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Those blue eyes that saved me after I fell

The author Paola Cora with Gianni. They met in the summer 1983 and have been married ever since.

PAOLA CORA
MONESIGLIO (CUNEO)
La Stampa – 13/08/2016

The summer (in reality the summer night) that changed my life was the one in which I came to know the guy that would become my husband.

It was the August holidays of 1983, I was 17 years old, and together with my sister we were heading to the festival of San Benedetto Belbo to make a ribota, which here for us in the Alta Langa means going out to have fun with friends. There was also a dance, where many young and older people danced under the stars. This small town was already famous because Beppe Fenoglio wrote about it in some of his most beautiful and important novels.

For a joke I asked the DJ to make a dedication to my crush, we were really just friends, to make fun of him. My friend while faking to be angry chased me and I didn’t notice a huge hole in the middle of the piazza. I fell into it spraining my ankle. I remember feeling shock and my throbbing legs. I raised my head.

From the edge of the hole I saw two huge blue eyes that shined in the darkness and an arm that reached towards me. It was Gianni, a guy from Monesilgio that I didn’t know.

I reached with my hand and his pulled me out of that cursed – or lucky! – hole. Being young can be beautiful but also sad, all teenagers are partly merry and partly melancholy, full of problems. Symbolically, now thinking about it afterwards, the hand of that boy, was pulling me out of a dark period in my life.

My family had land in Niella and my mother made tome cheese. She was so angry with me when I returned to the house with a swollen ankle. With my ankle in that condition I would not be able to pick hazel nuts the next day. In fact, I stayed home among the cheese packaging. Gianni arrived in the afternoon to find out how I was doing. He was kind, so sweet (with those big blue eyes) and he made me laugh. He returned the day after, and the day after that. To win over my mom, he helped me (with a swollen ankle) to harvest the hazel nuts.

That was the first of many happy summers. The following year I got pregnant and I remember clearly the day that we went to break the news to my mom. We told her that we weren’t just waiting for a baby, but that we were getting married. It was a Saturday evening. My mom burst out in tears, after a while she raised her head painfully gazing at us she asked “and now?” Gianni gave a look to his watch and said “and now, we are going to Alba to dance”. We have two grown children, we make cheese, and he still always makes me laugh.

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