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Interview with Laura Lipari Part IV: Teaching

Laura, Charlie Curro, Virginia, Angela Curro, and Tom

First Time Teaching

Right out of college I got my first teaching position. I enjoyed teaching very much. I loved to teach History. I was very lucky because I graduated during the depression and no one had jobs, but I got a job. I was in college and right after graduation one girl said to me that there was an opening for an Italian teacher at a high school. She said that she did not get it because she didn’t know Italian and I went right down and received the job. We celebrated on the Friday and on Monday I went to teach. I didn’t have any time to plan lessons and so forth. When I arrived to the school the principal told me to take my hat off and said, “You look like one of the students! You seem too young.” And I responded saying, “It will make me closer to the children because I will understand them better.” My parents didn’t say anything or make me do it, but my mom was thrilled for me. I taught Italian and French during the daytime, and Spanish at night. With all the languages I spoke, I ended up speaking Chinese! Those Italian students had a lot of challenges and she helped them very much. She organized two plays and filled the auditorium. She directed the plays and received much credit for her work. There was a big Italian community. She had kids that were even a part of the orchestra and the Italian Council came too.

The Pride of a Sicilian

My grandfather, on my dad’s side, had borrowed money from my dad but he died before he was able to pay my dad back. Well my grandmother, who was an only child, had a great sense of pride. She had her wedding gifts still and she decided to sell part of her property to pay my dad back. Well that bothered my mother because she knew where the pride of the Sicilian came from. You learn, not so much anymore, but up until the time when I was living in Sicily, it was known that the pride of Sicilian was his ownership of land that was his family’s. In other words, the pride of a Sicilian was his land that was passed down through generations. Well, this land my grandmother had sold came from the family and when she sold it she just got left with her house and her small piece of property; not the land that she grew up on and was familiar with from growing up on. So my mother knew that my grandmother was grieving from this loss. My father was in agreement with her to give it back to her; but my grandmother wouldn’t take it from my father–she was too proud. So my mother thought that they would go straight to the notary in Sant’Agata, the town my grandmother is from in Sicily which is a Northeastern province in Sicily, and make it so that this property goes back to her and she couldn’t do anything about it. So my father wanted to go to try and give the land back to my grandmother in Sant’Agata. But in order to do so in Europe you have to have a notary. In order to do anything in Europe you had to have a notary! I used to tease and say, “You would have to have a notary before you were born!” “You have to have a notary to get engaged!” “You have to have a notary when you get married!” The notary in Europe is not like in America where you pay $5 and have them sign documents. In Europe and Italy especially, the notary is almost the entire escrow department! So in Europe, in order to be a notary, you have to have a college degree. Besides having a college degree, you have to go for an extra year, to a special notary school. The notary is who you take everything too; so really you are a notary and a lawyer! The notary of Sant’Agata was in fact my future father-in-law and he was who my father went to see. He took a state exam because you don’t just become a notary and anyone can come to you, you have to be recognized by the government that you have that power; as a notary you have to know the rules. So what happens after you pass the exam is you try to get a job with another notary temporarily, wait for a spot to open. That’s true with Spain, France and I think Germany too. I don’t know about England. Right after my father-in-law graduated from the notary school, there was a notice in the newspaper for about a month; one whole sheet saying that on a certain day in Rome the state would hold exams for those seeking a notary position and so forth and they are classified. So my father-in-law naturally went to the exam dressed up very respectable and very nice. All the people that went to the exam were in extremely formal attire. He ranked third highest on the test, so they called him and said, “You are the third highest, you have the right to choose where you want to work third.” So on a great big board was the list of all the locations that were available and where exactly they were located. So my father-in-law took Sicily first, he didn’t take Italy, he took Sicily. Then he saw Sant’Agata in the Northeast of Sicily. Well his whole family is in Militello, the mountain right next to Sant’Agata and since Sant’Agata was like a second home to him he chose it. Being the notary of Sant’Agata was not only Sant’Agata though, it included: Caronia, Militello, San Marco, Aqua Dulce, all these neighboring towns too. My father-in-law’s title was, “His Excellency Giovanni Lipari.” An example of his importance was, say, during the war–if there was no other officials–he was to take the place of the Governor of the province. I didn’t know this of my father-in-law until I went back after I was married and I saw an envelope on the desk with his title and so forth on it. So my father went to see him whenever he needed notary work done when he was in Sicily. There was a close friendship between my daddy, my husband, and my father-in-law.  My father-in-law knew my daddy from before and when my daddy went to Europe he would always have a few words with my father-in-law. Please Note that this is the first part in an extended series by Gabrielle Lipari on the life of writer Laura Lipari.