It’s the final day of lessons before the Easter holidays. Unsurprisingly, I had very few students in yesterday, and have even fewer today. My boss has dictated that I have to give my teenagers a test, which is disappointing. I’d planned an ace lesson all about chocolate, including youtube videos and everything. Ah well. It’ll keep. Amid groans of dissent – But it’s EASTER! – I pass out the mock exam papers and settle them down. There’s a knock at the door. Ilaria, the school secretary, pops her head around the door. Can you come outside a moment? Pulling a nervous face at my students, who titter appreciatively, I go out into the corridor.
Standing outside is Matteo, a shy smile on his round, bespectacled face. I love this kid. He used to be my student at the beginning of the year, but the class was wrong for him, so I lost him. I miss him. Every lesson he’d turn up to class dressed in immaculate designer jeans held up with Alviero Martini belt, Hogans buffed to a gleaming shine, and shirt collar peeping just-so over the neck of his knitted pullover. Mummy’s boy? Yes. But also an absolute sweetheart, who would always kiss me hello and goodbye and smile politely while the rest of the class ran amok. A perfect grown-up gentleman in a chubby, eight-year-old boy’s body. Now I only ever see him in the corridors between lessons, but his face always lights up as he says, “Ciao, Maestra!” and gives me a kiss.
Today he seems shyer than usual. Ilaria nudges him. Go on, Matteo. He shuffles his feet and then thrusts a chocolate egg in my direction, not brave enough to meet my eyes. For you, Maestra. It’s small – about the size of a Kinder egg – but in true Italian style is presented beautifully, nestled neatly in a porcelain goose, the whole thing wrapped in cellophane and ribbons. I could cry. None of my other students have given me anything, and yet this little boy, who I haven’t taught for three months, has come in specially to give me a gift. I bend down to give him a kiss. Thank you, Matteo. Happy Easter. Beaming all over his face, he gives me a little wave as Ilaria takes him by the hand and leads him away. Buona Pasqua, Maestra.
I return to my rambunctious teenagers with an enormous grin on my face. They’ve given up on the pretence of doing the test individually, and are comparing answers, but stop as I come into the room. Federico cocks his head to one side. You shouldn’t be so happy about receiving chocolate from a boy, you know. He raises one eyebrow in mock severity. I laugh. Get back to your test, Federico.