In A Shady Italian Orchard

We spent the summer of 2013 at the small estate in northern Italy that my father left to us. My family disintegrated in the early 1980’s. We went our several ways, but when my dad died in 1987, a will appeared indicating he had left us a small villa. Somehow it belonged to all of us; I never quite grasped the joint-ownership structure he had devised, without our knowledge or involvement, but esoteric financial arrangements were his stock-in-trade. We couldn’t get it together to even visit the place for many years, and just rented it out through a local agent. I think it was after 2000 before we even really tried to get out there, and then every year logistics intervened to ruin our attempts. Once I got delayed in New York and missed the whole thing; on another occasion my wife and I did some touring en route and got so hopelessly lost in some ancient city somewhere in southern Italy that we never made it out to the estate. Other times, it was my brother’s turn, or sister, or mother, to fail to show.

It wasn’t until this past summer we finally worked it out. I must say, the place is nice. The stone cottage isn’t huge but it is comfortable. It’s surrounded by towering shade trees and nearly covered in vines. In back there is a small walled garden beyond which are several orchards and a vineyard. The whole affair is pretty ramshackle after twenty six years of absentee ownership. There is one small orchard that had just been annexed to the estate (I say estate; I’m not sure the whole thing is more than an acre or two). Apparently this orchard had been in dispute with the neighbors since forever, and now it is quite derelict and overgrown. The trees had no fruit when we were there; it was early in their season and I never figured out what kind of tree they were. I would guess apple or pear. This orchard was my favorite spot. I spent many afternoons strolling there with my kid brother (kid, in his forties), and his beautiful baby boy. Sometimes our wives joined us. My sister spent much of the summer on the little patio reading or writing. Her daughter spent most of her time inside. My mother and her husband, in their seventies,. amused themselves by repairing the tile roof and digging in the vineyard. It was wonderful.

I awoke confused. Dad left us an estate in Italy? Wow. That was a great summer… wasn’t it? Or wasn’t it? I was ready to call my sister and ask if it was true… the estate…

As I finished my first cup of coffee and my head cleared, I understood that no, of course there is no estate in Italy, though I really did have all those dreams over the past twenty years, dreams of trying to reach it. What is absolutely true is the wonderful visit we all enjoyed this summer at my sister’s home in Pennsylvania, around the corner from my mother’s house.

Photo: Derek Feldman

From back left: Sister, mother, stepfather, neice, self, wife, nephew, sister-in-law, brother. Photo: Derek Feldman

That was absolutely true and real. And wonderful. Merry Christmas, world.

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