Maria di Bari was slender with dark hair, dark eyes, ivory skin, and delicate features. She was big sister to everyone in our office and we tried to be her big brothers. Maria was bi-lingual secretary, liaison, organizer, manager, and interpreter of all things Italian when we were putting out The Foggia Occupator. She lived at Dodieci, Via Freddo, which means, "Twelve, Cold Street." We agreed on one piece of big brotherly advice.
“Whatever you do, Maria, don’t marry an American.” She laughed.
I’d read that in Italian names, “Di” means of, “Da”, means from, and implies illegitimacy, as in Leonardo da Vinci.
“Are you sure you’re not Maria da Bari?” I teased.
“Di Bari,” she replied with a twinkle.
(Fade out - WW2 over, five years pass - Fade In)
My wife and I arrived in Foggia by Vespa. We’d bought the nifty little scooter in Mestre, just outside of Venice, and planned to go from Foggia across the mountains to Napoli, then north to Paris, and finally Le Harve for the ocean crossing home. I hoped we’d see Maria.
Foggia was being rebuilt, but was still recognizable. After booking into a tourist hotel, we scootered to Dodieci, Via Freddo. No Di Bari. I knocked at a door, learned that the Di Baris had moved, got the address. It was on the other side of town, a nice new apartment building. An elderly woman, Mamma, it
was obvious, opened the door. In my halting Italian I said that I knew Maria from the occupation, and wanted to introduce my wife to her. She burst into tears. Oh God! What’s happened?
She was beckoning us in, and when we were seated, each given an aperitivo, I dared ask, “Per favore, mamma, dové Maria?”
She drew a breath—more tears?—said, “Ska-nek-a-da-di!” drew out a framed 8X10 photo of Maria pushing a baby carriage down a leafy American street. Maria had married an American.
In my broken Italian I asked Mamma why she was so sad? She pointed to the photo, and with an operatic sob said, “I cannot even hold my own grandchild!”
“Perché no va lei á America?” I said, hoping it meant “Why don’t you go to America?’
“And what about my other children?”
How I wish I had a copy of that photograph.