonized him. When he went to Trieste on a holiday many years after her death, with his daughter and her husband, he spoke Triestino like a native. Her children – Duncane, The Professor and Rachele – told me their mother spoke Triestino at home when they were little, and she never learned how to speak English properly. The son I call The Professor is now in his sixties, and he can still speak Triestino. He expected to be understood in Florence, asking for “un cuciàr” (a spoon) at a restaurant.
Q: Mama’s special friend, Sammy, the African American soldier, sometimes had lunch with the family, and most of all he enjoyed her company …
A: It is a family tale that is always told when you say the word “gnocchi” if one of the sisters is present. They were scared at first, but he was a good boy and of some help in a female household.
Q: You said Nella was not happy in Liverpool.
A: She suffered a lot during her first years in England. Being an expat, a young bride left alone with her mother-in-law for two years in a difficult time, not speaking the language… but she managed. She came back home, as she said, every single summer for a month, with the children, by train.
Q: How come Dario and Redenta are living in separate homes?
A: They have their habits. She is used to sleeping in, he is a morning person. This spring they tried living together, but it did not work. Now they meet every morning for a coffee somewhere as they used to do for decades, and they have dinner together every night. And they love each other.
Q: And why did you decide to write about her?
A: Because she is an incredibly strong person, a larger than life character: she is vain in the right way, she still loves to dress up when the occasion arises. She reads a lot (and I never saw her wearing glasses) and she loves music. She always had a peculiar sense of color, matching reds and oranges and pinks without shame. She wanted a white wedding dress and she had it in her seventies. She is a talker for sure. She could kill you with words. And she is always the “baby” for her surviving sisters. She is generous: she visits her sister (the one I call Ondina) every week at the retirement home. And she is always ready to welcome her nieces and nephews from abroad.
Q: Do you have other stories about her?
A: Yes, many. If you want to read them. Every single time I hear something about her it amazes me. And I really hope you enjoy the portraits of this young ninety years old lady.