Below is an excerpt from The Lamp and Little Lights. I have spent a lot of time talking to the women in the village about their husbands, as well as learning about my great grandfather. The following is what I imagine went through Marina’s head in the first year of marriage and how she came to be known as the sergeant. I hope you enjoy it.
Her husband was well off and well known in the village. He was strong and knew how to buy and sell the oxen and other animals. It was a bit of luck that over time turned into skill. She married him because her father, a very religious man, felt it was God’s will. Her wedding dress, a full-length gown with long sleeves and high neck, was a shimmering golden colour. His family bought it for her, along with the wedding band, earrings and a necklace. As per the engagement rules of the time, she brought the house to the marriage. A small two-room house on Via Pergola – a narrow street near the main piazza. In that house, she had and raised 12 children, and ruled over them like a sergeant of a military squad.
It wasn’t long after the day she wore the golden dress that she came to understand what men were really like. They were not the fantasy of a young girls imagination. Her husband was interested in one person only – himself. Her role was to make sure he was happy. His role was to work. The rest was up to her. His bravado was loud but his mind was simple. His only interests were the well-being of the oxen, eating, sleeping, smoking his pipe, and simple, animalistic mating. He wiped his hands of all else – the home, the land, the marriage arrangements of his seven daughters, the church, and of course of his young wife. It was evident from the first night there was no love or tenderness in his heart. The 18-year old girl in the golden dress quickly learned the reality about men. ‘More like dogs’, she thought on several occasions. Every now and then she would observe one of the dogs on the farm and slowly he would begin to look like her husband.
After her realisation, it was as if she had woken up from a dream. Each day, her veins would transform a little more into steel pipes. Her heart would harden to become a mechanical instrument. Her soft, youthful, blue-grey eyes wouldn’t see the world, they would stare at it, hard. Her posture was the last to become rigid as she transformed into one of life’s soldiers, who later turned into the sergeant.