Tony Abruzzi combed his wavy white hair, donned his blue and tan plaid sports coat then tied on a sky blue tie. He smiled slightly in approval of his image in the mirror. Not too bad for a man of eighty three he thought. In fact he did not look to be more than seventy. On this lovely Autumn day, his daughter Diane was taking him to the Italian Fest.
The annual Italian Festival used to beheld in the old Italian Village at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church on Hamlet and Lincoln Street. Now so many new apartment buildings had been built there. The number of people attending had grown so large, it was now held in Goodale Park and even there it was crowded each of the three days of festivities.
Diane would wear her blue jeans and t-shirt. “ it’s casual” she had remarked and “it’s going to be very warm”. No one dressed up for any occasion these days, but Tony always wanted to dress well and with style, just as he always had.
Back in 1962, he had bought a home there, the same year his wife Sophia gave birth to his first son Michael. Joey was born in 1965, then Diane came in 1969. It was a good house with plenty of light and plenty of room for his family. The air always smelled of fresh baked bread because it was near the big bakery in the village where he had worked for thirty years
Many ethnicities lived in this tight knit community but folks began to call it Italian Village because on any Sunday morning you would see a couple hundred Italian families walking from their homes to Saint John’s. After mass there would be handshakes and hugs, checking on friends and catching up on local gossip before walking back home for breakfast.
He had taken Diane to the festival when she was a young girl, walking to it holding her little hand. Now she was waiting for him downstairs at the assisted living apartments where he lived. He was happy to see her and hugged and kissed her and was ready to go.
Diane drove around several minutes looking for a nearby parking spot but none was to be found.
“I’ll let you out here and go to the parking garage. Go into that first tent, that big white one. You can sit down in there and I’ll meet you in about twenty minutes. Will that be ok? ”
“ Well, sure...that’ll be fine”he said as she pullled over and let him out.
As he walked slowly to that big tent he saw a teenage boy sitting on a camp stool playing guitar. He listened and when he finished his song, Tony clapped his hands. Tony noticed on the other side of the walkway, a food truck offering rigatoni and meatballs in a bowl made of bread. Next to that was a lemonade stand, then a stand with pastries and pizzelles , and then a vendor selling pizza by the slice. Tony was starting to get hungry. All these vendors had long lines of customers. Tony wondered if those two old sisters would be there with their famous apple dumpling stand. for many years they had worked at the fair. They were two very nice ladies.
So very many people walking beside in front and behind him , it seemed like some sort of parade. Then he saw up ahead someone he recognized.
“Tomas! Hey, Tomas!”
Tomas kept walking. Tony walked as fast as he could to try to catch up with his old pal, then realizing it was not Tomas at all, just someone who resembles him.
Then he saw the big white tent and went in. There were folding chairs and long tables. He found a place at a table with a few people sitting enjoying their lemonades. He saved a place for Diane.
A few minutes later, a middle aged woman with dark dyed hair,in black capris and wine colored shirt came to the table across from him. She must be Italiene, he thought. She wears the map of Italy on her face. She had placed someone , in a transport chair, at the short end of the table between Tony and herself.
Tony turned his attention there to see a most beautiful lady. Petite, not even five feet tall, her skin was luminescent, fair and without a flaw. Her white hair was nicely arranged and she had on a big brimmed straw hat with a pale blue ribbon band . She wore a very feminine floral print dress in lavender, peach and blue and over this she had a vivid blue cardigan. He noticed her slender hands trembled somewhat. PD no doubt, that which was once known as shaking palsy.
“I’m Tony Abruzzi” he introduced himself as he stood up. “May I ask your name?”
“ I’m Viola. Nice to meet you.” She smiled. “ this is my daughter-in-law, Marilyn” she told him.
Tony smiled broadly. “ I’m pleased to meet you both. My daughter Diane will be joining me shortly. She went to park her car.”
Diane arrived at the first big white tent and looked all around for her dad. So many people! Not seeing him, she moved up and down between the tables full of people dining, chatting, listening to the music a DJ was playing , all the while looking for her dad. Not finding him , she took out her cell and called his but there was no answer. I shouldn’t have left him she worried. She began to ask strangers if they had seen an elderly man in a sports coat and tie. No one recalled seeing him. How would she ever find him among this throng of thousands? Squinting into the sun as she exited the tent, she noticed a boy with a guitar slung over his shoulder.
“ excuse me, have you seen an elderly man in a blue plaid sports coat in the last half hour?
“Yes, I saw him about twenty minutes ago. He went down that way.” The young man pointed and she started in that direction searching the crowd as she walked.
The lovely woman Tony had just met made his heart beat faster than it had in years. What could he do to impress her? He could sing. He had been a fairly good singer, bu it had been more than a decade since he had sung. Just maybe, he thought I may be good enough to make a favorable impression. He had to try.
“Volare, oh oh...cantare oh oh oh oh...Let’s fly way up to the clouds...away from the maddening crowds...We can sing in the glow of a star that I know of...Where lovers enjoy peace of mind...Let us leave the confusion and all disillusion behind...
When he finished, to his amazement not only was she smiling and clapping, but everyone in the tent was! Tony bowed. People were shouting for him to sing another!
“Yes Tony, please sing another song won’t you?” Said Viola leaning forward. “You have a wonderful voice!”
Tony began “ Al di la...” and everyone quieted to listen
Ahead, Diane saw a second big white tent and as she neared it heard someone singing. She entered and looked on in awe at her father singing to a rapt audience.
What a wonderful time they had the rest of the afternoon , enjoying good food, cold lemonade, arts and crafts, and a variety of music and entertainment. There was folk costumes and folk dancing. And time was spent in the shade of old trees near the pond with the fountain that was a sculpture of two little elephants, time talking and laughing with his new friend Viola.
Tony had some root beer barrel candies in his jacket pocket and offered them to Viola, Diane and Marilyn. He was pleasantly surprised to learn that Viola lived in the same assisted living apartments as he, in the next building. He asked if he might call on her sometime. And she agreed that he could come Tuesday afternoon
When Diane dropped him off at his apartment and they said good bye, Tony took the elevator to his floor softly singing “volare...”