First Sunday of Advent

The active expectation

Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”.  Mk 13,33-37

When I read this passage from the Gospel, which urges us for an active expectation, I cannot avoid to remember my teenager summers spent in Montecatini Alto. My walks around the walls surrounding the town were long ones: I was used to go along and to walk again over those avenues with a fast pace, while my thoughts were running even faster towards the future of my dreams. By the early summer, being the school year just over, my parents were accustomed to send me to spend the holidays with my grandmother Barberina, who was waiting for me to come back, thanks to my company, in what had been the house of her life. Being alone, in fact, she could no longer live there, but with me it was possible to open that wooden door, those green shutters a bit creaky and to illuminate the rooms with new life and the tired years of her old age. A deep alliance between the two of us was born: I helped her to manage the house and she was preparing me for my future as a woman. I learned to clean the red bricks of the floor, to carefully iron the linen which every year she pulled out from the cabinets with a kind of solemn ritual, to properly cook using the oil produced by the mill which bordered  our own kitchen. While I was busy with these jobs, she watched me with her glance a bit harsh, she usually corrected me and, most important, she taught me to love these women’s activities, bearing a considered valuable for the happiness of the family. I was listening carefully and when she was going to bed for a rest I was going out for my walks, continuing to cast myself in my future of wife and mother. I was dreaming my future house, the young man who would have married me and the many children who would have filled our life. I remember in particular a dream which made me happy: I was in the kitchen and I was surrounded by so many chattering children, to whom I was distributing snacks, then sending them back to play. During the years I have really lived that dream many times: previously with the children and now with my grandchildren, always with the knowledge to capitalize the teachings of my grandmother Barberina. In her simplicity, she has prepared me for the most important aspects of the life, transforming what could have became a boring routine of house works in the succession of many small rituals, full of meaning and full of love for my loved ones. The Barberina grandma did not want to waste time: she taught me to always be busy waiting for a future which each day has to be built, but with her deep faith she has taught me, above all, to have the long glance of one who knows to have to present his own days to the Lord who has given it to us. The memory of those teachings still fills me with gratitude, and when, a few months ago, I discovered quite by accident, looking for an old certificate of baptism, to have even her middle name, I had an inward movement of pride: I am my grandmother Barberina me too.

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