This is the recounting and the diary of my life - Marino Mattei


In 1922 my sister Maria was born and the house was so small that it was impossible to live there. I don't remember how long we remained there. Finally my grandfather and my grandmother bought a portion of Argee's [Argene's] house and in this way we returned to staying at la Piella. But even there the house was small and the family continued to grow in number. In fact, in 1923 my brother Berto was born and then Dario in '25 and it became impossible to continue living in that house. My grandfather decided to build an addition to the house - an extra four rooms. He also built a toilet which, up to that point, we had never had and in this way the problem of the house was resolved. Unfortunately though, the misery continued and every day the situation became more critical. We had no food and my father would stay in the house and clean; this was his work while we remained shoeless, naked and hungry. It interested my parents little that their children were dying of hunger. They were people without a conscience and without a sense of responsibility. In fact, when they had something good to eat they would send us out of the house and they would eat the food while we were gone. More than once did I find them eating when they had sent us out.

Around this time life was becoming always more difficult for me because I was beginning to grow up and I saw that my friends were dressing in nice clothes and I was always dressed in rags. This caused me great embarrassment. At seven years old I began to go to school but my parents would not send me because, as I've already said, I had to stay at home and work. For my parents, education was the last thing and they only sent me when they felt like it. As I said, I completed the third elementary level but even in these three years I attended school very little. I remember in my last year that I passed despite being absent for sixty days. I was intelligent enough at this point and the trouble with school ended. I was ten years old. I now began to arrange myself a little bit because people were asking for me to do work for them [the common Italian term for this is "opere" - meaning work or labor; in this case farm labor] and also my grandparents would give me money occasionally. They didn't give me much but it helped nevertheless. Also, I would bring them wood and they would pay for it and then when I went there they would always give me something to eat and in this way my situation became somewhat better.

My parents were always the same. In fact, my brothers and I had thought that the problem of the children had ended but alas it wasn't so. It had been six years since the birth of my last brother - Dario - and I had noticed that something was not going well in the house but I couldn't understand what was wrong. One night in our small village there was a dance like they would have every so often. I was already sixteen or seventeen years old. Along with my friends, we were the first to arrive at the dance. Slowly, other people began to arrive. The last to arrive were the people from le Sceponi; those being Zela and family and many others with them. They had the great news that they had encountered the midwife who was going to la Piella but they didn't know to who's house. I didn't imagine that she was going to my mother because she was already 51 years old. [I believe the age stated here is not correct. It is more likely that she was approximately 41 years old.] With much curiosity I left the dance to see what was happening. Alas, the midwife was in our house and my sister Rina was born. At this point, I no longer knew what to do. I had not expected this and I was so offended that for a long time I did not speak to my parents and I never looked at Rina with bon occhio [a good eye; i.e. with affection]. When she was little it didn't matter how much she would cry, I would never hold her in my arms and I would never comfort her.

The situation in my house did not change - misery upon misery. Finally, Santina and Father Zanotti [the village priest] had a house and I began working there doing manual labor. I was still young - around sixteen years old - but having suffered a little of everything, I was strong and they paid me the wages of an adult. Working with me was Narciso. We were born in the same year, he was six months older. I received twelve lire a day and Narciso received eight. I had to carry water because Narciso could not lift the barrel. The barrel was far away and it was heavy for me as well. Also, it would leak water and due to this I was bathed in sweat and water every day. The boss was Carrari from Vitiana [a neighboring village]. He payed us one hundred and forty lire every two weeks but my father gave me only twenty lire and he kept one hundred and twenty. With the twenty lire I had to buy breakfast and clothes. I was very economical and I had enough money. However, my father was not happy and after a while he began to give me less - sometimes fifteen lire and at certain times ten lire.

I worked at Santina's house for about a year and then I worked constructing a livestock shed for Italo and then at Mido delle vignole [Mido of the vineyard - dialect] and then the work in Gromignana was finished. Carrari took me to harvest and dry chestnuts in the fields of Vitiana but winter arrived as soon as I finished this work and, as I said, due to always being covered with water and sweat [a result of the work done for Narciso] I contracted Romatisimi Articolari [sic - possibly a form of Rheumatic Arthritis]. For a month I was paralyzed in bed with intolerable pain. As long as I had been bringing my father money, things had been fine but when I got sick in the house he became angry and he would yell like a madman. Finally, after a month I began to feel better. When summer came I was feeling fairly well. However, I still had to watch myself.

Continue reading  >>>

© 2009 by Maurice Mattei
All rights reserved.