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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Sad Italian Story

Memories bubble up in my aging mind, occasionally a sweet fizzy drink, more often sour swamp gas.  Today as I lay in my noon meditation pose (supporting my frail and damaged spine), I recalled an old girlfriend who had shared sadness from her life with me.  After decades her story still brings tears to my eyes.  Because my memory of her comes from so very long ago and so far away, this seems to be the time to tell her sad Italian story.


She was a petite, intelligent, fairly pretty, very social adept American who had been living in Italy for quite some time while her husband served his diplomatic term there.  He was often away from home and she took pride in being part of their team, he working out in Italian society and she keeping their home clean, comfortable, and even impressive; ready for company with or without any notice.  Her was not kind to her but she did not go into the specifics of it.  She had done her household tasks well she said with a bowed head.  She shopped in the small local Italian shops, carried home their groceries, maintained their pantry, cooked with antique Italian appliances for whomever appeared at their table; she cleaned their home, maintained their wardrobes, and managed maintenance on their classical, deteriorating villa.  In view of her skills and accomplishments I imagined that she had done very well indeed.  She was a skilled artist in every art media and a patient teacher.  I created some lovely ceramic work under her tutelage.


She told me that everything had gone smoothly enough in Italy, she spoke the language, liked the people, and of course the country was enticingly ancient and beautiful; although she worried because her husband treated her more as a subordinate than as a wife.  Especially when, knowing that both she and he were aging, she had begun pressuring him to have a baby together.  This annoyed him very much and he withdrew, often not coming home for days at a time.  Then one day she was told that he was sending her back stateside, in essence she was informed that her services in Italy as wife, cook, butler, maid, and dog's body were no longer wanted.  She bowed her head in shame at this point in her story so I did not press her to tell me how he had told her.  Was it in person, by phone, a letter from his employer informing her that her spousal allowance was terminated, perhaps by a mutual friend for a more personal touch or blow?  Was he violent?  However it happened she had been so devastated by it that she did nothing but flee back to the states where she quietly, in shame signed the divorce papers that he sent to her.  She had neither money nor strength to find lawyers to work both in the United States and Italy.

Her former husband gave her almost nothing as he pushed her out of their marriage which had lasted most of their adult life; no property, no alimony, nothing except the added misery of telling her that he had had a baby with his new mistress, the one with whom he had strayed from their Italian home.  How could anyone survive that?  She tried to catch her breath, to land on her feet in America.  She immediately got both daytime administrative employment and an evening position as an art teacher.  It may be the strain of this heavy work load on her small, thin shoulders, and her former husband's abuse and abandonment, that triggered her subsequent cancer (unspecified here for privacy but anyone could seen how it hollowed her out.)  Half a century later I shudder inside to think of her lost circumstances, her public humiliation in Italy, her failed health.


"I even boiled all of the bed sheets in soapy water and hung them out in the courtyard to dry fresh for his friends' and associates' stay overs, sometimes they stayed for weeks at a time."  She sobbed.


Sad Italian Story

animation by Annmarie Throckmorton, copyright 2024



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