the war-weary troops finally reached the seacoast city of Palermo, they
bid each other farewell with affectionate parting words,
Buona Salute, Buona Fortuna”. They parted, each one eager to start
the journey that would bring him back home and into
the arms of
waiting families. They scrambled to board ships or trains. Those living
short distances away waved and rode away on horseback.
Giovanni was soon settled on a train. He looked out of his window,
almost unaware of the beautiful Sicilian scenery that stretched along
over one hundred miles to his hometown of Misterbianco, Catania. His
thoughts drifted from the intriguing girl on the balcony to his parents,
brothers, and sisters, and back again to the girl waving her flag–
or was it a fan?
meantime, Giovanni’s parents, Rosa and Antonio Consoli, and his brothers
and sisters had gathered outside their humble stone house.
relatives, and neighbors joined them to welcome home their brave, young
hero whom they dearly loved.
Suddenly their chattering stopped. They seemed to hear the sound of
wagon wheels in the distance and excitedly cried out, “It must be
Giovanni”! Yes, it was Giovanni riding in a carriage pulled by two
horses jogging along the familiar dirt road leading right to his
carriage stopped in the midst of the waiting crowd. Out stepped
Giovanni, straight and tall in his uniform. They had not seen him in
three years so they embraced him, kissed him, and he tasted his mother’s
salty tears as they mingled with his own.
parents and siblings gazed at him with pride and love. They touched his
hair and his uniform, and laughed at their own uncontrollable
excitement over this beloved son that God had returned to them.
and Antonio were poor, but with the help of the town’s people, most of
whom were also poor, they managed to prepare a welcoming
for Giovanni that he would always remember.
wooden tables covered with red and white-checkered tablecloths were set
out under sunny skies. Some neighbors brought chairs or
were needed to seat everyone. More tablecloths were placed under the
nearby trees for the children to eat picnic style.
women, so proud of their cooking, brought out platters of pasta
smothered in different kinds of tomato sauces. The cooked varieties
of vegetables had been grown on their own small farms. Different types
of cheeses decorated the tables, and luscious dark grapes
over the apples and oranges, as if waiting to be painted by a great
of homemade bread were broken and passed around. Glasses of wine were
lifted, and, as was the custom, many poetic rhyming toasts
proposed, some in gratitude for the food that they were about to eat,
others asking God for His blessings and thanking Him for Giovanni’s safe
ate, drank, and made merry for hours. The sampling of their homemade
wines went on until their feet loosened, and they were beckoned
the sounds of the accordions to dance The Tarantella. The
children joined in and danced until they became exhausted. Their eyes
close as the stars began twinkling in the dark cool
seemed as if no one wanted the party to end, but it was late; so with
contented hearts and having had their fill of Momma Rosa’s delicacies,
the generous well-wishers lifted their sleepy children in their
arms, and wished Giovanni, his family and one another, “Buona Notte”.
night, safe and sound in his bed, Giovanni looked around the small
bedroom. This wasn’t a dream; it was real. Everything in the room was
just as he remembered it on the day that he left for the army three
glanced towards the tiny clothes closet, which till had no door. His
dusty uniform was hanging there. He quickly moved his gaze to a
small wooden crucifix that hung on the concrete wall opposite his bed.
He let his eyes rest on the cross for a while. Although Giovanni’s
parents were devout Catholics, he had never been very religious. With a
twinge of guilt, he recalled the many time bombs had exploded
overhead while he muttered the prayers of an “atheist in a foxhole”. He
asked himself, “To whom do you turn when it seems there is no
turn to?” Now he knew the answer, and felt a deep sense of peace. As
sleep crowded out his wandering thoughts, he snuggled his
deeper into his pillow. Never before had it felt so soft and comforting
as on this night.
Morning came; Giovanni had slept peacefully though the night. As he
awakened he was greeted by the sun’s rays streaming into his room.
Still half asleep he squinted and shaded his eyes from the glare. For a
moment he gazed at the familiar objects in his room– were they a
dream? No– he was not in his barracks. He was home in his own room. A
feeling of gratitude swept over him. He was now free to
life’s journey that the war had interrupted.
also free to roll over, pull up the covers and enjoy the luxury of being
in his very own bed. He needed time to think of a plan for his
His thoughts rambled on. In spite of his new found freedom Giovanni felt
compelled to help his parents and brothers with the work
family farm required. His two older sisters had been a great help when
they were living at home, but now they were both married
families of their own to take care of.
Rolling over in his bed again, Giovanni wondered where the course of his
destiny would lead him. His thoughts continued to wander
like slowly moving clouds. He reflected on his childhood. Giovanni,
being the last born of five children had been too
young to be of
much use on the farm. Unlike his brothers and sisters he had been sent
to school at an early age, and being a
good student he was
encouraged by his parents to continue his education. Then came the war;
and three years spent in the military.
was older and stronger and felt obligated to join his brothers with
sowing, reaping and bringing in the harvest. His conscience
him, as he had no real fondness for farm work. He might enjoy feeding
the chickens, goats and horses— maybe!
was one returning question left– the girl on the balcony. Not for one
moment had Giovanni forgotten her. He asked himself, “Will I
see my dream girl again”? He prayed for guidance and asked his Dear
Lord, “Am I destined to be a farmer? Will I ever return to school
again? If I return of Roccamena will she be waiting for me?”
prayed for a sign from God to guide him he heard a soft knock on his
door. He hurriedly threw on his bathrobe and with bare feet
tousled hair, he opened the door. His mother cheerfully informed him
that she had a delicious breakfast waiting for him – and then
him a freshly laundered and pressed pair of farmer’s overalls. Giovanni
graciously thanked his mother, but inwardly he thought,
I ask God for a sign and I am handed a pair of overalls!” Fortunately
Giovanni had a good sense of humor and smiled all
the way to the
kitchen where he ate a healthy breakfast-wearing the farmer’s overalls.
breakfast Giovanni joined his brothers who were doing their usual chores
on the farm. They were grateful for having their younger
home again, safe and sound after his three years in the army. Giovanni
felt blessed that he was now able to assist his family. Yet
each pitchfork of hay that he tossed to the animals, Giovanni wondered
if this was to be the end of his life’s journey. He raised his
to the heavens and humbly whispered,” Thy will be done.” He continued
feeding the animals and reflected on the fickleness of life.
Yesterday he had taken off the army uniform that he had worn in the line
of duty, and today his new uniform– baggy farmer’s overalls–
constant reminder that his duty had changed as well. He continued to
work with his two brothers on their farm, but as he fed
chickens, goats and horses, is mind was many miles away longing for the
girl he could not get out of his mind.
Giovanni seemed cheerful as he labored on the farm and although his
conscience was at ease his heart was in turmoil. As time
Giovanni’s family noticed he was becoming despondent. He was pleasantly
surprised one day when his parents decided
that they were doing well
enough for Giovanni to return to school. His brothers also encouraged
him to continue his education
and reassured him that he was not
needed on the farm. They teasingly added, "We didn’t like the way your
overalls fit you anyway!”
Giovanni felt that this was the right
moment to confess his strong desire to return to Roccamena to find the
girl of his dreams.
parents sadly felt their youngest son was not destined to remain at
home. They had suffered a separation from Giovanni
when he was taken
away from them to serve his country– and now this trip! Giovanni, with a
grin on his handsome face and a
twinkle in his bright blue eyes
promised that he would return with a lovely bride.