NaNoWriMo: Papagallo

November 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I know I shouldn’t reveal my work before the end of the month, but I think I should share at least ONE short story, right?

Please remember, this is NOT edited. That comes later.


You are my little papagallo, my grandfather says to me.
I about five years old, and he is taking me for breakfast at McDonald’s on this nice, Saturday morning. He knows how much I love French toast, and how I love to get every last morsel of maple syrup, with its high fructose sugar goodness on every bite of French toast stick I put in my mouth.
It had become our tradition: he would surprise me once or twice a month with breakfast at McDonald’s.
He would get a coffee and I would get a french toast breakfast with orange juice. We would sit in one of those plastic booths, with the weird, smooth seats and possibly dirty tables, as the workers have not cleaned it yet. Pop would usually clean it before I ate.
It was probably early; maybe 8 or 9 in the morning. He was always an early bird, and I never understood it. I enjoyed the warmth of my bed in my bright pink room. A room all to my own, as my brother had his own nursery. Yes, I am a big sister now. My little brother came into the world, but I was still a princess. And in this moment, Pop’s princess.
I am probably talking his ear off. This is my way. My mother tells me that I started talking early. She never had to talk baby-talk to me. I would talk to strangers at the store, right from the front seat of the shopping cart. People would ask her how old I was, and when she said two years old, they looked in shock. They supposed I was older, and they can’t believe my vocabulary.
Well, the vocabulary might not have improved, but I still won’t shut up.
Who knows what I am talking about. I even talk with a mouth full. My mother will yell at me about this for years to come. I get the hang of doing it not too often, unless it is in front of people I trust.
At 5 years old, I had no idea what the word “papagallo” meant. It takes me until my twenties to finally figure out that word.
See, my grandfather was a coal miner — an Italian coal miner. My great-grandfather had taken the boat over, leaving behind his eight siblings and parents to start a new life in America. He knew he would never see them again, but he made the choice anyway.
Nono has two sons and two daughters, one of which was my grandfather, Ermo. They spoke Italian, as my Nono didn’t really know English well.
Nona, my great-grandmother, spoke Italian often, though she knew English. She was born in Pennsylvania and was bilingual. The most Italian I hear her speak is when she is angry with my Pop. I ask her what she is saying, but she just laughs and pats my head.
But here I am, a blabbermouth.
About fifteen years from now, I will be over the ocean, discovering my roots. I am two years into learning Italian, and when I got the first chance in my introductory Italian class at college, I looked up that word, the nickname Pop gave me. By now, Nona is long gone, as is my Nana, Pop’s wife. All I have left is Pop to hold onto my roots.
So I took this trip. I see where Nono grew up, in that small, hilly town in Umbria. My cousins drive me past it as we go to Easter dinner with my extended family. These Italians are so nice; we are a bit removed on the family tree, but they treat me like a long-lost sister or something. I guess blood is really thicker than water. We talk and talk about everything on this trip: How my other cousin is a soccer star (they call it football over here); how I am enjoying my trip; how I will be going home soon; when will I be back? What is America like? What do you do on Easter in America?
I think of Pop; he is not much of a “papagallo.” He is sitting here, quietly sipping his coffee. Pop always made his intentions known, but when he is with me, he just watches me. It is like he is taking in my innocence. He knows me being 5 years old won’t last forever.

It has been a long time since Pop has called me “papagallo.” It has been a long time since we had our breakfasts, too. Life hurried along, and I had so many things to do. In that time, I never really saw how much Pop was changing. He always looked the same to me.
He was always my Pop, in his silence, his love for coffee and letting me be wrapped around his little finger.
He is sitting there in his wheelchair, in this unfamiliar room. The Philadelphia baseball game is on, his favorite. He can’t see it, and he barely can hear it. But it is still on; it is comforting.
What’s the score? he asks me.
Four to two, Pop. The Phillies are winning.
Good, good.
How are you doing? Do you like your job? Are you eating? When are you getting married? You are happy? Good, good.
I try to answer. He has a hard time hearing, a hard time understanding now.
Twenty-six years have gone by, and how could I supposed Pop would never change? That he would never get old, that I would have to take care of him now?
We sit in the quiet.
But then he says it.
Remember when I used to call you my papagallo? Hahaha, he laughs to himself.
He remembers. I might be afraid to talk to him now, afraid he is slipping, that this stupid Alzheimer’s is getting to him. But he does remember.
And then I start talking to him, his little chatty parrot. I might be repeating myself a few times so he can hear, but for a second, I am five again, chatting away.


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  1. […] this year, I tried my hands again on NaNoWriMo. I failed — again. But I got a few good stories out of […]

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