The house is quiet. The music has stopped. For several days music has not been heard. Music used to be heard coming from the house at all hours of the day and night. Beginning around midday. One could hear two clarinets practicing the same song over and over again until each note was right. The sound of scales being practiced on a trumpet. A violin solo played. The trumpet and violin playing together. The distinct strumming of a banjo guitar. Turkish music wafting out from the laptop computer. Unless they were sleeping the music never stopped playing.
I awake to the sound of a new born baby crying. It is early morning still dark outside. I have fallen asleep wearing the same clothes from two days ago. The baby is crying harder now. I knock softly on the bedroom door. I think to myself, “What if his parents are so exhausted they don’t wake up and hear him crying?” I open the bedroom door. Raffe, my son-in-law is sitting on the bed holding a diaper. Dressed in animal print boxer shorts he looks more like a teenage adolescent than a twenty-nine year-old dad. My daughter Christine is lying next to the baby cleaning him with a baby wet wipe. They are both smiling. This is his fifth diaper change tonight. He always cries when he’s wet. I breathe a sigh of relief. They are natural born parents. I don’t need to worry. They ask me to pick out the baby’s first outift and dress him. He is still wrapped in the soft baby towel placed around him right after his birth. I pick out of soft white cotton nighty with a yellow duck embroidered on the front. My first grandchild. Luciano Ronaldo de Pierro Cataldo. My prayers have been answered. I am a grandmother.
Christine and Raffe met playing music. They were both traveling with an avant-guard group of musicians called “the Cyclown Circus”. The band played dixieland jazz music and performed various circus acts. Christine walked the tightrope while playing the trumpet. Raffe played violin. Christine showed him how to walk the tightrope. They fell in love traveling in Indonesia, playing music and performing circus acts they paid their way traveling the world. Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Bali, China, Denmark, Berlin, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Turkey, Italy, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Greece, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland. They traveled as much as possible on tall bicycles. Each bicycle was customized and decorated individually. Christine traveled with her black labrador dog Dimitri, pulling him in a child’s bicycle cart behind her bicycle. Faithfully keeping in touch through e-mails, postcards and an 800 number her father provided- she shared her travels.
A year ago Valentine’s day, Raffe and Christine were married. The wedding took place in the Pennsylvania countryside. They rented a three-hundred-year old restored farm house. Their friends in the band played. There was a fabulous Italian food cooked and prepared by Raffe’s father and Uncle Bob. Wines, cheese, wonderful pastries made by the uncle. A red velvet wedding cake (also baked by the Uncle) was cut and served. Kyla, their talented friend made life-size puppets of Raffe and Christine. Re-enacting the story of their meeting and falling in love, during the reception. So funny! Christine so beautiful in her like-new wedding dress purchased for thirty dollars at the Goodwill second-hand store. Raffe so touching as he said his own wedding vows. Christine composed music, played guitar and sang her vows to Raffe. Music played dancing and celebration lasting into the night. So much joy and love.
“Mom, I am pregnant!” Christine was calling home with the news from Berlin, Germany. The band had developed a following in Berlin. Playing in clubs booked over the computer, recording and selling CD’s at shows, Christine and Raffe were making Berlin home. We want to travel to Italy, perhaps Sicily,where its warm in winter to have the baby. The Italian government is offering dual citizenship to American US-Italians who can provide documentation that their grandparents immigrated from Italy. Christine and Raffe had been spending hours on the computer researching the records from Ellis Island. Christine found the records of her great-grandfather’s family and the listing of the ship they traveled on to the U.S. She sent a copy to her father for his birthday. Christine traveled with Raffe to the small town in Italy where the grandparents immigrated from- “Cappaccio”. She obtained copies of the town records of every family member born there. Raffe’s father had also been researching his family’s Italian roots. He was interested in Raffe obtaining dual citizenship. He retained a lawyer to help speed up the process. Raffe now has dual citizenship. They can reside in Europe or the U.S. They are now busy getting the baby his own U.S. passport. A full circle has been completed with Luciano’s birth.
“Mom, I am planning on having the baby at home in Italy. Instead of a doctor I want to have a midwife. Okay, I will travel to Italy to be there for the baby’s birth. I don’t want to miss the birth of my first grandchild. I watch video’s of home births on the computer Christine sends me. Christine wants me to be open and positive at all times concerning home births. Silently, I think of making sure I have the emergency number one calls in Italy just for backup. I say a prayer daily for Christine and the baby.
Three weeks I have been in Italy awaiting the baby’s birth. I am not interested in touring or exploring Sicily, I just care about Christine and the coming baby. We unpack the full suitcase of newborn baby clothes I brought from the States. We organize the baby clothes in the wardrobe. All is ready. The birthing room has an inflatable child’s swimming pool that holds enough water to be about three feet deep. It will be filled with warm water from the two small water heaters from the two apartments we have been renting. Raffe has run plastic tubing from my upstairs apartment’s hot water tank, thru the window to the apartment below. A practice run was a success. I meet the midwife “Marzia”. She is so warm and lovely. Like a second mother to Christine and Raffe, helping them find the apartment they now rent and move from the cold house they previously rented up the mountain. It is warmer here and there is a town where one can walk to everything. The beach is five minutes away. I am cold because I am used to central heat. Layered clothing and wool sweaters are the secret in winter here. On sunny days we go to the beach and sit in the warm, wonderful sun. Marzia comes with us and gives Christine a massage. We listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Fast like a humming bird’s! Christine has put up pictures of friends an family in the birthing room. There is a list of affirmations to say while in labor. Flower’s and candles are placed in the room. Christine writes a list of what Raffe and I are to do when her labor pain’s begin. She ends with the words written in larger letters, “stay calm, and don’t panic!”. Ice cubes are in the small freezer for her to bite when she has pain. A hot water bottle for her back pain.
On March fifteenth towards mid-afternoon, I go to check on Christine. She has stayed in bed today not feeling her best. Kyla, her friend left yesterday after visiting for two weeks, hoping to be here for the baby’s birth. One day later, Christine’s labor pains begin. Her contractions are now seven minutes apart. Raffe asks for my expensive new cell phone to call the midwife. The cell phone suddenly has no reception. Thankfully, Raffe has two different cell phones that are working. Marzia is an hour’s drive away by car. Raffe begins to fill the pool after another hour has passed. It is now eleven at night when Marzia arrives. She greets us with kisses and hugs. She checks Christine, takes her blood pressure. Everything is good. The pool has filled. Raffe covers it with a plastic cover to keep the water warm. Music plays softly on the laptop. The lights are dimmed, the candles lit. The room is peaceful. Christine’s contractions are becoming stronger, more painful. Marzia explains that a womans uterus is like a flower with closed petals, each contraction opens the flowers petals, expands and opening the birth canal so the baby can pass through.
Christine is now on the bathroom floor. She went to use the bathroom. Her contractions became so painful and strong, Marzia placed a mat down with towels for her to lie on. Raffe gently strokes her face, and reassures her. Marzia is beside her holding her hand. I am standing inside near the bathroom door. Now we are all in the bathroom. I look at my daughter Christine. She is so beautiful, so brave to face such pain without choosing to have any drugs to relieve the pain. She wants her baby to have a natural birth without risk from any medications. Her natural beauty shines through, even in such pain. Her dark eyes are intense. Her skin flwless. Her high cheekbones and beautiful face flushed. Her long black hair frames her face and her lovely Julia Roberts smile. I remember her birth. She was born a perfect baby. She came so fast we barely made it to the hospital. I must have had pain medication. I would not forget the intense pain like she is having now. The contraction is over and we walk her to the birthing room. She collapses into the the birthing pools warm water. The affirmations are playing on the computer. “I am in charge of my body”, etc etc. They don’t mention the intense pain that takes one’s breath away. We turn it off and play soft music. The candles are slowly melting. It has been six hours of intense hard labor. Christine is exhausted and says she doesn’t think she can take much more. She is now on her knees in the birthing pool, her arms clinging to the side of the pool. Marzia is gently telling her she has felt the babies head an inch away from the opening of the birth canal. I look up at the window and notice dawn is breaking. The long night is over. Raffe comforts and holds her. He has been right by her side every minute. Bringing her ice, her hot water bottle, stroking her hair, caressing her face. He is so patient, loving and supportive. Our daughter has found the prefect husband. Christine says she think the baby may be too big to come out. When suddenly, out he floats into the birthing pool! Just like a little fish. His little head just above the water. Christine picks up her baby and holds him in her arms. We are laughing, and crying with awe, amazement and joy! He gives a little cry. Christine is holding her and Raffe’s baby. Peace fills my heart. I am a grandmother. I give thanks to God for our beautiful baby grandson.
Christine and Raffe have spent every waking moment tending to the baby Luciano. Christine is breastfeeding him. Between feedings he is pooping. They know the color and kind of poop and it’s proper name, “Meconium” -pooped right after birth. They read the baby book aloud to eachother and look up additional information on the internet. Instead of music theory and songwriting, they are comparing which brand of diaper works best. They are taking baby pictures and sending them off to family and friends over the Internet. When the baby sleeps, they sleep. Raffe has lost his appetite and forgets to eat. Usually he needs to eat every few hours with his high metabolism. Raffe says he feels like he is recovering from a huge hangover. I watched him falling asleep over his corn flakes the other morning. The baby is following in his parents footsteps and keeps musician- night hours. Days he breast feeds and sleeps peacefully. Nights he is more awake and active. Every night I hand wash the tiny baby clothes used that day. I hang them to dry on the small clothesline off the balcony in the morning sun. Soon Raffe’s parents, Lou and Myra will be here for a two week visit. Ron, my husband, Christine’s dad, will arrive for a weeks visit. He had stayed behind in the U.S. To take care of business and to pay the bills and expenses of our trip to Sicily. Christine is her daddy’s girl, even as a new mother. They have a strong bond. He has always been there for our family and Christine. Our son Christopher, his wife Cheryl will also be here. We will celebrate Luciano’s birth with a big Italian meal together. Then I will have to say goodbye until a visit home at Christmas.
Once again the sounds of music are coming from the house. A friend of Christine and Raffe’s- “Michaelangelo”, has come for a visit. He is from Naples. He is young, around twenty, so polite and quiet. He is taking violin lessons from Raffe. They practice throughout the day. The baby has become used to hearing music played so it does not disturb him. Raffe and Christine played music throughout her pregnancy. Raffe is eating again. Michaelangelo cooks simple, tasty pasta dishes. He goes to the market daily and buys the few ingredients for the day’s meals. Lunch is served around one when siesta begins. Everything closes for siesta from one until four or four-thirty everyday. All stores, offices, and businesses close. Everyone heads home for siesta. They re-open from four until about eight. Dinner is served around nine in the evening. There are no all night or twenty-four hours stores or fast food places. Nothing stays oven seven days a week.
Michaelangelo has come bearing gifts. A specialty from Napoli, “Baba”- a cake soaked in liquor, a favorite of Christine and Raffe’s. Michaelangelo has also brought the most special gift of all, a child size violin for little Luciano. Yes, there is music being played once again. The sounds fill the air. May is always be so.