Years ago, when I used to attend the little Italian Catholic church up the street, known as St. Anthony’s, there was a family I often saw while attending. They were Italian, a mother, son and identical twin daughters. I assume the father had left or died early on because I never saw him.
This family was particularly devoted to church attendance and the girls were altar servers. They both had long, dark curls that hung in tendrils around their faces, but what struck me most about this family is that they never smiled. I never saw them crack a smile the entire time I encountered their presence. The children wore the same melancholy and stern expression that their mother wore. I never saw any joy come from any of them and it always made me sad. I wished many times for some sign of happiness to show on their countenances.
Years later I heard that one of the twin sisters had married, while the other had become a nun. The brother I occasionally see at Wal-Mart where he works and he still wears that same somber expression.
Recently, when I went to the post office to mail a package, the married twin sister and her mother were there waiting in line ahead of me. A little toddler scrambled in front of the line and I realized that he belonged to the somber woman whom I had watched grow up in the shadow of her mother.
I kept waiting for her to react to her baby’s antics and when he scooted too far away and looked back at her inquisitively, her face broke into a smile that would have shamed the sun. I was so happy for her.
As the grandmother and mother were leaving the post office together, they both turned to the child and once again I saw not only the mother’s face light up, but the grandmother’s as well. I waited for years for smiles to appear on those faces, and I finally got my wish, though I didn’t even know their names and I don’t think they recognized me from church, either.
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