By Susan Saigal,
My former husband and I were in Alghero, that charming Spanish-influenced town by the sea on the Italian island of Sardinia. Our small son was with us. It was late October and he had just celebrated his second birthday in Ajaccio, Corsica, known as the sister island to Sardinia. It was in the days before disposable diapers had arrived in Europe and we had a huge supply of cloth diapers with us.
We had taken a ferry over from Corsica on the spur of the moment after driving down to Cagliari, the capital of Corsica – just to see what it was like. You could practically see Sardinia to the south so we bought tickets and off we went to savor the delightful ambiance of Italy, as Sardinia is an Italian island. It’s in the Mediterranean Sea and is famous for its nuraghis, those stout stone dwellings that dot the island and remind us of the megalithic civilization that once flourished there.
Ages ago, Catalan settlers arrived in Alghero (in the province of Sassari) and in this area you hear a dialect very reminiscent of Spanish, or at least the Catalonian version of Spanish. It is an island steeped in prehistory and more recent history with Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Austrians, Genoese and Spanish peoples fighting over it. So there were plenty of wars and kings fighting over Sardinia, including the House of Savoy that eventually ended up ruling the island, with Victor Emmanuel II as the king.
We had settled in at a nice pension, part of a private house and the three of us had quarters on the second floor. Our balcony overlooked the sea as well as the streets of the old town. I remember what a stunning view it was and how it made me want to rush down to sit in a cafe and relax. But I had all those diapers to wash. By hand. That’s what was done in those days!
So I dutifully got out the packet of soap flakes, ran the water and started rinsing and scrubbing. When I looked around the rooms to see if by any chance there was a cord or something to hang the diapers on, I couldn’t find anything. I decided that the only place to dry them was on the balcony railing. Now I know that in some areas of the world, people are happy to see almond blossoms carpet the ground and in Canada we are delighted when the maple leaves turn golden and then bright crimson and fall on the lawns and streets in beautiful heaps. In fact, we always gathered the most beautiful and waxed them so they would stay bright and beautiful for Thanksgiving.
I hung up all the diapers and was happy that the sun was out because they would dry quickly. But I hadn’t counted on a wind coming up. When I went to gather them from the railing, there was nothing there. Where had all the diapers gone? One guess and it isn’t difficult. I looked down on the old streets of Alghero and there were my son’s diapers! They had carpeted the town with great white blobs.