After nearly an hour's driving on the Sunrasia country road, I decided to stop for my purchase of oranges. It was a simple shed, knocked together with old timber and provided a little shade and protection from the elements. It had one side open and looked more like a primitive bus shelter. There were lots and lots of crates piled high around it ‘very optimistically’, I thought.
‘Good morning’ I greeted an old lady in a dark dress, bent forward with age, and seemingly selling her wares. She smiled back, welcoming me as a customer.
We all have more than five senses and somehow I felt that she did not understand me.
‘Buon giorno, signora,’ I tried my elementary – very elementary Italian.
‘Buon giorno signor’ she greeted me back ecstatically.
‘Una belissima giorna’, I pointed at the clear blue sky and the golden sunshine.
She nodded emphatically, obviously grateful for my linguistic endeavours. Knowing what I came for, she lifted with difficulty one bag of her oranges.
‘Due, por favore!’ I held up two fingers.
‘Si!’ She nodded eagerly and placed two bags onto a small table which served as a counter. The spindly legs of the table started to wobble under the weight and for a moment I had the urge to grab and stabilise it.
Since the total amount was five dollars I handed her the bank note and thought that this transaction would be final. I lifted up my two bags but she motioned me to wait, for some reason.
Rummaging around in her plastic box she tried to hand me some money, as if for a change.
Looking at it, I realised that she was trying to give me change for fifty dollars and was doing so with a grateful smile. A feeling of compassion overcame me. I felt so sorry for that poor woman who obviously had nobody left in Italy and therefore had joined her younger relations in Australia. With everything so strange around her, she was trying to cope and be productive in what we call the ‘golden years’.
‘No, no, signora – cinque dollar!’ pointing at the till where my five dollar note was secured.
She understood immediately and after her initial shock at nearly making such an enormous mistake, her smile became wider, her wrinkled face more open and her friendly dark eyes looked at me gratefully. Being aware that I would not have understood more, she warmly shook my hand and repeated
‘Mille grazie, mille grazie’.
‘Preggo’ is all I could say, hoping that it was the right thing for this situation and lifted up my bags.
I noticed a gold tooth flashing in her friendly smile and her wave of ‘Goodbye’ followed me as I drove on till she was out of my sight.