Lilith is a Strega

GreatGrayOwl1Excerpt from Welcoming Lilth

by Theresa C. Dintino

In his book Lilith, The First Eve, Siegmund Hurwitz traces the linguistic connection between Lilith, the owl and the words “striga”, “strix” and “stringes”. “Strix” is literally the word for a screech owl. Ancient and classical cultures believed the strix stringes and striga to be demonic beings associated with owls. They “fly at night in the guise of birds to the cradles of children and suck their blood.”*

“In all languages, so to speak, the word means a witch on the one hand and a predatory night owl on the other.” In Italian, the word becomes “Strega”. Hurwitz states, “In Italian, the word Strega means something akin to an evil old woman or witch, who is in league with the devil.”**

Sounds like how Lilith is typically described.

After I wrote my two Crete novels, I decided to pursue a family legend I had been told about since my days as a child: That my Italian great-grandmother was a Strega. A Strega, in fact, is not an “evil old woman” or a woman in line with dark forces, the same as Lilith is not a child killer or a demon. A Strega is a medicine woman. My great-grandmother was a medicine woman in the Italian tradition.

This lineage was lost to my family. I had a few small fragments and memories to go on. She was a midwife, a healer, a doctor, an herbalist. She knew how to cure the evil eye. It was difficult for her when she moved here because all the plants were different.

To find out more, I decided to write a book about her. My novel, The Strega and the Dreamer, is the result of that effort. In doing the research, I connected to my great-grandmother and restored the lineage to my family. I am now a Strega, just like Lilith and my great-grandmother.

It is clear to me now that Lilith came to lead me on a journey to become a medicine woman in the tradition of my own lineage. It is beautifully eloquent. I am so glad that I did not send her away.

What might Lilith want to lead you back to?  I encourage you to trust her and take the journey.
*Hurwitz, Lilith—The First Eve, p.45
**Ibid., p.46

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New Book Release—Welcoming Lilith by Theresa C. Dintino

DINTINO--LILITH FRONT COVER PANEL 2Announcing the release of Welcoming Lilith: Awakening and Welcoming Pure Female Power. Welcoming Lilith is a non-fiction book about the Goddess Lilith, the many ways She manifests in our culture and in the psyches of individual women. The book includes many rituals to help integrate this powerful force back into our culture and ourselves. If you purchase it, I hope you enjoy it. Let me know. If you read it and feel moved to post a review on Amazon, that is always much appreciated.

To purchase click here

Book Description: Lilith is a Goddess and mythological figure who is misunderstood. She is reputed to be Adam’s first wife before Eve, and she represents the first powerful and liberated female in history. Then why was she banished?
Through commentary and reflection on the multifaceted aspects of Lilith, Theresa C. Dintino guides the reader on an exciting inner journey to reclaim her own repressed parts. By examining how these Lilith energies may show up in her own life, the reader is encouraged to do the work to bring them back to life.
Rituals included in the book offer the opportunity to explore these powerful but often feared aspects. Reclaiming the lost fragments—her power, her anger, her shadow, her sexuality, her creativity and her deep inner truth—returns the female psyche to a state of wholeness and integration.

 

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A Visit to Omaha Beach and the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France

uncle Cam, Bob candeloMy uncle, Carmine J. Dintino, (on the far left) died on one of the beaches of Normandy, France on D-day, June 6, 1944. He was 21 years old. He was the oldest son of my grandparents who immigrated from Italy in the great migration at the turn of the century. Their first born being called back to the European continent in such a way and dying there was a burden more painful than either of them could handle. My uncle’s ghost haunted my childhood. He was their beloved shared dream that they never recovered from losing.

dintino_soldierMy dad was only 5 when my uncle left for the war. My aunt was 15. She was 16 when she opened the door of the family home to see two uniformed men ready to give her the bad news. They told her, a 16-year-old girl, that her brother was dead. She ran down the narrow street of their immigrant neighborhood in Keene, New Hampshire screaming and half out of her mind. He was her older brother, hero and best friend.

It is a tragedy my family has never recovered from which always makes me realize the enormity of war. If this one death had such a profound effect on my family for generations, imagine all the many deaths incurred in that one day which must have had similar shock waves.

This January while in France, I decided to go pay respects to my uncle at the place where he died. I knew my grandparents had gone there in 1959 on their one and only trip back to Europe.

I journeyed there from Paris. The landscape is beautiful and serene. Hard to think of all that transpired there almost 70 years ago and how terrifying it must have been for those who survived that beach incursion to continue pushing forward through open and unprotected farmlands.

bayeux cathedralWe stayed the night in Bayeux, the first village to be liberated by the allied forces in WWII. The town is still largely a memorial to D-day. On our hotel’s exterior was a poem written to the event and inside on all the walls are pictures and memorabilia. This coming June is the 70th anniversary and they are expecting huge crowds. It made me realize how horrible German occupation must have been for the French and how they suffered under it for many years.

Bayeux is a particularly picturesque town with a very large cathedral, cobblestone roads and the Tapestry of Bayeux on display which shows, in embroidered form, grisly details of a previous war culminating in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.waterwheel in bayeux france

I journeyed from there to the cemetery—about a half hour drive. After locating it and getting through security, I was guided through a memorial telling of the events leading up to D-day and “operation overlord,” with video footage from the times and personal biographies of some who died there.

After this tour was a courtyard vigil and a meditation hall where the names of all the dead are continuously recited, which leads out into the unfathomable cemetery of infinite white crosses and 6 pointed stars. The families were given the option of which marker they preferred. In the middle of the graves is a round chapel-like structure dedicated to peace.

The whole place was held in reverence and grace by the international military staff. All the visitors were respectful, most lost in deep though and reflection as they walked the many labyrinthine paths outside and left flowers and offerings at the graves.

normandy cemetery 2My grandparents chose to have Carmine’s body returned to them in New Hampshire. He is buried there, not in this cemetery. Below the cemetery is the beach where so many lost their lives. I walked down the many granite steps to it.steps down to omaha beach

The beach is starkly beautiful and tranquil. The sand has a red hue. I went where there was only the beach, nothing else. One could sit quietly and take in the grief held there as well as the healing. The water, the soil who witnessed it all, still holding the terror and memory of bravery and loss. The place that received all that blood and anguish, continuing its in and out pulse, with each entering and exiting wave, washing itself clean. omaha beach 2

I had brought offerings for the sea and my uncle. I found a place to deliver them along with prayers for healing of all the painful residue still making its way through my family line. The water came to claim it as her own, mid-pour, getting me completely wet. I could barely offer it quickly enough. Rest in peace, Uncle Cam.

~Theresa C. Dintino

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My Grandmother’s Devotion

gramiceilMy Grandmother, Annie Dintino, (1899-1995) was very devoted to her own form of Catholicism. Since she was a first generation Italian-American, it was laced with pagan overtones. All over her home were shrines to the saints, and pictures of ancestors with candles burning ferverishly day and night.

(to the left is a picture of my Gram and my sister Cecilia)

Every morning she walked to the 8 o’clock mass at her church in the small town of Keene, New Hampshire. She was a member of this congregation for most of her life. She lived to be 95. Her spiritual largess flowed out of her and into her daily life. Everyone wanted to be around her. She had an energy that was uplifting and buoyant. Despite many difficulties in her life, there was something that got her through them and let her come out the other side optimistic and loving.

She never pushed her peasant village form of Catholicism on anyone or preached about it. It was simply hers, what she chose to pray to and devote herself to. Through this daily practice she was centered and strengthened.gramitino 4th of July

Every day after mass, she stayed for a couple of hours and cleaned the candles, tending lovingly the community prayers and petitions. She did it without complaining. It was her way to give back.

She was a very powerful prayer leader. She spoke her prayers from the heart, pounding her foot on the ground to accentuate each beat. She did not read them. She knew them intimately and she sang them with exuberance and joy. Hearing her say the rosary at a catholic wake, escorting the dead on their journey, was powerful and transformative.

(she loved the 4th of July and celebrated it heartily every year)

Now if I enter a church anywhere in the world and light a candle, I think of Gram. As I do so, I pray wholeheartedly to her saints, invoke her infectiously joyous presence and send her my heartfelt love.

gram and friendsThough I have not followed the path of Catholicism, I believe that witnessing her dedication helped me enter more strongly into my own chosen path, and continues to do so every day. In spite of difficulty and challenge in life, I have her modeling of persistent devotion, which grounds and enriches my life.

(Gram in the center with the pitcher having fun with her friends on Butler Court)

It does not matter necessarily what the path is, if we are devoted to our own chosen practice, regularly engaging the places inside us that need nurturing, steadily following that path is a valuable modeling for others.

~Theresa C. Dintino

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My Grandfather’s Topsoil

favasIn his very large garden in Keene, New Hampshire, my grandfather grew the most beautiful food. I grew up eating fava beans fresh off the growing plants. They were so delicious, I could not get enough of them. Taking the plump pod off the stem, I popped it open, fresh and hairy, and let the succulent peas enter my mouth. The taste was more than sustenance, it was a sweet etheric and physical sensation all at once. I felt the whole world, my whole ancestry, entering me as I ingested these pods of love. Most kids beg for candy but we, my five siblings and I, begged to go out to the garden and imbibe truth.

Did he enjoy seeing us do that? Did anyone know what it felt like to us? I have no idea. The sun was in those green droplets. The love was in those droplets. He, my grandfather, his hard working hands and thoughtful tending of the soil was in those seeds.

bleeding  heartsOn the way to the fava beans were the rows and rows of bleeding hearts bending their delicious heartblossoms toward our tender child calves. Directional arrows of pink and red hearts led us forth to the juicy faavs—as they were called in my family—the most eloquent jewels one could eat in the early spring.

Growing food for our families is so much more than we think. When you grow your own food, you put yourself, your love, your wisdom into it.  Literally, the family gets fed from you. It is so much more than growing food simply to satisfy hunger. When I ate the fava beans, and all the rest of the food he grew—the tomatoes, fresh and canned, in the pasta sauce every Sunday, the greens and the chard—I was receiving a transmission. These teachings live in my body, my blood still. He fed me and I grew from his soul food.

Now older, I know what it takes to maintain that kind of garden, the care and planning that goes into bringing a seed to fruition that your grandchildren eat. Then, to have the generosity to allow wild child energy to enter the neat and weedless rows of your deep hoe work to pick their own food, all of that now, I understand as a very great gift.

~Theresa C. Dintino

 

 

 

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Le Felce, The Fern – The Plant of Accord and Discord

imagesIn the Italian tradition, the fern, le felce, is called the “herb of accord and discord.”*  It is viewed as possessing the shape of a hand with fingers that can be separated or reconnected.

Le felce or the fern, together with the power of water, can be used to heal great disconnection and fragmentation in a person, possibly even removing curses. If the fern was used to make the curse, then it is also the proper remedy for removal.

The fern is also used in rituals in which a person needs to make “amends” for a bad deed or action. With the help of water, this plant can repair and reconcile issues in a person or a relationship.

fern-coilIn the West African tradition that I am schooled in, the fern is used for a ritual that is carried out to return a person to the pure pattern they were born with. Ferns are ancient plants that contain within them the blueprint for the growth pattern of life. This is commonly called the Phi or Fibonacci spiral. Since the plant itself contains the original blueprint, it can bring you back home.

I write this so medicine people may heal with the fern plant. Doing harm to others eventually ends up hurting oneself. Take great care in how you use this information.

~Theresa C. Dintino

Through the Apennines and the Lands of the Abruzzi, by Estella Canziani.

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Sacred Malva

91px-Malva_sylvestris_(2)According to my Father, malva sylvestris (common mallow) was my great-grandmother, the Strega’s, favorite herb. He fondly remembers her gathering malva.

On a recent trip to Italy, I was happy to find malva in an herb store in its dry and liquid forms. The dry was full of green freshness and has been very wonderful to drink and share with friends who equally enjoyed it. I assumed I would save it, but this herb wants to be shared and enjoys the communal setting.

My great-grandfather and many of my great-uncles died of silicosis. This is a lung disease caused by working in the granite quarries and sheds. The small particulates plant themselves inside the lungs and create tuberculosis-like symptoms. My great-grandmother may have been gathering a lot of malva to help assist them with their lung discomfort.

220px-Mallow_January_2008-1Malva coats linings, making it a good remedy for stomach upsets and bronchial problems. A necessary item in any healing toolkit.

The main function and concern of the Streghe was women’s medicine, which includes reproduction and prevention of pregnancy. Women once knew how to control their own fertility. Interestingly malva is used to test for fertility.  This could be another reason why it was so esteemed to my great-grandmother. Among other healing properties it offers to reproductive tracts, it also helps with impotence in men and fertility in women by increasing blood flow to the reproductive areas. This would surely be very important medicine to the Streghe.

Since it helps both women and men stay “juicy,” this may also be one of the reasons it is so popularly used in witches love potions.

120px-Malva_sylvestris_(1)I’m committed to remembering the stories I have heard and searching for more information. If any of you have any stories to share about your Streghe ancestors, I would love to hear them.

~Theresa C. Dintino

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Son Piccino e son Furbetto—They are Little and They are Cunning

In the town of Stresa Italy,  I found an erboreum—an herb store with many wonderful surprises. Two of them were small bars of soap with packaging showing different elementals of the place: Le Fate (fairies) and Lo Gnomo (gnomes). The packaging included a poem and even little bells.

Because elementals are an essential part of the African tradition I am initiated into, I was happy to find these two little soaps. The little bells were a double treat since bells are the main way to access one’s elementals in my practice. The Dagara word Kontomble, (the little people) means “the one who comes to the bell.” In this tradition, it is through a wedded bond with an elemental being that the human is able to divine. We call in our elemental friends by ringing our bells. Here were two elementals on the soaps and their little bells.

The poem written on the gnome soap:

le gnomoLo Gnomo Portafortuna

Son piccino e son furbetto

Mi nascondo nel boschetto

Ma ogni sera con la luna

io ti dono la fortuna

di fortuna e di abbondanza

non ce n’è mai abbastanza

Translation:

Lucky Charm Gnome

Little and cunning

I hide in the grove

But every night with the moon

I give you the good fortune

Of luck and abundance

And there is never enough

The poem written on le fate:

le fateLe Fate

Quando il primo bambino rise

La sua risate si infranse in

Mille piccoli pezzi che si dispersero

Scintillando per tutto il mondo

..così nacquero le fate

translation:

The Fairies

When the first baby laughed

His laughter broke in

A thousand little pieces that were scattered

Sparking all around the world

This is how the fairies were born

da “Peter Pan,” di James M. Barrie

The, fata, fae, fairies—elementals–gnomes, are found in every culture. Remembering and renewing our relationship to these beings is essential to the health of this planet.

~Theresa C. Dintino

 

 

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Growing up Colella ~ Indian Guides

(These stories are part of a larger unpublished novel with the same name. It is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in an Italian-American family in New Hampshire in the 1970s)

Indian Guides

I knew there was an Indian Guides meeting here last night when I got home from school yesterday and found Mom baking. She always bakes desserts for them to have after the meeting.

Mom is very helpful to the Indian guides. She made vests for them out of this leather material. Well, it isn’t really leather—it’s somewhere between leather and plastic. Anyway, they all wear them to the meetings—those and their headbands with feathers in them. They get a feather for each new thing they do. You can always tell someone who has been doing a lot because his head looks like a peacock.

Dad and the boys are pretty active in the Indian Guides. There’s a meeting here once a month and at other houses the rest of the time. A couple of times a year, they go on camping and fishing trips. They always come back with the funniest stories to tell us, like the time Dad and his friends stayed up late and played poker. His friend had to get up early in the morning so he went to sleep before them. He was snoring, burping and farting in his sleep so loud that one of the other men asked “is this guy going to blow up or take off?”

Sometimes I wish that I could join. But that’s silly. No girls can join the Indian guides.

I didn’t feel like having a meeting here last night. I had a whole TV night planned. Wednesday nights are my favorite. Little House on a Prairie is on. Since there was meeting, I had to sit up in my room all night. We girls have to go upstairs to our room during the meetings. Mom stays in the kitchen. When the meeting is over, she comes upstairs and calls us and we go down and serve desserts to the boys and their fathers. We have to serve coffee to the fathers. I hate serving coffee because I always spill it. Sometimes there are no desserts left for us. That’s the worst.

For some reason, they can’t see girls during the meetings. We have to take care when we walk across the hall from the bedroom to the bathroom that none of them see us. I usually don’t chance it because I just know the minute I open the door I’ll see feathers making their way up the stairs.

The thing I hate the most is that I have to change out of my play clothes back into my school clothes. We have to look nice to serve the desserts.

Last night around seven o’clock, a car pulled in and they started taking the totem pole out of it. I was staring out the window, trying to get a good look at it, when Mom said, “Paula, get upstairs.”

I was a little upset because I never get to see it. Sometimes I look at it when I’m serving dessert but I have to be careful not to hang around in there too long. My best chance is when they are carrying it out after the meeting. Something about it is really neat. It’s about ten feet tall, painted in all different colors with a big scary face carved into the top of it.

All us girls share the same room, so we were all sitting on our beds talking, we knew the meeting had started because we heard them all say, “How.” That’s how they start and end their meetings. Last night none of us girls felt like sitting in our room all dressed up. Little House on a Prairie was continued from the week before and we were missing it. The meeting seemed to be lasting forever. Then Angela said, “I know. Why don’t we write a note to Mom and drop it down the stairs?” So, we wrote a note on a tiny piece of paper that said, Mom, can we come down now? Then we dropped it down the stairs and it landed right on the bottom step. I don’t know what Mom was doing in the kitchen but she did not see the little piece of paper float down the stairwell. Lisa was peeking between the rungs in the banister to see what Mom’s answer would be when one of the men from the meeting came out of the living room. He walked right over to the stairs, bent down and picked up the note. Then he read it! He took it out into the kitchen, handed it to Mom and said, “I think this is for you.”

We were laughing so hard that we had to slam the bedroom door and smother our faces in our pillows. Then this man came upstairs to use the bathroom, so we were laughing even harder. After he went downstairs, Lisa went out and peeked between the banisters again. This time Mom was standing there shaking her head, ‘no.’ A few minutes later, Ted came upstairs and told us that we could come down and serve the desserts. “Mom seems mad about something,” he said. “What did you guys do?”

We told him but he didn’t think it was too funny. We went downstairs giggling but stopped quick when we saw Mom’s face. We were all a little surprised at Mom’s reaction because we were really sick of being sent to our room like dogs and we thought maybe she’d understand.

After everyone left, Mom said to us, “You girls know you shouldn’t have done that.”

“But why, Mom?” We asked, because we really didn’t understand.

“Because there are simply no women allowed at these meetings. You know that.”

~Theresa C. Dintino

 

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Growing up Colella ~ The Christmas Spirit

(These stories are part of a larger unpublished novel with the same name. It is a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in an Italian-American family in New Hampshire in the 1970s)

The Christmas Spirit

It’s Christmas Eve and Aunt Cee is drunk. She’s funny when she’s drunk. It’s most always on holidays when she’s like this. The thing I don’t get is why she’s sitting with us and not with the rest of the adults who are all at the big table in the dining room.

We have to sit in the kitchen—me, Ted, Paula, Angela, Little Frank and Sal—at the kiddy table. I sit out here every year because I’m one of the youngest. I don’t’ really mind even though sometimes I pretend to. Out here I can goof off and Little Frank and me can play with our food like we like to.

Carmen and Lisa got to sit at the big table this year. They just got back from singing in that “folk mass” or whatever it is. But, Aunt Cee, she’s sitting out here with us. Usually, she doesn’t really sit anywhere, just goes between rooms all the time, but tonight she has a real place between Paula and Angela who are sitting across from me. She’s not even dressed for the holiday. She still has on a short sleeved t-shirt and slippers. Her hair is all messy.

We’re eating and listening to her stories. She’s telling us how, when she was younger, she used to sneak cigarettes with her other girl cousins. When they couldn’t find cigarettes, they’d smoke from the wicker chairs. She says one time they smoked a whole chair. How do you smoke wicker? A whole chair? Wow!

Then all of the sudden, she says, “I hate your Uncle Ted.”

This makes me stop chewing, leaving a clump of half chewed food in my mouth, and look up at her. What? Hate Uncle Ted? Nobody hated Uncle Ted. There was nothing to hate about him. Lots of times, I wish I could have been the one that was named after him. The brave soldier who died in World War II, when he was young, when Aunt Cee was young—though she was older than him—when Dad was only six.

Everyone else has stopped eating and is looking up at Aunt Cee too, except for Little Frank. He keeps right on munching, his head down close to his place. Maybe he didn’t hear.

Aunt Cee is nodding her head up and down with her eyes closed, breathing loud. It’s so quiet out here it makes my ears hurt. I can hear Dad telling a story in the next room but I’m not listening to it—only hearing his voice.

“I do. I hate him,” she says. “He knows it. I tell him, ‘I hate you! I hate you!’” She screams with her eyes closed. Then she gets up, runs into the bathroom and closes the door.

I look at Ted who looks at Sal who looks at Paula who looks at Angela and the looks go around the table like this. I turn the other way and look at Little Frank. “Well,” he says, shaking his head, “Camilla’s looped again.”

I snicker and turn back to Ted but he’s got that look on his face—that real concerned one, like when he’s feeling scientific about something—“Poor Aunt Cee,” he says.

I can’t look at him or at anyone else but Little Frank and my food, so I start to eat again. “Wow,” I say.

No one else says anything. I take a piece of squid, one with the legs still on it, onto my fork and stick it into Little Frank’s face. He grabs it with his teeth, leaving the legs hanging out of his mouth, and pretends to wrestle with it.

I do the same thing with another piece. We’re making all these stupid struggling noises and laughing but no one else is. Squid is the greatest food. Little Frank and I always enjoy ourselves on Christmas Eve.

The bathroom door opens. I throw the piece of squid from my mouth onto Little Franks’ plate. He swears at me then opens the drawer under the table and sticks both pieces in there. We always make sure to sit on the side of the table that has the drawer so that we can play with it and leave things there for the women to find later when they go to get silverware for dessert.

Aunt Cee comes out blowing her nose and sits back down between Paula and Angela. Her eyes are puffy She looks around the table slowly, then puts her head down and says, “I’ll pay for it. I know. But I can’t help it. I do.”

“But why, Aunt Cee?” Paula says. “Why do you hate him?”

Aunt Cee puts her hand over Paula’s and they squeeze them together so tight that it looks like they want to hurt each other. I want to look away, to sneak the drawer open and see where little Frank put the squid but I can’t stop looking at those hands.

“Because he told me,” she says, shaking their hands and squeezing harder. “He made me. I’m stuck here in this house because of him. It’s his fault.”

What? I’m looking around the table to see if I’ve missed something but everyone—except little Frank who is still eating, acting like nothing’s going on—looks as confused as me. I look back at those hands. They’re squeezing tight around my heart.

“He told me, before he left, “ she says, her voice is getting louder and louder, “he took my face into his hands, squeezed it and said to me, he said, ‘You take care of Ma and Pa.’”

She takes Paula’s face into her hands and yells something at her in Italian, then in English. “’If I don’t come back,’” she says, still squeezing Paula’s face, “‘you take care of Ma and Pa. If something happens to me, you take care of them. You hear’?”

Tears are rolling down Paula’s cheeks so Aunt Cee lets go. She puts her hands in her own lap and looks down at them. “He died and left me with them,” she says in a real low voice. “He died and now I’m stuck here. But I promised. I did.”

Paula wipes the tears off her cheeks and looks over at me and Ted. I don’t know what to do, so I smile at her.

Dad comes into the kitchen and looks at us. We all start eating again. My meal is cold but I know I have to pretend like I’ve been eating the whole time. He comes over and stands behind Aunt Cee. We’re all looking at our plates.

“Cee,” he says in a loud voice. “What are you doing out here?”

She doesn’t answer, just keeps her head down. She crouches at the sound of his voice and I can see her grabbing Paula and Angela’s hands under the table.

“It’s okay Dad,” Angela says, looking up at him. “We’re just talking.”

“Talking? Doesn’t look that way to me. Looks like one person’s doing the talking and everyone else is listening. It’s a holiday. We’re supposed to be happy. What are you doing?” He says to Aunt Cee again.

“It’s all right Dad,” Angela says. “She’s just sad about something.”

“Sad? Hmmph,” he says, then he turns around, walks to the counter and picks up a bottle of wine to take into the other room. “I’ll bet she’s sad. I’ll show you sad. Sad is ruining these kids’ holiday. Look at yourself. Leave it alone, Cee. I mean it. Quit it. It ain’t right. It just ain’t right. You know it. I know you do.”

Aunt Cee nods her head, still looking down.

“Eat up, you kids. There’s plenty more food in here,” he says, going back into the other room. “Remember what I said, Cee.”

“Aunt Cee,” Angela says and puts her arm around Aunt Cee’s shoulders. “He didn’t mean it, probably. Probably he just said it.”

“He meant it,” Aunt Cee says, walking over to the counter and filling her wine glass. “Oh, he meant it. I know.”

She sits back down and starts to fill her plate. We are all eating again. It feels like it’s ended.

“He came to see me,” she says to Angela with her mouth full of food. “He did, Angela. He came to see me—to make sure.”

“Oh, no. Here we go again,” Little Frank says under his breath.

Aunt Cee hears him but ignores it and goes on telling her story. “It was Christmas Eve, a couple years after he died. We were all sitting around the table, just like this, eating our fish supper—but in the other room, of course. I was sitting with my back to the window. All of the sudden, I had this chill. I shivered. It was like a cold pocket of air passed over me. For some reason I don’t know, something made me turn around and look out the window.” She turns around in her chair, like it was that night and she’s looking out the window. “I moved the curtain,” she says, moving her arm like she’s moving the curtain. “I knew something was there. Then I saw it. There it was, standing there looking in the window at me. Calling to me. A pure—pure white—big, beautiful dog. Completely white, he was. Not a speck of any other color on him.” She turns back around to the table and drinks some wine, shaking her head. “No one in the neighborhood had a white dog. I had never seen it before and I never saw it again, except for that one night. And so big! It was tall enough to look into the window. Can you imagine how big? Those eyes—looking at me. They were Ted’s eyes and I knew it. Right then, I knew it was him. I kept looking at him. Just sitting there, looking at him for a long time. Then I said to him, ‘Ted, you came back,’ and he said ‘yes’, he’d come back. He’d come back to make sure, to make sure I’d remembered what he told me.”

Aunt Cee is pounding her fist on the table. She stops and looks up. “And he told me that he was cold and sad and that he missed us all so much. He said he wished so much that he could be there with us, sitting around the table and . . .”

Aunt Cee has to stop telling the story because she is crying too hard. I’m sad for her. That story is creepy. I don’t know if I believe it or not. I can’t stop thinking about it, about that dog. I want to know what happened to it. When she stops crying a little, I ask her. I say, “What happened to the dog, Aunt Cee?”

“I went outside to try and let him in because he told me he was cold. He told me he was cold so I opened the door to let him in but he was gone. There was noting there when I opened the door. He was gone.”

Gram comes out into the kitchen. “You telling that silly story about the dog?” She says. Get outa here! That was no more Ted than I am. Get yourself together. These kids need to eat. This is no way to act on Christmas Eve.”

Aunt Cee stands up and walks, her shoulders all folded up, into the bathroom again.

“Don’t pay any attention to her,” Gram says. “She’s crazy. Finish up eating now. We’ve got other things to do tonight.”

We all obey Gram and start eating. I don’t feel like I want anymore but I know I have to get rid of some of this food on my plate.

“Just some stray, “ she says, “but what a beauty it was. Pure white. I’d never seen a dog like that before. Never have since either. But, it was not my Ted.”

I’ve got the shivers from this whole thing, like it feels like Uncle Ted is here, right now, watching us. I believe what Aunt Cee said about the dog. I don’t know why. I just do. Why would she make something like that up?

“Booooo!” Little Frank yells in my ear, making me jump. I poke him and he pokes me back and we wrestle until Mom comes out and tells us to stop. They must have finished eating in the other room because everyone is coming out here—starting to clean up.

Carmen and Lisa come out and Angela and Paula tell them what’s been going on. They seem to know something I don’t. Guess they’ll fill me in on it later.

When they start to clean our table, little Frank and me check on the squid in the drawer one more time. They’re still in there, but they’re getting hard and stiff. Perfect. We close it back up and run out of the room fast, before someone finds it while we’re still in there.

Later on, when I’m sure no one is looking, I go stare at the picture of Uncle Ted in his uniform, by the manger scene in the living room. “Uncle Ted,” I say, soft into it. “listen, you don’t have to worry. None of us like you any less because of what Aunt Cee said. Really,” I say, getting closer. “You’re still our favorite uncle and if you really can hear me then you know that you need to help Aunt Cee. She’s too sad. Help her, Okay? Thanks,” I say. Then I touch the picture and leave quick before anyone sees.

 

~Theresa C. Dintino

 

 

 

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