I’ve heard it said that everyone should write about the things they know and this tiny, sun-drenched, windswept island is what I know best. Sometimes, when I am driving to or from work, and I have some time all to myself, I find my thoughts wandering to my childhood, to the early 70’s; to a different way of life …
I remember my great grand-mother, Maria, who, like all women of her generation, the ones born at the end of the 1800s, wore her dresses down to her ankles and had her long, grey hair coiled in a tight knot at the nape of her neck. She died when I was just five years old but, if I am very still and quiet, I can see her still – sitting in her favourite armchair, with her money bag tied to her waist.
I remember one woman in my home town who still wore the faldetta. She was of my great grand-ma’s generation - truly a throw-back to times long past.
I remember playing hide and seek and hopscotch out on the streets. We ran and hopped, skipped and jumped till the sun went down. Streets were safe, cars were few and no one had ever even heard of the word computer.
I remember the quaint tradition of taking the Sunday lunch to the baker, where all the different dishes would be cooked together in the wood-burning oven. People swore that the food tasted better since the mixture of aromas tickled the palate and enhanced the dining experience.
I remember sleeping at my great-aunt’s 500 year old house some winter evenings, covered with a pile of blankets, and wondering whether the voices I heard in the night were ghosts or whether my great-uncle was snoring extra loudly that night. Or maybe, it was just the wind.
I remember the old man who owned a sweet shop, pushing his cart, full of sweets and peanuts, to the park every summer evening.
I remember Benedetta, who ran errands for the cloistered nuns in Mdina. She pushed her daily purchases in an old pram with big wheels and always smiled at us as we walked to school. Benedetta, who knew the secrets, or so we thought, of those mysterious women who shunned the world.
I remember finding the occasional glow worm in a nook or cranny of some rubble wall, shining like a little star and then going to sleep with the sweet knowledge that I had seen something special.
Oh, the golden days of childhood, when winters seemed colder and summers less hot; when there were fewer buildings and more open spaces; when the there were more butterflies and ladybirds and frogs and birds. Was everything really better back then or am I looking back at those years through rose-tinted glasses?