THE CULTURE OF MANUAL WORK

«So your feet don’t get wet».
This was said by a person I remember with affection and sympathy, loved by everyone.
He was Tommaso, widower, dad of my schoolmate Nico, for whom I tried a
particular transport, considering the absence of the mother as the most tragic of tragedies.
In those days, if a woman remained a widow, she worked in a thousand ways, carried out a thousand jobs
to support children; if a man, engaged in work, was left alone, usually the offspring
ended up in boarding school. It didn’t happen to Nico, because he was practically adopted by all the women of the
neighborhood and, with him, his father. Who washed their linen, who cooked for them, who ironed and
did the shopping; Thomas, having the so-called golden hands, repaid by doing various jobs.
Maso, with a broad face and generous smile, always disheveled as if he had just woken up from
nap, tried a salt and pepper parting on his hair, which did not fit him,
especially when, preparing to perform some task, he was scratching his head
thoughtful. The side of the upturned lips and circumflex eyebrows showed him
always smiling, and when he laughed, he revealed, under his ivory mustache, sparse teeth, a little yellowish,
because of the many cigarettes he smoked. In addition to having prepared that small stretch
asphalted, towards the school – «so your feet don’t get wet» – he fixed everything that had
in need of a repair and also built small useful objects.
He always came with a worn and cracked bag, the same shape as those of the postman from which
gracefully extracted all kinds of instruments. Still, impaled as if posing for one
photograph, biting his lip nervously, examined the needy object for a long time, then, decided, and with a singsong voice: “Adeso mi faso”
( «Now I do it» ).
The first time we heard him speak with that accent, we tried to mask our giggles behind our fingers. ( “Mi so Veneto”) «I am from Veneto», he clarified, and my brother immediately baptized him Masofaso.
From that pouch, which seemed to be bottomless, he extracted with
solemnity, and placed in order, on a waxed cloth, defining them one by one, the screwdriver, the
nails, the pincer, the wrench … as comfortable as a mouse in cheese.
«Maso takes care of it», and here is the stretch of asphalt on the path in front of the school.
«So your feet don’t get wet», he said quietly, «Ok».
After fixing the artesian well.
«So now he has enough pressure», he smiled smugly, «Ok».
Repaired the shutters on the windows
«So now they close», he said firmly, «Ok».
He was inflating the tires on his bicycle
«So you can go», all satisfied, «Ok».
«And here is the swing», he observed pleased, «so now they play, ok».
We children followed him in groups, surrounding him as assistants assigned to control, and, from time to time, equally pleased, determined, satisfied, we concluded in chorus: «Alright».

Traduttore Mino Dicomite

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