This week the Andreoli family lost a very important member: auntie Agnese, my father’s sister, passed away.
She was a very active and extremely clever woman. I remember her laughing all the time, with her lovely chubby red cheeks, her round face and wonderful blue eyes that were fortunately inherited by my daughter Martina.
Born in 1936, she was not allowed to keep on studying after Primary school because it was too expensive and because in those days women simply did not get an education. However, that never stopped her.
She got married and had children, like most women at that time, but she kept on reading and educating herself during her whole life. The last book I borrowed from her was Homo stupidus stupidus written by the famous psychiatrist Vittorino Andreoli. She liked it very much and, when I returned it, she talked about some chapters that she remembered perfectly and that she considered as a faithful description of modern society.
She taught herself basically everything: how to do patchwork and cross stitch, sew, knit and cook… she was constantly creating and creating quilts, sweaters, cross stitch pictures. She loved to change the classic recipes according to her taste, such as her famous light tiramisu made with ricotta (fresh light cheese), instead of mascarpone.
At her funeral, Alessandra, her beloved daughter-in-law, remembered Agnese with beautiful words. The ones that got stuck in my head were “Agnese valued everything she did in her daily life” which basically means that she put love in everything she did and God knows that she never stopped! If we were going to visit her she always wanted to know it beforehand so that she would have time to get her wonderful sweet rice torte ready. When I asked her to stitch a white wool shawl for my Akashic Records courses she gave me a real work of art. Every time we went to her house we came back with eggs, vegetables and fruit, because, despite her age and her health issues, she would feed chickens and grow vegetables and flowers in her garden.
She was one of the first women in the area to get her driver’s license because her husband didn’t have it and living in such an isolated town without being able to drive would have been quite complicated. When she was too old to drive, she would take the little local bus, dragging her sister Rita with her. Together, they would go into town to have their hair cut and buy some giprano, a word that referred to any eccentric non-essential things, like a bright colourful jacket or ceramic ornaments.
This afternoon, on our way back from the cemetery, we gathered in her kitchen for tea and we suddenly realized that no one had written down the recipe of her famous sweet rice torte with which she welcomed us every time we visited her. So sad, it was a bit like losing her again … We were still concerned about it, when Elisabeth, her Canadian neighbour, raised her hand saying “I have it.” Her husband scolded us a bit “You Italians have wonderful traditions, but you take them for granted! You don’t preserve them so they end up getting lost! ” He’s absolutely right, we are often lazy or simply believe that our family members will live forever. Fortunately for us, this time auntie Agnese’s sweet rice torte recipe is safe and, if it’s true that those who are gone are kept alive in the memory of the living, Agnese will stay with us for a long time.
Cover picture by Martina García Andreoli