Last night I received an unusual photograph from Bruno Sopino: four gentlemen on a tennis court with an award and a sheet that said “W LA FURLAN”. Aurelia Furlan was the teacher of Luigi Malluzzo, the winner of the tennis tournament that took place in Calabria.
But how did we get here? My grandmother used to say “who sows the wind reaps the whirlwind” and apparently she has sown love between children growing up in school for which we are now so many years later reaping the rewards.
After 50 years, some of these “children cum oldish men” had a reunion coming from all over Italy to remember their elementary school teacher and find that the years have not affected their memories and regard for their teacher. They decided to create a group and continue to see each other more often.
One of them, Bruno Sopino, decided to write a book on the history of his town of Colleferro and had contacted me for details on the life of my grandmother. I remained surprised, but life is a pleasant surprise when the heart leads the game.
My grandmother came from Friuli. Precisely, from Sacile, beautifully set on the Livenza river and as such an important strategic border town between the two world wars. There were theaters, a busy life and people could breathe the air of the Belle Epoque. My grandmother was tall and happy to be emancipated: she worked, she earned her living and was independent: first as a secretary of an association of engineers and later as a teacher.
My grandfather was in love with her and wanted her to go with him to the center of Italy where he had moved from Veneto for job opportunities. She was then over 30 years and her mother began to worry that she would not marry, though she was beautiful and had a host of admirers (many of whom had surrendered to the desire for independence by my grandmother, but not Joseph Furlan).
The day Aurelia took the train to come to Lazio she told her mother: “If I do not find him waiting at the station than I will come back up and I will not marry!”. But my grandfather was at the station and the two began living together in Colleferro.
To obtain the transfer as an elementary school teacher from Sacile in Colleferro my grandmother agreed to be fitness instructor during the Fascist Saturday exercises. All children and young people had to go to the stadium to exercise under the guidance of a teacher. I am told that the stadium was full and that many men accompanied the children to see the legs of my grandmother, who taught gymnastics in shorts.
There are many things that I could tell but perhaps the one that I should share is the differences between spoken Veneto and Friuli. She had never lost the native dialect and at home we talked strictly in dialect and there were always “small dialectic clashes” between Friuli and Veneto. We spoke Italian outside the front gate, but inside the walls, Venetian. On Friday yellow polenta with salt cod and Sunday “white polenta with quails”.
And then I remember our tears when we went to the north to visit the rest of the family. Tears that began to flow just after we crossed the Po river, when we stopped in Rovigo to eat what for them was the “true bread” but for me it was an tasteless bread. So my cousins called me “loaf” because I always wondered if they knew the bread we had in Rome that I felt was much more tasty.
Finding this group of friends who proudly display “W la Furlan” moved me and I thank them for having looked for me. And I must say that my grandmother was right not to sow a storm.
When you sow love sooner or later you harvest joy.