Skip to content Skip to footer

Cavaliere Felice: interview with Laura Lipari Part VI

Cavaliere Felice

My cousin Rosie, who was fourteen years old at the time, was as tall as I was if not taller with long hair and she was thrilled that she had American cousins. She didn’t have other cousins and here she was with her cousins, walking with them in the promenade. My sister was to my right and Rosie was to my left and one table eventually became free near the back so my uncle got us the table. While we were sitting there, we heard a voice in Italian, “Bring a table and two chairs!” Someone responded, “Right away Cavaliere.” And then we saw the waiter bringing the two chairs and the table and asked, “Cavaliere, where would you like us to put them?” I remember thinking that since it was crowded, why didn’t they have the chairs already out? Anyways, the man told them where to put them and they put it down. They faced the chairs in such a way so they could see everything and included a clear view of us at our table,too. In the meantime, every time my sister would look up from the table she would see a man looking at her. So Virginia said to me in English, “There is a man that keeps looking over here.” I said to my cousin, “Well how about that! Why don’t we do the same thing–order a table and stare at them.” And she said, “Because we aren’t Cavaliere.” Cavaliere is a title; “cavali” is a horse but “Cavaliere” is horseman but can also mean Knight. I remember saying, “How come he can do it?” She said that he was Cavaliere and I asked her what that was. She said, “He could rule the town, if he wanted to.” And I told her, “Oh boy, well he can’t rule me!” The idea that he put it right there and blocked everything. I told Virginia not to pay attention to him. She said to me, “I can’t keep my eyes down all the time. I have to look up and there he is!” We waited a little bit and I started making jokes so we could get our minds off him. I heard my mother say, “Laura, behave!” Followed by, “Virginia, look after your sister.”

(All italics are comments from Aunt Virginia)

He had gorgeous eyes. I would look up and there were these eyes penetrating and I was insulted! He had a boldness about him. Well finally, the people started going home and I thought oh good, we can go! So we got up and started to go home. The first thing I did–right into bed! I remember that bed felt so good. The only thing I forget was to close the shutters. I wasn’t accustomed to closing the shutters at night since we kept ours open in the winter. I was just about to fall asleep, when music began. A night time serenade. I was furious! I got very upset for the intrusion. Just then my uncle said to my mother that we should invite the musicians in and they discussed how to handle it. I remember my uncle saying, “If we ask them for whom they are singing for and they mention it is for one of the girls, they will want to come in and visit.” My mother said she didn’t want to start anything since we were leaving in two days to Perugia.  So he said, “I’ll tell you what, we won’t ask them anything. We will just take it as a welcoming home serenade; welcoming you back to your home town.” Since it was my mother’s home town, that’s how we were going to approach it. So the musicians came up and my uncle and my mother served them little glasses of liquor. We don’t say liquor, we just say a sort of toast drink usually. So they played “Happy Dreams” as their last song and then they left. I remember thinking, “Oh boy, Rosie what time is it?” She told me it was a little past one and I was concerned that the neighbors would be upset. She told me not to worry, that no one was upset and all the balconies on the street were lined with people cranking their heads trying to find out where the serenade was and for whom! The next morning, when we were getting dressed to go to church, my cousin noticed a young man sitting on the bridge over the little river in town. She told my uncle that she had never seen that fellow here before. My uncle looked out and remarked that maybe he was walking to the next town and just decided to sit down and rest a minute. So we passed him and went on to the church. Before arriving, my cousin looked over and said, “That guy is gone!” and I told her that maybe her father was right and he went on to the next town after he finished his rest. In those days we went to church and you got a chair and you would place your chair where you are going to sit. So we got our chairs and placed them facing the alter. While we were sitting there we heard these big heavy footsteps. The two boys took the chairs and placed them up against the column so they could look straight at us. Our cousin was thrilled; “This is interesting,” she thought. We were slightly annoyed because it seemed quite brash of him to do that. But he wasn’t paying attention to the mass which made my sister nervous and she began to pretend to say her rosary. She couldn’t say it and she kept fumbling the beads. We realized that the people around us were curious, because it wasn’t likely for the Cavaliere to go to church! He was so well known that naturally people were speculating, “Why is the Cavaliere here?” They thought it was very unusual. So my sister Virginia said, “Oh no! That thing is here again.” Then Rosie said, “That’s the man that was there last night, remember?” Without turning around to see him, I asked her if he usually came to this mass and she told me that she never sees him there. I noticed though, from the corner of my eye, that if I made the sign of the cross, he made the sign of the cross, and he followed my other moves and I thought, “Oh boy, he is putting on an act of praying.” Then there were two women on the side of the church pretending to fix their shawls and looking around and staring at us. I begin to think that we were bound to be the talk of the town conversation tomorrow. Finally, after taking communion, I was trying to be as saintly as possible and said, “Lord forgive me, I’m not myself and you know I am cursed to know what that guy looks like and can’t say a decent prayer!” I think the lord said to me, “Playing games again!” I wouldn’t look at him though just as I didn’t look at him in the plaza the night before. So when the mass was over, I have a habit, even now, that I wait a little bit to get up and exit till it gets less crowded. So when I thought it was okay for us to get up, I got up and said, “Let’s go!” But as we were nearing the exit door, he was standing right there at the doorway! I remember saying, “Rosie, are there any other exit doors to leave?” She showed us that there was another door. I turned right around, walked down the church, went through the side exit and walked around the building. We passed a corner where the men were sitting at a side café, all the men were sitting there–young and old–and their main thing was to watch the women go by. If I had just put my hand out I would have touched him, but we didn’t know that at the time. I said to the girls, “Don’t look to the right, look straight ahead and keep walking.” It was later that we discovered that he watched us go by and was amused. Then of course it was a long walk home and I told my mom, uncle, and aunt what happened. I wasn’t sure what my aunt and uncle were saying to one another but my mother just said my name in a disapproving way; but I told her that I didn’t even pay notice to him for attention. To be continued.  About the interviewer/author Gabrielle Lipari is the great granddaughter of Italian and Sicilian immigrants. She grew up in Corona, California. She moved to Fort Collins, Colorado where she is pursing a History Degree at University of Northern Colorado. Her passion for History and Women’s Studies motivated her to collaborate with Laura Lipari on A Storyteller’s Life History to gain further insight into the life of an Italian-American as well as a woman of the 20th century. She now spends her free time working in a bookstore/coffee shop, reading, and hiking in the Rocky Mountains with her sister and boyfriend.