This is the third picture Donna sees in Vincent’s book of sketches. She remembers a time after Vincent began working at the bakery in town when he bought a telescope and invited her over to look through it while he guided her star gazing. The stars brought him a kind of divine joy: “It was dark outside, but the light in his face remained.”
She also recalls the time he came to visit her and her children (Angie, Cosmo, and newborn Silvia) in 1989. All of them sat outside at night while Vincent pointed out the stars in the clear night sky. This experience is pivotal for toddler, Cosmo, who later developed a deep passion for astronomy. Enjoy the following excerpt:
Vincent suggested that we all go outside and look at the stars because it was such a clear night. So, we put coats on, went out in the backyard, and sat on the picnic bench while Vincent pointed out all the stars to us. We followed his big hand moving across the starlit sky in perfect synchronicity. Cosmo’s eyes were open wide, brimming with a curiosity and exuberance I never saw in him before. We weren’t outside too long when I heard the sound of Frank’s car coming up the driveway, blasting through our placid star-gazing time.
As soon as he got out of the car, Angie ran up to him, shouting “Daddy!” He picked up Angie and continued on towards us as if he were in a walking race. His worry lines hid in the darkness, but as he got closer to me, they showed, thick, dark, and deep as if drawn on his face with a black marker. Frank and Vincent said hi to each other, and as we all turned to go inside, Cosmo began to cry, which was a true rarity for him.
“It’s okay, honey, we’ll come out tomorrow night, and you can look at the stars again.” I tried to console him, but he just kept crying and continued even after we were inside. Even Vincent couldn’t get him out of his crankiness with his clownish antics.
“How’s it going, Vince?” Frank said loudly above Cosmo’s crying.
“Not bad,” Vincent said. “How about you?”
“Can’t complain,” Frank said. “Just tired of having to stay late so many nights.”
“I don’t know why you can’t bring your work home,” I said.
“I wouldn’t get anything done.” It was tough to buy this excuse because up until a couple years ago, he brought his work home all the time, and it seemed like he was getting it all done just fine.
“Did you eat something?” I asked Frank.
“No, I’ll just grab something on the way back,” he said and then turned to Vincent to ask him if he was ready to go.
“Sure thing,” Vincent said, turning to me and the kids to say goodbye. He picked up Cosmo, who was still sobbing lightly, and Angie grabbed on to his waist. I joined the group hug that, like the star-gazing, felt cut short by Frank’s silent hurrying. We all watched as the two of them walked to the car, and the car drove off, Vincent waving, his smile shining in the faint light of the moon.
After they left, I read Goodnight Moon to Angie and Cosmo, who calmed down as I read in my most soothing bedtime-story voice. Although calmer, he was still thinking about the stars in the nighttime sky and made me promise him three times that we’d go out to look at them more often.
This post is part of my latest blog series on the artwork that inspired the family saga, The Bird that Sang in Color. The art featured in these posts comes from a sketchbook that belonged to my brother, Vincent, which I discovered shortly after his death. It had pictures he’d drawn of himself throughout various phases of his life. This pictorial autobiography caused me to wonder what pictures I’d have of myself by the end of my life, which motivated me to live more fully. In writing this novel, I was able to share this powerful realization with the world. This novel is the third book in the Greco Family Trilogy. Each one of these family trilogy books is told from a different family member’s point of view. This one is told from the perspective of the Greco family matriarch, Donna.
Grace Mattioli is the author of the Greco Family Trilogy books, including Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.