Hanging Out With the Don

Don Donato ushered us into a small administrative area on the back side of the church. There he pulled out several yarn “necklaces” with paper pictures of the Madonna hanging from them. He handed them around, then passed out several postcards depicting the statue of the Madonna del Carmine, updated versions of Tony’s old card.

Next he brought forth an assortment of prayer cards of various saints, including one of San Michele Arcangelo (remember this name). Pocket-sized calendars adorned with a picture of the Madonna and a “miraculous” gold-colored medallion (La Medaglia Miracolosa) — “a gift from heaven,” it said — rounded out our handful of loot.

Don Donato lives just across the alley from the church. He invited us in to show us a few more things.

Don Donato pulls out old letters
that Tony’s aunts have sent him over the years
A beautifully embroidered wall-hanging
commemorating Don Donato’s Golden Anniversary
for 50 years of service to the church

Tools of the trade

Don Donato's sister keeps things in order at the church, including Tony

Don Donato offered us lunch, but since we had arrived unannounced, we didn’t want to impose. Most likely his sweet sister, who had joined us in the church in her house dress, would bear the brunt of the work entailed in providing us a repast.

Bar Planet -- a popular spot for locals and priests, alike

Instead, we suggested going across the street to Bar Planet for un caffé. We straggled into the bar to order drinks.

A small group of men was huddled around a table in the back playing Pidro, an old Italian card game. I recognized it from a description my dad had given me the previous year while we had watched a different group of men in a different part of Italia play the same game.

Characterized by the unmistakable thwack thwack of cards as they get slapped upon the table, usually accompanied by lively swearing, this game was played by my own grandfather and his friends in Napa Valley, California when my dad was a child.

Don Donato offers us drinks

That cup of caffe’ is as big as the barista’s smile! 

We ponder the unusual Merry-Go-Round-the-Saint
while Don Donato explains to one of the teachers who we are 

After our refreshments, the monsignor led us down the street to an elementary school. A whimsical merry-go-round filled the entry yard, metal seats with horse heads and pedals that whirled around a central saint. We followed Don Donato into the school.

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