Tuesday 25 Oct 2016

A Chance Meeting
AJ Robinson

Some people believe in fate, and others think there's no fate but what we make ourselves. Some look for order in a chaotic universe, or see the hand of God or angels at work. I have a story that will make you wonder about such things.

Back in January of 1945, my father, Arthur was a Warrant Officer serving in the US Army in Italy. His unit had reached the outskirts of Florence, Italy, and he and his friends were looking to have a bit of fun. They asked their CO (Commanding Officer) for a three-day pass. As they were miles from the nearest town, he gave them the passes, figuring that there was no way that they could get into any trouble! Well, that didn't stop them; they just stole his jeep and drove in to town.

As it happened, they ran out of gas outside one of the many art museums of the city. My dad suggested they go inside, take a tour and warm up. His friends were less than enthusiastic; pictures of naked women were not what they were after! Still, it was a cold day, and their army clothes were less than perfect at keeping them warm, so they agreed.

The tour guide that day was a very experienced man; he'd been working there for years, and had even given a private tour to two very important dignitaries: Mussolini and Hitler! As it happened, it was not his usual day to work in the museum, but the other guide was sick, and so Bruno Rigacci filled in for him. My dad and his friends came in, Bruno spoke with them and then he led them off into the museum. Actually, he wasn't much interested in taking these Americans on a tour of his beloved museum. He hadn't met many American soldiers, but - from what he'd heard - they were uneducated and violent; they didn't even try to speak other languages.

Then there was my dad. He spoke Italian, albeit not too well; he knew the artists on display in the museum, and he was sincerely interested in learning more about them. While his friends grumbled, my dad stayed keenly interested over the course of the tour.

Meanwhile, back at Bruno's arts supply store, his wife Maria was getting ready to leave to go bring him home for supper. This was part of their daily routine. Yet, this day, their daughter Silvana asked if she could go along with her mother. This surprised Maria. Silvana had never before asked to go along to the museum. Still, Maria saw nothing wrong with it, and so they set off.

When they arrived at the museum, Maria wanted to stay in the office - it had heat, and she didn't relish taking her teenage daughter out into the cold gallery, out where the men were! While Maria didn't speak English, she did recognize it, and she'd heard about American men; she knew what they had on their minds.

Yet, Silvana didn't want to stay put; she wanted to go out to the gallery. For some reason, she felt she had to go out there; she had to go be with her father. Maria, still reluctant - agreed - and out they went. They exchange a pleasant greeting with Bruno, and then he introduced them to Arthur and his friends. Suddenly, the men, other than my dad, were falling all over themselves to impress Silvana. Each, in turn, tried to talk with her. Of course, their way of talking was to either talk real slow, talk loud or speak in pigeon Italian. Silvana and Maria were not impressed. They were impressed at the way Arthur paid attention on the tour.

Finally, when the tour was over, the men again fawned all over Silvana to say their good-byes. Arthur, still the man, gave her a gift - the only thing he had with him - a box of lemon drops.

As they left the museum, my father's best friend elbowed him in the ribs and said, "Did you see the curator's daughter? She was looking at me; she's hot for me!"

In the spring, that friend was the best man when my father married my mother - Silvana, the curator's daughter!

When you consider the incredible odd series of circumstances that led to their meeting, you have to wonder: was it all mere chance?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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