More Stories From the 19th Century
Recently I wrote about the warm-fuzzy quaintness of it all, sun-dried linens and doctors’ house calls. But there are two sides to every coin.
This first story is laughable only because it ends well (and didn’t happen to me), being a scenario of such jaw-dropping conceit as to leave one bug-eyed and gaping. It took seven years of semi-annual pilgrimages to a Florentine criminal court, criminal not civil, to resolve the matter, but in the end wisdom and reason won out. My friend was acquitted of the felony. Huzzah! He is not in danger of losing his job, as he could have been. Sounds quite serious, no? To begin with, my friend did not do the thing of which he was accused. Although no one in the civilized world would have blamed him. If you were riding your bike in a reasonable manner and were struck by an automobile, mightn’t you disparage the driver, his character, and possibly his ancestry? Fortunately, the complaint included direct quotes in the local ~and antiquated~ dialect, which my English friend would not have had the personal wherewithal to utter in the most composed of circumstances. Dear Reader, do not suppose my mind is wandering. I did say felony, yes? Yes. To insult a man’s honor is a felony in Italy. Full stop. <reflect on this for a moment>
The second story is tragic. It is also quite disturbing because it begins with the most common and joyful scenario in the world: birth. A friend, an Italian, younger than we, smart and modern, was married a few years ago. They were expecting their first child, first two in fact. They would have twins. The babies were delivered by caesarian section, not an unusual procedure. I entered the world in the same fashion over forty years ago with a mother nearly forty years old herself. But this was in an Italian hospital, in the north even. One month later, our friend’s young wife and new mother died from septicemia resulting from the operation.
It’s such a shock that I have no words. Except to honor her life and his loss, to anyone who believes that living here is a gelato-filled dream, I tell you everyone has troubles, but it’s a real kick in the teeth if you believe we’re beyond those of the Victorian Age.