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Laura Lipari Interview Part XI: The Decision

The Decision

The decision was made and here is how it happened. Once I was back my mother was very impressed with his letters. She never said that I could not marry him. A lot of people did not think he would truly come and marry me. They said to my mother, “He will not marry your daughter.” And I also received letters telling me not to marry him. Well the reason I decided to marry my husband was because of those letters. In those days there was no phone between Europe and America and because of the Depression, the boats with telegrams were limited to once a week. I didn’t know at the time, but many of the Europeans that would eventually travel to America had to first go to Naples. Because Naples, like Messina in Sicily, was famous for its harbor. So my dad would tease me and say, “The boats only left after they received the letters,” because I received a letter from every boat that traveled here from Italy. Every week we got letters. I would go into my bedroom and close the door and read the letters privately, then share them with mother and Virginia. If I thought the letters he wrote to me before were nice, these letters were so much more. I just kept saying, “Oh lord, why couldn’t he have been born here in America?” That would have been a easier decision. And my sister said to me, “If I ever were to become engaged, I wish I could meet someone that could write like him.” The professor at the university even said to me, “Please encourage him to write, he has a gift to write.” They wanted him to write a book even, but my husband was a dreamer. He has good ideas, but anyways.

The decision to leave your family because of the decision to love someone?

I thought to myself the only thing about not loving my husband right away really depended on me not wanting to leave my family. I was very close to my family and I feared leaving them. So finally I said to my mother, “Mom let’s put an end to this thing here,” in other words, let’s figure out what to do. So I took the bible and said, “Lord, guide me.” I read the story of Ruth and Naomi in the bible to help me find answers. When Naomi lost her two sons and husband during a famine in Moab, she was going to come back to Jerusalem, by that time Jerusalem was free again. Naomi told her two daughter-in-law’s, who were not from Jerusalem that they could return to their own mothers and remarry. The elder of the two women went home, but Ruth stayed with her mother-in-law. Ruth said to Naomi, “No, I will go with you. Your God will be my God, and your people will be my people.” So they traveled back to Jerusalem together and they were both welcomed home. If a man was married to a Jewish girl, as Naomi’s son married Ruth, and he died the brother was to take the place in his marriage. When he had children with her he would name those children after the late brother and so forth. Well Naomi had no more sons, so the next in kin assumed the role of a male relative and married Ruth. She married Boaz and they had a baby, Jacob. Further along descended from this couple came Jesus, so Naomi became the great grandmother of Jesus. So I said, “Lord, could this be the answer.” Ruth and Boaz came from two different places but still managed to make their union prosperous. So we decide to invite Felice to America. He was to come not as my fiancé, but just as a guest of the family. I kept postponing and changing my mind to have him come, but finally he said, “I have already bought my tickets and I am coming.” So we prepared for his arrival. Unfortunately, he came in the month of February and it was one of the worst boat trips that was ever made. The ocean was in much turmoil and my husband got very sick on board. When he arrived he looked pretty bad. My dad went to New York to meet Felice and bring him to Ohio. He was with us almost an entire month, but I would get up in the morning and I left to teach school. I spent very little time with him while he was here. I had papers to grade and schoolwork to attend to. Finally, as we were going down the steps in the home in Cleveland, Felice turned towards me and said, “I don’t think you love me.” And I asked him why. And he said, “Because if your mother told you not to marry me, you wouldn’t. Isn’t that so?” And I thought to be honest and said, “Felice, nobody loves me more than my mother. So if she told me not to marry you, I would have to think about it very seriously. So maybe I wouldn’t.” And he said, “So you don’t love me!” And I said, “Felice, if you don’t think I love you, why don’t you go back to Italy and see if I miss you!” He said, “So that is your answer! Well I’ve had it!” He said he was leaving now immediately. He ran down the stairs and talked to my brother and said to get him the next available ticket to leave! So in a week’s time he had a boat ticket and so forth and he was gone. I didn’t kiss him before he left. When he was in New York, before he boarded the boat, he sent me a telegram. He had met one of the men who was to be his roommate on the boat going back. This man was engaged to an American girl and he told Felice that he doesn’t truly trust American women because they believe in divorce and take it very easily. He told my husband of a Korean girl who was divorced three or four times even. Felice wrote me and said he was worried to be away from me and that he was worried I would forget about him and move on. I wrote him back a telegram telling him I would not do that to him. I told him for the first time in that letter that I loved him and said I think I will marry him. So he didn’t leave and came back to Cleveland. My mother said to Felice to give her a year to teach me how to properly run a house, but he jokingly said, “I didn’t know you had schools that can train a bride to be how to be a wife.” But he said don’t worry and so forth. My mother and Felice talked often since they were both from Sant’Agata and I usually left early for work. So they talked a lot and my mom once expressed to Felice that she worried about me taking care of the house and that she didn’t want me to be lonely. But Felice told my mother, “Don’t worry. I know I can make her love me and she will have the best and never be lonely.”

Decision about a dress?

So Felice’s decision was to take my measurements so he could bring the wedding dress from Italy. I remember standing on the chaise lounge as he measured my bust, stomach, and hips; I was bit embarrassed but my mother was there. So when he went to Italy he went to one of the best seamstresses in Palermo. The seamstress said, “She may be short, but her proportions are perfect!” I always bought dresses but they were too long. Luckily my mother was an excellent seamstress that would alter them for me! Felice asked me, “When do you want to get married?” and I told him I couldn’t do it before September since I had to finish teaching school and summer school. Plus my mother was trying to prepare me for living there without her and so forth. So we decided September 24th, 1938 to get married at St. John’s Cathedral in Cleveland. I can recall my mama sitting on the side porch embroidering my initials on my wedding clothing and so forth. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, my mother and I didn’t say much to one another about me leaving. I think we both knew that when the time came for us to say goodbye it would be very tragic. We all knew it was going to be very emotional when I left.

The decision becomes reality.

The night before the wedding I couldn’t sleep. So I got up and went into my parent’s bedroom and they let me sleep in the middle of the two of them. Just before the wedding I was in the bath when my mother walked in, this was the only time my mother saw me naked since I was a child. She walked up to me and said, “May God bless you and keep you.” She prayed while I was in the tub and said to me, “Because you have never given me a hard time. You have been obedient and are a great daughter. Honey, I give you my blessing.” I think at that point I was crying more than the water in the tub!