Midnight Mass was being held in the main part of the church and, as always, there was standing room only. After viewing the crèche, each of the two families made their way to see the baby Jesus carried down the aisle exactly at Midnight to herald his joyous birth and the promise of salvation once again in the new year.
Having to stand for such a long period of time taxed Giovanni’s father heavily. Isabella’s family had found barely three places, but her father stood and offered Giovanni’s father his seat as soon as he saw the anguish on the poor man’s face. He thanked her father profusely and the children looked at each and quickly glanced away, almost embarrassed to have met each other’s gaze.
The Spring came early that year and the weather warmer than seasons in the past. Business for Isabella’s family was going well and a sudden thought occurred to Isabella’s family: they decided to give thanks to the Madonna and have a picnic at the top of the mountain where the church maintained tables and benches for just such outings. The family had splurged on prosciutto and mozzarella di buffalo, fresh bread and wine from last September made by the father. It was to be a feast.
And actually, it was a feast day, it was San Giuseppe, 19 March.
And they had stopped in a local pasticceria for zeppole, the symbolic pastry for that day.
Life had not been so kind to Giovanni’s family. His father’s leg had healed, but not properly, and he now his paces were possible only with the aid of a hand-carved walking stick which he, himself, had carved while praying to recover the use of his leg. True, he was not completely healed, but God had at least allowed him the use of the tortured leg and for that, he wanted to give thanks. For that, he was still able to squeeze out the necessary money to keep his family with a roof over their heads, and food on the table.
Yet, on the feast day of San Giuseppe, Giovanni’s father deemed it a necessity to give thanks to the Madonna for the half-restored wellness of his leg. Planning this albeit a bit beforehand, but not telling his family, he had had fashioned a leg made out of silver to hang on the wall of healing in the church. He would be hard pressed to find a spot to attach it to, inasmuch as the wall was covered in such silver homage. Legs, arms, prayers, other body parts hung by the hundreds on this wall, such a wall common throughout the churches of Italy when the unwell had been miraculously healed.
Isabella’s mother laid out the festive table with all of the special occasion foods and they sat down to the afternoon meal. Giovanni’s father stepped outside the church to his waiting family, limping toward them, a look of pride that he had, indeed, found one solitary space to place his own tribute. They passed by Isabella and her family and suddenly her father jumped up in recognition.