No Man, Just Me
Joanne Faries
Proud of our peasant heritage, my enterprising family worked hard and spread throughout Italy. Uncles fished in Genoa, cousins carved marble in Carera, a sister was a Sister in Roma, and my brothers grew grapes in Chianti. Truly up from the boot straps, cousin Luigi was a cobbler.
 
As the baby of the family, I was spoiled. Everyone looked out for me, shared their best foods, sent me money, loaned me cars, and then regretted it. One by one they said, “No more, Maria Frederica. Time to earn your way, cara. Find a man, settle down, go to school, go to work.”
 
Work. I learned quickly that I loathed answering to others. One month at a gift shop drove me mad. Rules and time clocks. Cleaning shelves. Rearranging shelves. Dusting shelves. Caged behind a checkout computer, I yearned for the outdoors, the glorious glittering waters of Napoli Bay. Tourist laughter drifted inside. Taunted me with travel exploits.
 
Work. I learned quickly that I could charm the tourists. I told tales and they would buy the most expensive items – tasteless treasures. Time to take action and resign.
 
Near a walled section of a park in the shade of Santo Christo Basilica, I set up a small shrine and pop-up shop. I had an eye for display techniques, and tourists stopped mid-stroll to exclaim over the beauty, the richness of my crosses, beads, and cards – all courtesy of my family – gifts sent to me for years.
 
Emboldened by success, I used photo shop and my imagination to create new saints. My oldest brother became the patron saint of pomposity. My middle sister deserved to be saint sissy, and I decreed a second cousin the martyr of manufactured guilt. Tourists ate it up and asked for custom certificate souvenirs. They could be brutal in their wording, and I was shocked at the spitefulness. So much for spirituality and sanctity in the shadow of a church.
 
Aah, the church. Believe me, I called Father Vincente the Saint of Silver – he never missed a weekly visit to gather his payoff. I liberally paid him, cathedral staff, park staff, the police and carabinieri, and even the man with his gelato truck who conveniently parked near me and drew a steady stream of customers.
 
Christmas – oh we gathered and feasted. Then it was time for presents. My oldest sister gave me a very thin package. In a hushed silence I opened and found a certificate from my site – Worst Sister Ever.
 
Next present from a brother  - Worst Sister Ever
 
A trend of worsts. Did they know they used my site?  Perhaps, and yet so much for family. I made money.
 
Is that enough? Hell yes.

First published: November 2015
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