I was stunned. Standing in front of the counter that prepares samples at Trader Joe’s I was told that Gio had died. I stood still, a shudder ran through my body; I was surprised by the intensity of my reaction.
Gio was the nice Italian lady who stood behind the counter and dished out samples of luscious food. At each visit to Trader Joe’s, the counter is my first destination. As I pour a small cup of the featured coffee of the day, I exchange greetings with Gio and within seconds we would be talking about opera; she loved the opera. Her only complaint about the world of contemporary opera was the loss of the formality that reigned in opera houses of yesterday. She bemoaned the excessive informality of those who attended opera as if to suggest that improper dress was an act of blasphemy, a sin against the sanctity of opera’s holy of holies. She shared her early experiences of opera attendance when everyone “dressed up” for the long-awaited occasion; “that’s when opera was opera!”
Our conversations were brief, friendly, but not terribly personal.
Yet, they spiced up the special flavors of the coffee and the morsels of pancake or beer bread so many sampled. In a real sense, the few minutes with Gio represented being in one’s kitchen, being home. Perhaps that is why her death came as such a shock, such a loss.
I am grateful for those passing moments; they will be remembered.