We didn’t really see him, but he had been there; the note said “Love from Santa Claus”.
December of 1982 had not started off well at all. My husband had had another bout of his disease, and while I was visiting him in the hospital on December 3, thieves had come a-calling, leaving their “calling card” where I could easily find it: they had kicked in the door, leaving it dangling from one hinge, with a big hole where a foot had gone through it. Not finding the light switch, they had lit a candle; I knew this because it had burned a hole in my bedspread when it fell from the candle-holder.
Further inspection revealed that they had stolen such an incredible mixture of goods that it seemed the Grinch had come to Bologna, rather than Whoville, and early to boot: the contents of our refrigerator, a catalytic heater, a roll-away bed, two blankets, my husband’s guns and ammunition (he was a licensed hunter), a box of candles, several pairs of jeans, and two rings. Most of the booty had probably been carried out in the missing suitcase. Other clothing had been strewn all over the house.
While waiting for the Carabineers (Italian Military police) to arrive, I attempted to at least clean off the bed; that was when I discovered the waxy hole left by the burning candle. The whole thing seemed so hopeless, that after the Carabineers had come and gone, I sat and thought. I was alone, the door was broken in half, there was no food left in the house, it was freezing outside and in (about -3°C; 27°F), and the thieves had taken away our heater and blankets.
The next day, the Carabineers called me to let me know they had caught the thieves and had found some of the stuff, so my husband got permission to leave the hospital briefly. We recognized some of the objects presented and the Carabineers informed us that they had caught the thieves the night before; the few items, which included the rifles and ammunition and the suitcase with the missing jeans, were all that had been found.
Pickings had been a bit slim during the rest of December, but a friend of ours had invited us over for Christmas “dinner”. Served around 1:30, it was a full five-course meal and took about two hours to consume. After the last bite of fruit, we sat and sang Christmas carols until it was time to go to the cinema by our home with a group of friends.
Of course, half of Bologna’s citizenry had made the decision to see the same movie: Disney’s Cinderella. We arrived halfway through the movie, and there was standing room only. The snow dictated that we go in and stand. I was wearing heels and at some point took them off because of sore feet. How ironic it was when, right after Cinderella lost her shoe, another blonde (me) lost one of her shoes! We found it – two rows of seats ahead of where we were standing – before going to sit and watch the movie from the beginning.
The sidewalks had been swept clear of the snow, so we decided to walk the short distance to our apartment, stopping to admire the beautifully decorated shop windows along the way. Approaching the portone (big outside door) we thought we heard the sound of sleigh bells, but that was silly; Italians didn’t go for sleigh rides in the middle of large cities with two-lane streets. It was unheard of!
As we walked down the corridor toward the apartment, we saw something in front of the apartment door. Hurrying to the door, we found two large boxes wrapped in Christmas paper. Excited and curious, we dragged the boxes through the door and tore off the wrapping paper. We were stunned by what we found: lots of food, a blanket, a new gas burning heater and, at the very bottom of the box, a note that said, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”. Yes, that was the year Santa Claus truly came to town.
© Mary Purpari December 25, 2014 All Rights Reserved