For years, my daughters boyfriend (and partner in crime) has been throwing around two Italian phrases at the drop of a hat – “Basta!” and “Ci Vediamo”, spoken with as much Italian accent as he could muster and always with the appropriate throwing out or up of the hands, overly embracing the Italian way of gestures in conversation. Now, I’ve often asked him what it meant, but it really wasn’t until they both did Italian courses in university that we found out the real meaning of both words. ‘Basta’ simple means ‘enough’. ‘Ci vediamo’ translates to ‘until we meet again’. Thinking back to the times he used these phrases, I am quite sure they were not always used in proper context, but it did always garner a laugh from those listening, especially when followed by a raised glass of Guinness. One glass of Guinness is never ‘basta’ or enough – or so I’ve been told.
Being in Italy, I often hear the word ‘basta’ and I get to use it often too. It gets us through a lot of situations where we are at the end of our Italian grammar and just don’t know what to say. When our restaurant servers want to know if we’ve finished our meal so that they can clear our table we answer “basta” – we have eaten an adequate sufficiency. Well…maybe not always with the wine – we gesture with our fingers for just a little more as it’s so good- “poco quatro” . I’ve also heard it used by Italian parents chastising their children when they are misbehaving. This is usually followed by the look only a parent can throw out – icy, cold, dagger-like, with the promise of what’s to follow if they don’t behave. It’s a handy word, to say the least!
When Lucia was cutting my hair in Lagonegro a few weeks ago and wanted to know if it was short enough, she pointed to my hair with her scissors and asked “Basta?” I responded “Si” – yes. And my haircut was lovely. But when I wanted to leave her a tip, as we always do in Canada, she took only the amount for the color/cut and passed the rest back to me. “No, no, no, basta”, she said, Then she showed me the calendar and pointed to 5 weeks from today’s date and said, “You back, okay” and she squeezed my hand and smiled.
Giuseppe, my favorite farmer friend from the bi-weekly farmers market knows I don’t speak Italian and he doesn’t speak a word of English. Yet each time he greets me with a warm welcome, shakes my hand and says something about the weather being too hot. He and I communicate by pointing to and lifting the produce and fresh eggs. He tells me ‘fresca’ (fresh) today By the way he gestures with his soil grained hands and adding the word ‘dolce’, I know if he’s trying to tell me that something is sweet or mild and in the case of me handling the fresh eggs I’ve bought, he wants me to be gentle. He knows I love spicy things – piccante – and one week he presented me with a hot pepper plant. Each week I add new Italian words to my growing repertoire of food names and when i use them, he smiles, says “Ahhh…bueno”. But when am done and surrounded by all my bags of fresh goodness, he looks at me, waves his crisscrossed hands in a manner that asks if I’ve enough and says “Basta, Senora, Basta?” But when I say “Si, grazia” and pay him, he raises his finger for me to wait, then grabs a hand full of herbs -parsley, basil, celery and often a couple of peaches or figs to toss in the bag. More than enough…
Basta…every time I hear the word, I smile. For many reasons. First off, I think of the meaning and the context in which it’s being used. Yes, I’ve had enough for supper. Just give me small piece of bacalao (salt cod), just a small piece enough for two people. Sufficient. Adequate. Ample. Satisfied. Enough. All words that resonate with my life these days. I am happy and blessed with life: my children (aforementioned boyfriend included), my partner, my close friends, my chance to travel, cook, explore, meet people and write. Love, laughter, opportunities, I try not to take it all for granted. Not everything is perfect and each day brings its troubles, but I’m learning to make the most of what each day offers and to enjoy each experience, each moment. To be content with enough.
And like my produce basket from the farmers market, there is usually more than enough.
Basta… it always reminds me of my daughters boyfriend. Without fail. And as they are both coming to visit us here in Italy at the end of August, I cannot wait to hear him use the word ‘basta’ in the way only he can with his head thrown back to one side, his eyes half closed and a broad sweep of one arm. And knowing him, he will play it up to the utmost, using it often until we are all in stitches – or completely embarrassed! And I will wrap my arms around them both and say to myself “Basta”.
And in the words of the boyfriend (who shall remain nameless until I ask his permission)
CI VEDIAMO*…until we meet again!