HOW DID THEY UNDERSTAND?
by Anton Wills-Eve
<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/i-have-confidence-in-me/”>I Have Confidence in Me</a>
March 7th’s prompt.
HOW DID THEY UNDERSTAND?
I once told my readers, at least I hope they are plural, about the inability of my five year old son, Edgardo, to master four languages at such a tender age. It really was a shame because his four sisters and two brothers were all promising linguists and I am sure Eddie was merely attention seeking egged on by his nine year old sister Lucia. Let me tell you of his latest prank.
My wife, Francesca, and I were going out for the evening to see an opera that she particularly enjoyed, Don Giovanni one of Mozart’s greatest works. At lunch that day, we were in England for the summer holidays, he asked his mother.”Now you have got your libretto, haven’t you, Mama? Lucia tells me you need to thumb through one when you go to operas, whatever that involves, but I expect you know”. My adorable Francesca had long since given up trying to understand anything her seven children said to her. Within seven years she had given birth to Maria, eleven months later Giovanni, sometimes known as John or even Jean depending on which member of the family was talking to him. Two years after that came the twins Lucia and Violetta, a year later Dido and six years after Maria came Aeneas. Finally a year later the seventh addition to our beautiful collection, little Edgardo was born in late 2009.
You will notice their names all had strong Operatic connections. Also they were born in different countries, France, Italy, England (the twins), Switzerland, Spain and America, this last appropriately for Eddie who was a typical Chicago gansgter. But after his arrival the doctors told us that no more children could be conceived by Francesca following surgery that was necessary at the time of Eddie’s very difficult birth. Tears were shed at first but soon my lovely wife realised she had more than she could cope with already. How she ever got a masters degree as well in two languages I will never know. But she was now lecturing at an on line distance learning university which suited my peripatetic work and our over populated family perfectly. I took her on holiday to Salzburg shortly after Eddie’s birth, a much needed holiday for both of us and a very necessary period of clinging onto each other for a while as our first love returned to us in all it’s wonderful tenderness. If anything, by the time of this story I loved Francesca more than when we met at university in Pisa in 2000 at a second milenium celebration student dance. We married in April 2001 and Maria was born in May 2002. Eddie came along in the early winter of 2009. But to return to our opera night out.
When we took our seats in Covent Garden Francesca smiled at me and sighed with contentment as she relaxed to enjoy her favourite music. She knew the score and the main arias backwards but always liked to follow them when at an opera. If it gave her more pleasure so much the better, as long as she did not try to sing along with the performers. I got her out of this habit at a performance of Tosca at Verona where she was blushing puce with remorse as people sitting near us tut-tutted. But this night she was on her best behaviour. I hoped everything was fine, but then I did not know what Lucia had planned for Eddie. Famous aria after famous aria had little notes scribbled in the margin.
Take two examples. “La ci da rem la mano”, ‘Put your pretty hand in mine’, a seduction scene, had the annotation , “Mama, what a naughty man! Don’t let daddy see you reading this!” Then the famous aria where don Giovanni’s romantic conquests all over Europe are recited to discourage Donna Elvira, had the notes, ‘ he had 1,003 lovers in Spain? How did he keep it up?’ That was the first time Francesca had ever stuffed a hankey in her mouth in public much to my horror. I thought she was ill. In the interval she showed me the libretto and score.
“Lucia! But Francesca, it is funny. But she couldn’t know all that by herself and none of the older children would have told her!” My wife nodded and started to look worried. she asked me,
“David, isn’t it more worrying to try to work out what Edgardo was thinking as Lucia wrote this for him? He must have been curious”. We both left the opera house very concerned.
The next day we summoned Lucia and Eddie and asked why they had written all over mummy’s lovely libretto. Lucia tried to look innocently puzzled and not understanding what we were talking about, but not Eddie. “Oh, it is easy. Don Giovanni was a dirty old man, you know he never had a wash, or so our Giovanni told me, and Violetta said he held Elvira’s hand up in the air as they walked off at the end of that scene, but so many encores were called for on the first night that everyone wondered why her arm muscles did not give way she held it up so long.”
It was Maria who solved the whole mystery for us. It was just the three of us now. “Well, Mama and Papa, you see we did not think this was a suitable opera for a good Catholic family to be allowing their mother to see, so we decided to distract Mama by making her laugh and in such a way that the very youngest members of the family would not be corrupted.” I couldn’t believe her at first, but I did when she added,
“It was our embassy chaplain who told us what to write as he thought all of us were too young to understand the story, but was very pleased at how pious we were in wanting to preserve our parents’ moral standards.” Francesca wanted to talk to Father Richard but I stopped her. Darling, they are all seven of them in this far too deeply already. We are the ones who would be making our children lie even more by taking the matter any further. Let it drop. ” She nodded but sighed as she concluded,
“I’m still worried about Eddie, though. If he made up that explanation he could become a really accomplished liar, but if he undertstood the joke, who told him?”
I kissed her as we left the sitting room and said, isn’t it fun having seven children to worry about all at once! Are you sure you once wanted another pair of twins?”