My father spoke to me from the grave today. I was in the garage looking through old family pictures that were stored in a box and long ago forgotten. Amongst the mostly black and white pictures was an envelope containing letters and telegrams that my father had sent to me when I was a baby. I was born while he was in Italy serving in the army during World War II. He was Sgt. Natale A. Romano. I was named after him.
For the first two years of my life my mother and I lived with my grandparents, Anna and Eugenio Cavalieri, and her sisters and brothers in a tiny apartment on Sheafe Street. My grandparents, Italian immigrants, had nine children. My Aunt Vera was just five years old when I was born. I was the first granddaughter.
I’m told I was treated like a spoiled princess. However, my father thought I was a queen. In a letter from February 1944 my father wrote: “Now that you know how it feels to be Queen of them all from your high chair and gaze upon all that goes on at home, do you think that you would like to have that position for all times?”
In another letter he writes, “From what I hear from Mummy and others I can see that you are the Queen of your domain.”
I’m sorry that I don’t remember anything about those first years of my life. All I have is pictures and these letters from my father. And anecdotes.
My mother told me that when my father finally returned home from the war, I didn’t know who he was. He was a stranger to me. As he walked into the apartment, my mother said, “Here’s Daddy.”
“No,” I cried. And then pointing to a framed picture on the table I exclaimed, “That’s my Daddy.”
Natalie Romano Cinelli