These Italian Pastries

By Amy Suardi

April 13, 2020

These Italian Pastries

These Italian pastries were decorated by an 87-year-old woman in a drawn-out process involving almond paste and mandarin oranges. I bought them at a cliffside stand in a cellophane bag tied with red curling ribbon on the Sicilian island of Lipari.

They were too beautiful to eat, and yet what else was I going to do with them? Perishable: the word death is baked into them. They were created to be destroyed.

As we climbed the volcanoes of Sicily, bathed in its seas, and drove through its undulating burnt fields of wheat, I thought of all the civilizations that had possessed this land — the Greeks, Romans, Africans, Arabs, French, Spanish, and so on. These peoples had smelled the same briny breezes, felt the same pounding heat. But of their dramas, their loves, their wars and empires, only a toppled column remains here, a rack of souvenirs there, a palace empty of kings but flocked with tourists, like crows picking over wish bones and candy wrappers.

And yet I have often clung to much smaller things. I have tried to deny that fireworks end, children grow. Accepting change is like giving up a fight. When I finally accept fleetingness, I feel soft, a part of the ever-morphing universe.

I understood what the pastries were trying to tell me: everything is special, but nothing lasts. Don’t cling — enjoy, and eat.


Amy lives in Washington, D.C. with her family. Since the arrival of the pandemic, she has been writing micro-memoirs, poems, and slice-of-life essays on her new blog Painting a Life with Words.

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