September 8, 2009

Stories that need to be told: letter to Sally 13 April 2003

I am here in Elba...the water so clear that the rocks seem like ice in a glass. A perfect day.

Last night was the festa for Luciano's restaurant 'Il Chiasso' as you know.As usual with parties where you don't know but one or two people apart from the host, I was wondering why I came. That odd moment of getting all dressed up and standing around with your plate in your hand and trying to find a corner to put one's glass down. I felt rather like a bird with my plumes spread, somehow there for the looking but not for the talking. Then I heard the name'Lia'. I saw on old woman sitting in the back with longish grey hair and sun glasses on surrounded by people. I realized that this was Luciano's aunt that I had heard so much about but had never met. She is almost 80. She was a student at Columbia when Eisenhower was the president after the war from 1948 to 1953. She studied philosophy and taught in Rome for many years. Lia of the lees..she is the real story. The real story for why you are coming and the real story behind Luciano. She quotes Dante, the Greeks, Shakespeare, sings Frank Sinatra, see's your very soul and drank us all under the table. It might as well have been coffee as her performance grew more intense and passionate without a waver. She was the most awake of all of us in every sense and still going strong until 3 am. Dagmar, Luciano's x wife and I took her home..and she said..Peggy, Peggy, questo e il mio castello! Guarda come bello! Like my aunt Sarah, she lives alone without a car deep in the countryside in a glorified hut. She is half blind but her memory is stellar.
I remember when I came to Elba the first time and met Luciano. I knew then why Fabio was Fabio. He was heavily influenced my Luciano as he spent every summer here in Elba and learned Luciano's gregarious, fearless, rustic ways of cooking. He took it and refined it. His habit of wearing red pants and orange shirts must have come from Luciano, part actor, part clown. Now upon meeting Lia, I see where Luciano took his.
His first trip was with Lia to the movies when he was 10 years old, changed his life. She transported him away from the provinciality of Capoliveri, in his mind, and from there she became his mentor.
The story does not end there. Her sister's family moved to Australia when her children were small. Her nephew's returned grown and gorgeous. She and the youngest one, I believe 8 years her junior, fell in love. It was shocking for everyone including themselves. They asked to be married by permission from the Pope and he granted it. They never married and he died early, from a cause I am not clear on.
These women keep showing up..whether in Alabama, West Virginia, or here in Capoliveri. There stories need to be told.

I'm off to the beach, cara. Soon it will be a conversation 'voce a voce'.
We'll be discussing how sweet the tomatoes taste this time of year..and
how gentle the breeze feels today.

Lia died last year in June, 08. Her 'castello' stacked with books.

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