Gianni e Lilia
Updated: Nov 2
If my dad had lived another year, today he and my mom would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. The above photo, with the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizzi in the background, was made on the banks of the Arno in 1962. I came along about a year and a half later.
He was the eldest male of 4 siblings, she the eldest of three, with two younger brothers. He was working as a teller in a bank when my maternal grandmother Francesca walked in and quickly sized him up as someone her daughter should meet. A case of opposites attracting, no doubt. She was ebullient and a tad rebellious, he was serious, reserved and essentially conservative (though his politics always leaned leftwards). I have many memories of my mom deciding, over breakfast, to invite 8 people to dinner and my dad despairing. Then, once everyone came over with the conversation rolling and mom somehow producing course after course from the kitchen, he was beaming. "You might surprise yourself", I once said with regard to whatever but I clearly remember how the phrase amused my dad. I think he saw something of his marriage with my mom in it.
Every marriage is a journey of sorts and theirs was high-mileage, figuratively and literally. From humble beginnings (both lost their fathers in the aftermath of the second world war) they combined grit, brains and courage to arrive at and then accept an invitation extended by my dad's employer to move to New York City in the late sixties. They thrived there, reveling in the city's scale, energy and complexity. They stayed for over 30 years.
Poggiosole, purchased in 1999, was their homecoming. They were both around 70 years old and had always lived in urban centers. They missed New York at first, but over time they saw how all that grass, sun, and fresh air could make for a good place to grow old.
"America is for the young", my dad said shortly before moving back to Italy. Perhaps true, and certainly an understandable view for a family man whose mother, siblings and nieces had remained in Italy all the years he and his wife lived abroad. Still, he'd gambled on building a life elsewhere, and though it took him away from his roots, it was a wager he and my mom had won, in my view. Above all, they had each made it possible for the other. As I was thinking about writing this tribute I realized the title of my previous post, Rock and roll, could have worked as well for this one. He was her rock, she provided plenty of roll. It wasn't always a smooth ride, but it was a good ride to be on.