Santina, Part 1

July 19, 2011

Santina was leaning over a wall in Modica yesterday morning, snagging a branch of dewy jasmine with her cane.

Collecting Jasmine in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga“Signora, what do you use jasmine for? ” I asked. I expected her to tell me about a dessert she was about to whip up. Sicilians love jasmine in sweets.

Sicilian Woman Collecting Jasmine, copyright Jann Huizenga

“I collect it fresh every day for my ancestors,” she said. “It’s the most refined aroma in the world. It makes them happy.”

She asked me in for coffee.

The espresso was strong and thick. I drizzled it into the red demitasses because, she said, her hands were too shaky.

“I never married; I served my parents until their death,” she said sweeping grains of sugar off the oilcloth. “My married friends told me I was better off single, anyway. But now I’m alone in the world. My sister died. My brother isn’t well. I live in these three rooms–the same place I was born 84 years ago–like a caged bird.” She laughed. “If I find you a man from Modica to marry, will you stay and be my friend?”

She led me  into the next room–a small space with a single bed in one corner. The ancestor shrine took up the rest of the room. She put the bowlful of fresh flowers in the middle of her family.

Ancestor Shrine at Home in Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

She was still taking care of her parents. The hot room filled with a thick, sweet smell.

Bowl of Jasmine on Altar in Sicily, copyright Jann HuizengaBut who will take care of her?


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19 comments to Santina, Part 1

  • Jill Barone

    I’d love to know her last name….maybe she falls somewhere in my family tree!

  • Beautiful story that breaks my heart—and the stereotype that everyone in Italy is surrounded by a big family.

  • cemal karahan

    These real-life stories are amazing,Jann…! And tle lady’s story is so touchy…Anyway, sometimes you are so lonely even in the crowds..! So you come lonely and you go lonely..! Waiting for the second part…! Thank you…!

  • Cathy

    Jann, your pictures are lovely as usual and your words leave us wanting more… Please tell her for me, her face is beautiful I cannot believe she is 84! What a beautiful smile….

  • Margo Chavez

    Thank you, Jann, for reminding us that there is devotion all around us.

  • I am so glad this is only part 1 of the story because it’s too precious to leave. I look forward to more about Santina. I hope you will be friends so we can get to know her better through you.

  • Thomas Sottile

    She has her memories to take care of her and they will never leave her.

  • Jann, The real connections, however fleeting, are so precious. I know you have written many stories (like Ullie) that touch the soul of your readers, because they are so genuine and you have a gift for capturing them in word and image, and I am so happy to be reading another. I hope you will permit us many more of these engagements! Much love, Aysha

  • Charlie

    HI Jann,

    Gee, what a sweet sentimental story. Sometimes I think the world has become so desolate of real feelings, caring and respect. This story tells me that it still does exist in this world. Thanks. Grazie a mil (is that correct Italian?).


  • Emalene

    It brought tears to my time eastern time. Your thoughtful commentary and beautiful photos are very special. So glad
    You had coffee together.
    Thank-you for a wonderful blog

  • Cynthia Hobbs

    Hi Jann:

    I collect statues of St. Theresa from all over the world. I’m sure St. T. appreciates Santina’s flowers.
    Just back from the jungles of Borneo. Will send a few choice photos after the Ann Arbor art fair.
    I enjoy your musings, especially when I’m traveling.

    • Jann

      Hi Cynthia! Great to hear from you. Now I’m looking up Borneo on the map. Forgot where it was exactly. So that’s St Teresa? I did not know. Would love to get your AA photos! xxx

  • Michelle Relae

    My heart be still. This really got to me! I want to hear more about Santina!

  • Jann, what a lovely, touching post. Indeed it is the reality of many senior citizens to live and grow old alone. It’s heartbreaking. Fortunately, Santina appears to be able to move around and I’m sure that helps her stay independent. My mother also keeps a shrine for those family members who have passed away. Your photos have set the tone for this piece beautifully!

  • Sam

    And then again at 9:11am Mountain Time here.

  • Dennis Berry

    Me too. 5:49

  • you my friend made me cry at 5:38am pacific standard time

  • lucy

    Oh I want to hug her! Tell her she is such a kind soul! What a beautiful person.
    I’m sure God will take care of her so far he’s done a good job. I just hope she will never be lonely.

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