Tesoro is one of my favorite words in Italian. Literally, it means treasure, but is more commonly used as a term of endearment that parallels words like darling, sweetheart or honey in English. Then there are also words like cara, and carissima (dear, dearest), amore (love) and bella (beautiful) that one routinely hears in conversation. In fact, I rarely get greetings from Italian friends that do not begin with cara or carissima: by phone, email or in person, words of love are common greetings. I often wonder what it would be like to grow up hearing a daily litany of words like "beautiful," "dearest," "darling," "my treasure." I rarely hear Italian parents talking to their children without freely using terms of endearment, whether they are giving a command or praising them. Italians enjoy using superlatives and it can't help but have a positive effect on one's psyche. After being greeted this way almost daily for several years, I've become quite spoiled, and now expect to hear it.
But today I'm using the word tesoro to describe a real treasure, offered to me by five-year-old Francesca, who lives next door. A happy, precocious child, Francesca greets me with a sweet "ciao, Maribett" every time she sees me (the Italian tongue has trouble with the "th" sound, and there is no y in the language, so here I'm often called Maribett.) Her parents are also friendly, but Francesca goes out of her way to greet me often. When I was in Rome the other day, I came across a street vendor selling trinkets, and I bought a few for Francesca and her older sister, Sara (a 12-year-old who is more likely to scowl). As soon as Francesca received her gift (a small glass bear), she ran inside to create the above drawing, which now has a place of honor on the refrigerator. Tesoro, indeed! And for once, Sara also smiled. Evviva! (hurray!)