Sunday, June 7, 2009

A talk with Miss Cleo

Yesterday the other graduate students and I were taking a stroll through the streets of Cagli. Having woefully underpacked (me, anyways), we were on a mission to get our shop on. Having spied a delicious Italian leather handbag store during our earlier tour of the town, we decided to head in that direction and drop of a few Euros.

On our way through the streets, trying to figure out exactly where that particular store was located, an elderly lady heard us speaking English from her terrace.

Her companion called down to get our attention, and the lady asked if we were Americans.

We replied that yes, indeed we were.

As we stood there, talking to her as she stood 2 stories up, another lady walked by and invited us in. Being of the philosophy that, if you're visiting a foreign country and the locals invite you somewhere you go, we went.

We ended up staying for over an hour, drinking Cokes, and talking to Cleo, a Cagliese woman who used to live in Denver, Colorado. Through Cleo's English, Carla's Italian, and our collective broken Italian, we pieced together the story of Cleo and her family.

An Italian-American Love Story

Cleo Anderson, now 92 years old, speaks beautiful English. She should as she spent much of her adult life with her husband in America.

They met after World War II, when he was stationed in Italy. They fell in love and were married.

Cleo's sons and grandchildren still live in Arizona, and Cleo and her husband used to live together in Cagli.

Her husband died three days ago.

When we inquired about her surname, Cleo teared up and explained that her husband just passed away.

We struggled to hold back tears ourselves, until Carla, Cleo's caregiver, came in with refreshments.

The lack of stronger shared language skills in our group kept the rest of the conversation light.

We told her we were journalism and photography students living in Cagli for only a month.

Carla and Cleo encouraged us to visit Cagli again the future, and even invited us back to live with them. If that doesn't necessarily pan out, we certainly have plans to visit them often while we are in Cagli.

While this sweet lady's memory is fading, and her life now a little lonelier, she encapsulates what is so beautiful about this small town.

That four curious students visiting Italy can have a lovely afternoon in the company of two dear women, determined to enjoy a moment of true Italian hospitality and genuine cross-cultural understanding.

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