Serafina was my best friend. She appeared one morning half way through the school term at primary school. I was five years old and instantly enchanted by this foreign little girl who couldn’t speak a word of English. The Sussex village where I was born and spent my first years was well populated with Polish and Italian immigrants. Serafina and her little sister, Anna, were daughters of Guido and Vicky, an Italian family who had just moved to the village.
|Serafina (left) in school play
I don’t think my family fully approved of my friendship with Serafina but whenever I visited her home I was always warmly welcomed. Their house was sparsely furnished and they didn’t have a television. The heart of their home was a big table situated in a kitchen that was always crowded with people. The aroma of Italian cooking was a completely new and exotic experience for me. I had never seen olives before or spaghetti that wasn't out of a tin.
Serafina’s parents worked hard, Guido was employed at the local brick factory and Vicky worked at the mushroom picking factory. Her dad suffered from alopecia and was completely hairless. On Sundays he always wore his toupee. I’m not sure what scared me most, bald Guido or Guido with his wig.
I lost touch with Serafina when I was twelve years old and left the village with my mother for a new life in Yorkshire. Thanks to the wonders of Facebook I made contact with her a couple of years ago. Her parents are back living in Italy. Serafina still lives locally in Sussex and is happily married with two grown up sons. Eight years ago she was diagnosed with myeloma, a type of cancer of the blood. She has been in remission but sadly I have just learnt that the condition has returned and she has another painful battle ahead. I know my old friend will fight back with her enduring and plucky spirit.