A light summer breeze drifted into the small store that doubled as Graziella Marchesi’s home. The smell of flour and freshly-grated cheese filled the kitchen as a radio station spit out rapid-fire Italian. To Graziella’s seven-year-old ears, only a few words made sense, but she gathered that it concerned the Vatican, the city her mother had mentioned visiting so many times.
As if called by Graziella’s thoughts, her mother waded into the kitchen, giving Graziella a chastising look as the young tyke failed at kneading the pasta dough. She switched the radio to a different station, and, as the music of Benjamino Gigli filled the small room, Graziella’s mother ordered her to fix the pasta with a quick bark of Italian while starting to fold the tortellini.
The two worked diligently, briefly interrupted by customers coming to the front of the store and purchasing bags of handmade pasta for dinner. They were greeted with bright smiles, a hearty “buona giornata,” and, in the case of Pasquale, the sixteen year old who worked as the gelato vendor, a shriek of excitement from Graziella.
The two worked until the sun set behind the cathedral. After eating pasta and mixed vegetables, just the two of them at the small kitchen table that was continuously covered in flour, Graziella ran to get her favorite book, one of only two she owned: The Adventures of Pinocchio.
The spine was frayed and many of the pages ripped, but she loved it nonetheless. She read along with her mother, sat comfortably on her small bed and feeling the warm Italian night air brush through the windows. The two stared at the stars through the window, watching them twinkle over the Modena Cathedral, reciting the words to nursery rhymes, and listening to the sounds of the city at night.
Graziella fell asleep to the light buzzing of mosquitos, the faint opera flooding in from the scratchy radio in the kitchen, and the feeling of an era about to change.