Making Friends Like A Psychotic Vexillologist:
Sicily and Sardinia
It was a foggy night when I first heard the chattering of a group of Italians at the jacuzzi in my complex, they loudly carried on in their poetic lingua without a care in the world. It was after ten minutes or so that I finally said to the man closest to me, "Di dove sei in Italia?" Rather taken aback that I had any semblance of understanding of Italian, he answered "Sicilia." We continued talking about Italy and why I know a little Italian, when I mentioned that I saw someone in the neighborhood flies a Sardinian flag with the four Moors on it. He excitedly told me that the flag belonged to his wife, and that was his house just a few doors down from me. The Sardinian flag bears St. George's Cross with the heads of captured Moorish prisoners of war in each quarter, in memory of their victories over Saracen invaders in the 10th and 11th centuries.
We talked of the flag, and where in Sardinia his wife was from, and then we got to the subject of his vexillological quandary. As he said before, he was from Sicily, while his wife was from Sardinia, two rival islands off the coast of the Italian Peninsula. He said to me, "one day I hope to put up the Sicilian flag, but I don't know if she will like that very much." So like any sensible herald, I went and ordered a Sicilian flag, and a number of weeks later, in the middle of the night, I walked over, took the Four Moors
down, placed it by their front door, and put up the Triseklion of Sicily... I left no note, I just let the flags speak for themselves...
My Italian neighbors apparently went crazy whilst trying to figure out who performed this flag midnight flag change, posting things to Facebook, and calling all their friends and family. He finally recalled our conversation from weeks past and thought it was probably me, so he went and posted a sign thanking me.
Since then we have been as close as family, all due to the crazy actions of their neighborhood vexillologist. Flags welcome people and not only represent our heritage and nationality, but can be the arbiters of diplomacy, from official state visits to the smallest dinner.
My grandfather was a naval engineer who travelled frequently to Scandinavia for business meetings. He spoke often of one of his favorite restaurants in Sweden that always put your country's flag on the table, paired with the Swedish cross. That custom resonated with me, and I continue it today. So I say to you, go make friends with flags, and if that isn't up your alley, make an effort to represent your guests in some manner should they be coming from afar to your table. They will likely appreciate your effort and knowledge.