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Rose Masciello's Autobiography - Chapter One

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Chapter One

Giovanni at End of World War One


The townspeople were gathered on their front door steps, at their windows, and on their balconies. The sides of the cobblestone
streets were lined with men, women and children in anticipation of the long awaited event.

It was a winter day but under the sunny cloudless sky of Roccamena, a small town near the now infamous town of Corleone in
Sicily, Italy, it seemed more like a cool welcome early spring.

In the midst of joyful sounds ringing through the streets, the clatter of approaching marching feet became louder and louder. The
Italian troops had arrived. Flags were waved wildly and the shouting began to sound like loud Hallelujahs. Hearts were filled with
gratitude and admiration as the young soldiers in their khaki uniforms marched into their town.

On one of the balconies Signor Stefano Palmeri’s four young daughters were waving to the soldiers passing by. One of the soldiers
couldn’t help but notice the smiling young girls, and was instantly attracted to Giovanna. At eighteen years of age, she was the oldest,
and the tallest, a whole fie feet-two inches. She waved her flag in his direction much like the way she might have fanned herself flirtatiously
with a beautiful Spanish fan.

Because the streets were narrow and the balconies rather low, Giovanni, the soldier, found himself marching close to her balcony. He
was tempted to salute her or perhaps blow a kiss up to her, but instead his heart memorized her olive skin, her warm brown eyes and
the dark chestnut hair that bounced softly around her shoulders.

Little did Giovanni know that Giovanna was wondering where this handsome soldier had gotten his beautiful bright blue eyes. If
opposites attract, this was proof of it. He was fair-skinned with long wavy hair– and those eyes! Giovanna watched the young soldier
until he had marched out of sight.

He was engulfed in the throng of townspeople who had felt the ravages of war for four long years. The sound of exploding bombs
was still ringing in their ears when finally the news reached them that on November 11, 1918 the Peace Treaty ending the First
World War had been signed. The joy of these poor, peace-loving people was boundless. They had hungered for peace, and
here were the soldiers, back from the war. Men, women and children continued waving flags, saluting and shouting their heartfelt
greetings. Fathers lifted their infants high into the air to get a glimpse of these heroic soldiers who fought in “the war to end all wars.”

As Giovanni marched with his troop he occasionally looked back to capture a glimpse of the girl on the balcony once more, but
she was nowhere in sight. He would remember the part of town where he had seen her and search for her.

The townspeople continued their celebration. Families embraced one another, crying and shouting their gratitude up to the heavens.
The war was over. Their sons, husbands, brothers and sweethearts were returning home. Mingled with tears of joy, were tears of
grief, shed for the loved ones who had lost their lives in the war.

Giovanni marched on, filled with gratitude that he was one of the fortunate soldiers returning back to their families. He looked
forward to being once again in Catania with his parents, sisters and brothers, but the vision of that dark-eyed girl on the balcony
would not leave him.

The troops moved further on towards their destination. They were to be transported by military carriers to Palermo. There these
weary soldiers would find their separate modes of transportation for the remainder of the journey home: ships, trains or perhaps
horses hitched to colorfully painted Sicilian wagons.

The memories of foxholes and bombings would slowly start to fade as they feasted their eyes on the beautiful hilly countryside,
covered with orchards and fruit trees. These young soldiers were exhausted but inspired by the thought of seeing their loved ones again.

While the townspeople of Roccamena were still celebrating the return of their beloved heroes, Giovanna wondered if she would
ever see the captivating golden-haired soldier again.

Giovanni would soon be home, embraced by family and friends. His first responsibility was to his family, but he knew deep
in his heart, that he must, and would see that girl on the balcony again and very soon.