The author would like to invite the reader to take a journey with her back in time.
I am writing this novel about my family who lived in the late 1800s. My parents, Michael and his wife Filomena Dell’Orfano, were born 1878 and 1882, respectively. Chusiano di San Domenico d’ Avellino is a small town in the Province of Avellino in the Region of Campania in Naples, Italy.
Raffael and Camella Dell’Orfano lived there with their sons, Massimeno and Michele. The Dell’Orfano family and others in that area were identified as Bianco or “whiteheads“ due to their fair skin, blond and red haired.
During the day, the boys went to school and afterward worked in the fields, and learned the value of hard work at a young age. Later, Michele became interested in a young lady by the name of Filomena, though his father disapproved.
After a longtime disagreement between father and son, Michele, decided to marry his long time girl friend, Filomena, and left the homestead where he was born and raised. Later, Michele made his way to America, to build a new life for his family.
Creating a new identity is never easy. They struggled, but their love keeps them strong as they remember the old country and looked forward to their new land.
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An Immigrant's Tale of Life in America
By Abettina Dell'Orfano Morano
iUniverseCopyright © 2014 Abettina Dell'Orfano Morano
All rights reserved.
Raffael and his wife, Camella, owned a successful vineyard. They lived in an elite section of town and were well known in their community.
In the 1800s, Italian marble was plentiful, and many contractors used it for countertops, as well as in other areas of the home, because it was a durable material. Raffael and Camella had a large kitchen. Their dining room was adjacent to a lovely living room with murals on the walls.
Raffael's right-hand man, Miguel, was the supervisor of his vineyard. Miguel visited Raffael regularly, always accompanied by his daughter, Amelia, a cute fifteen-year-old who was still her daddy's special girl. Amelia loved these visits to Raffael and Camella's house, because she liked their son, Michele, and always hoped to see him there. Michele was polite when Amelia visited, but a casual hello was the extent of his conversation with her.
Chusiano di San Domenico d'Avellino was a tight-knit village. The residents created what they called a neighborhood club, which met once a month. Each resident donated a couple of pennies each month so the village could hold an annual food festival. Camella and the other women in the neighborhood were enthusiastic about the festival and searched for their favorite recipes for the cooking contest. The Italians, like people of many nationalities, were good cooks, with appetites to match.
Every year the villagers looked forward to their spring festival. They voted for two people to organize the food event, and counting the ballots to determine the winner of the contest. The lucky victor would receive a new set of cookware and various utensils. Camella was chosen as one of the hostesses, who along with an assistant would help arrange the event. As one of the hostesses, Camella offered to hold the festival on the spacious grounds of her home.
The day had arrived for the festival—a beautiful, sunshiny Italian day. As the fiesta was about to begin, the villagers noticed that there was a strange woman present, accompanied by a young girl. The ladies chatted among themselves, wondering where the woman had come from and how she had found out about their food festival.
That woman, who lived in a small village on the other side of the mountain, had brought her favorite dish to the festival and placed it on the large table already groaning under the weight of all the delicious food on display. She also shared her recipe with the other participants.
The men had set up wooden tables on the lawn, and Camella and her assistant had dressed them with red-and-white cloths, with napkins to match.
Everyone was in a cheerful mood, chatting with one another, examining the new set of cookware on display, and tasting the delicious samples that had been prepared earlier. The people took their time walking around the grounds; the aroma of the foods and pastries made it difficult to decide on the tastiest dish or dessert, because everything looked and smelled so good.
After a fun-filled day of socializing, the sunlit hours gave way to the shadows of the evening, and the hostess announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to cast your vote. Please fold your paper and place it in the ballot box provided."
The people of the neighborhood were excited and obliging and made their choices for the tastiest dish. With a couple of neighbors looking on, Camella and her assistant counted the ballots. The residents waited in happy anticipation of the announcement of the winner.
When they learned that the winner was not one of them, the residents were very upset and began murmuring.
"It isn't fair that a stranger should win the prize when she doesn't even live in our town," one woman said.
"We have to bring this up at our next meeting!" another person shouted.
Many neighbors grumbled, adding to the general feeling of distress.
Camella and her helper introduced themselves to the winner. They learned that her name was Maria Cataldo, and she lived on the other side of the mountain. Maria was accompanied by her young daughter, Filomena, whom Maria introduced to Camella.
Camella congratulated Maria on her fabulous dish and kindly chatted with her about the recipe. Maria was happy to explain how she made her tasty veal marsala, speaking shyly at first, but then more eagerly as she described the preparation of her prizewinning entry.
"I precooked the veal, cut it into thin slices, and flavored it with parsley, lemon, wine, cheese, and olive oil," she said. "Then I minced some shallots in olive oil and sautéed them until they were soft and translucent. I added some chicken stock and some sliced, raw beef with mushrooms, and I sprinkled it with mozzarella cheese and oregano leaves. Then I topped the whole thing off with parmesan cheese and with sides of grilled eggplant, capers, and a tasty tomato sauce. Then I baked the dish in the oven at medium heat."
Throughout Maria's recounting, Camella listened carefully, nodding now and then to encourage her. When Maria was finished, Camella congratulated her once again for winning the contest and the new set of cookware. Camella asked Maria, "How did you learn about our food festival?"
Maria said, "Your son, Michele, told my daughter, Filomena, about the festival, and she thought it would be fun if I baked one of my favorite recipes."
When the women in the neighborhood saw that Camella had befriended this stranger, they accepted her decision and remained quiet about their objections from that point on.
Filomena's father had died at an early age.
Over time, Camella and Maria exchanged recipes and experimented with new dishes. Their common interest in various foods grew into a friendship; Maria visited Camella every week, accompanied by her young daughter, Filomena.
Filomena was a tall, quiet girl, the same age as Amelia. She worked part-time as a seamstress in a tailor's shop, and she was talented at embroidery and other handicrafts. She enjoyed going to Camella's house with her mother, and the weeks when Maria had to work, Maria would send Filomena in her place to deliver her new recipes.
There were times when Camella would bake one of Maria's recipes and was anxious to get Maria's opinion about the result. The three women frequently lunched together at Camella's house, enjoying the tasty flavor of Maria's creative dishes.
Michele got used to seeing Filomena at his house, chatting with his mother about foods, and over time he took a liking to her. One day when Filomena was ready to leave his house, Michele offered to walk her home, and she accepted, to his shy delight.
Before long, a relationship had developed between Michele and Filomena. One day when Filomena was at Michele's house, he followed her into the pantry and lovingly kissed her. Camella saw Michele embrace Filomena; Camella just smiled.
When Michele finished his day's work on the farm, he would sit on the hillside and wait for Filomena to come down from the other side of the mountain, knowing she had a half day of school. She traveled the same dusty footpath through the hills and woodlands as the few children who went to school.
Over time, Michele's relationship with Filomena matured, and they began seeing each other more frequently. Michele's father, Raffael, saw the attention his son gave the girl and was unhappy, because he was planning for his son to marry Amelia.
A year passed, and one day when Raffael was sitting in his living room, going over some records regarding the vineyard, he saw Michele take Filomena into his arms and kiss her. Raffael was alarmed, and from that moment on he disliked Filomena.
Soon afterward, Raffael saw the young couple chatting. He was disturbed about the attention Michele gave Filomena, and he wanted to put a stop to their relationship. He disliked Filomena because she was not from their side of the mountain. When he spoke with his wife about the growing relationship between his son and "that peasant girl," he learned that Camella liked Filomena.
Raffael then had a fatherly talk with his young son. "Filomena is just a peasant girl," he said. "Don't get involved with her; she lives on the other side of the mountain."
Michele was happy to speak about Filomena with his father. "Papa, I like her," he said.
At that, Raffael almost choked with anger. Waving his hands in the air, he shouted, "Stay away from her! She's just a peasant girl!"
Despite his father's opposition, Michele and Filomena continued to see each other. They loved to sit on the rise overlooking his father's vineyard. The land around the town was hilly, and off in the far distance, on top of the highest knoll, was Raffael's grape arbor, where vines were laden with clusters of grapes wound in and out of a wooden trellis. This lovely place had an entrance that was shaped like an arch. There was a rounded bench where people could sit and relax. Michele and his brother, Massimeno, often sat there to chat about their day's work, and frequently the brothers and Filomena would sit there together because it was shady, and the view was peaceful. When the wind was high, they could hear the sound of the leaves on the vines rustling together like a soft melody. They listened to the swish of the fluttering leaves and imagined that the leaves were whispering together.
Michele had been troubled for several days about his father's anger over his relationship with Filomena, and so one day, as he and Massimeno sat above the arbor, Michele talked about the conversation he'd had with their father.
"Massimeno, I love Filomena," Michele said. "One day I hope to marry her."
Wondering why his father had become so upset, Massimeno replied, "Michele, if you love her, tell Papa. I'm sure he will understand. I think she is a lovely person, and it shouldn't matter where she lives, even if it is on the other side of the mountain or elsewhere."
Michele felt better after speaking with his brother.
The vineyard workers picked the grapes and crated the fruit for market. They tended to the grapevines faithfully, because nocturnal animals liked the taste of the moist, sweet roots of the vines and would gnaw at them every night if no one was there to guard them.
As the Christmas holidays approached, Raffael and Camella decided to have a big New Year's Eve party to celebrate their successful grape crop that year. Raffael wanted to enjoy the holiday with his right-hand man, Miguel, and his wife, and the vineyard workers and their wives, so he could congratulate the men for the good job they had done and the fine crop they had harvested.
Meanwhile, Camella and Maria had continued to see each other regularly and share recipes. They also were teaching young Filomena how to cook tasty Italian dishes. One day, Filomena made up a recipe of her own. She was so excited about it that she gave Camella a sample of her new dish. Camella loved it, and so she suggested to Maria that Filomena do the preparation and cooking for the special New Year's Eve meal and get an opinion of her new recipe from the holiday guests. The two matriarchs agreed on the plan, smiling because they knew this feast would be prepared with tender loving care.
Camella bought a lovely holiday apron for Filomena, who was delighted by the surprise.
The night of the party, arriving guests were directed to the living room, where they were offered the drink of their choice before the meal. Filomena set the table using Camella's best china and crystal. Moments later, when everything was ready, Camella beckoned to Filomena to call the guests to dinner.
The aroma of Filomena's cooking permeated the house, and the guests were indeed ready to eat. They rose from the comfort of their easy chairs and walked to the dining room, where they sat down at a large, round table.
As the meal got underway, Raffael looked at Miguel and around the table at the others, and he spoke about the work his employees had done and how he was looking forward to another good yield of grapes the next season. Everyone was happy, sipping their spirits and enjoying conversations with one another.
While various discussions went on at the table, Filomena stood quietly, as a servant, by the pantry door, listening with respect whenever Raffael and Miguel spoke. She remained there after she served the hors d'oeuvres, recalling her visits to Michele's house and the tension between herself and Raffael. Her impression was that Raffael didn't like her, although she didn't know why, and she felt rejected. But she quickly cast that thought aside, because tonight was a happy occasion.
Filomena walked out of the kitchen with a large serving tray and placed a roasted leg of lamb in the center of the holiday table. She also served lasagna stuffed with eggs mixed with ricotta and Romano cheese, plenty of parsley, black pepper, salt, and an array of Italian herbs.
Her tasty, versatile pasta sauce contained farm-grown tomatoes seasoned with oregano and garlic and an assortment of meats—veal, lamb, and steak—for extra flavor. She had a tasty side dish of penne primavera made with fresh vegetables and her famous spiced sauce filled with sweet Italian sausage. It was difficult to choose between her desserts: pies, layer cakes, and Italian cookies.
Michele's father commented on the nice aroma of the cuisine, and the expression on his face showed how much he loved the flavor of the veal dish. With a big grin on his face, he looked at his wife and complimented her on the dish's tangy flavor. Camella was pleased to hear that her husband liked the tasty dish.
"Raffael, I'm so glad you are enjoying the new flavors," she said, "because Filomena did all the preparation and cooking for tonight's dinner." Raffael remained quiet.
During the conversation that night, Filomena heard Raffael and Miguel exchanging views on various topics. Raffael and Miguel spent most of the evening talking about their work, and the two men enjoyed another glass of Raffael's choice wine. Miguel again congratulated Raffael on his fine harvest that year.
After waiting to see if anyone needed anything, Filomena began clearing the soup bowls from the table to make space for the other dishes she had prepared. Seeing that the rolls in the breadbasket were gone, she brought more hot bread from the oven and placed it on the table. In doing so she overheard Miguel say something to Raffael indicating that Amelia was soon to wed Michele. Raffael went on to speak about his plans for his future daughter-in-law, Amelia.
Filomena did not know what to make of that information. She felt hurt and confused, because she and Michele had planned to be married.
When Filomena got the chance, she slipped away to speak with Michele and tell him what she had heard. Michele was confused, as well, because he was not aware of having made any such commitment to Amelia, and he'd never had any intention of marrying her. He comforted Filomena. "I don't know where that information came from," he said. "I was respectful and polite whenever I saw Amelia at my house, but a casual hello was as far as my conversations with her went." He told Filomena he would discuss the matter with his father.
After dinner, the men retired to the living room, and Michele looked for an opportunity to speak with his father about his intention to marry Filomena. He sat down beside his father on the couch and listened as Raffael spoke with Miguel about the vineyard. Michele waited patiently for a lull in the conversation, because he wanted to put the topic of marriage to rest.
Sensing that his son wanted to speak, Raffael said in a gruff voice, "What is it, son? Speak up—what's on your mind?" Miguel thought that perhaps Michele had some new ideas to express about the vineyard, and so he listened carefully.
As Michele started to speak, he saw that Miguel was very interested in what he had to say, taking another sip of wine and settling more comfortably in his chair. Michele began to verbalize his thoughts, saying, "With due respect, Papa, I would like to speak with you alone."
"Anything you have to say can be said right here," Raffael said testily. "Miguel is my right-hand man, and I hide nothing from him."
With great control, Michele continued, "I want you to know, Papa, that Filomena and I are planning to get married."
When his father heard what his son had said, his world was shaken. Miguel also was taken aback, because he and Raffael were making plans for his daughter, Amelia, to wed Michele. Shocked and dismayed, Miguel listened carefully.
Excerpted from Fading Shadows by Abettina Dell'Orfano Morano. Copyright © 2014 Abettina Dell'Orfano Morano. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 The Vineyard, 1,
Chapter 2 The Challenge, 14,
Chapter 3 The Arrival, 31,
Chapter 4 Mr. Citizen, 41,
Chapter 5 The Reunion, 56,
Chapter 6 Slow and Easy, 76,
Chapter 7 Mike's Dream, 93,
Chapter 8 Kegs of Wine, 104,
Chapter 9 The Conflict, 123,
Chapter 10 Silent Moment, 139,
Chapter 11 Weekend Party, 156,
Chapter 12 Collision Course, 176,
Chapter 13 Dazzling Lights, 195,
Chapter 14 Sorrow Visited, 213,
Chapter 15 New Life, 236,
Chapter 16 Bewildered, 254,
Chapter 17 Plea for Help, 276,
Chapter 18 Turbulent Rivers, 298,
Chapter 19 The Angry Sea, 319,
Chapter 20 Rocky Road, 339,
Chapter 21 The Separation, 359,
Chapter 22 Song for Filomena, 376,
Chapter 23 Night Shadows, 391,
Chapter 24 The Crash, 403,
Chapter 25 Coming Home, 420,
Chapter 26 World War II, 439,
Chapter 27 Deleco, 466,
Chapter 28 Passing Shadows, 485,
Chapter 29 Twilight, 503,
Chapter 30 Faded Photographs, 515,
Chapter 31 Return to the Elements, 547,
About the Author, 567,