Newlyweds in Sicily departing the poor conditions in Italy become involved with the Mafia in New York, leading to their narrow escape to San Francisco where they are killed in the 1905 earthquake. The rest of the family trying to escape Mafia in Sicily lead to the extraordinary development of the youngest of the sisters, where she fulfills freeing her family from the hands of the Mafia.
The first hint that Carmella had that she was being prepared for something was when she returned from church one frosty Sunday morning in March and told not to change her Sunday dress until a certain visitor left.
First she wondered if they were having company or even that some member of the family was coming to visit. Carmella’s father also told her to make sure her hair was neatly combed and her shoes had no mud on them. She noted that her two younger sisters were not included in the preparations for the visitor.
She looked searchingly at her mother for some answer to the riddle and was met by a Gioconda smile that left her even more puzzled. Finally, with the whole family seated, Luigi, Carmella’s father explained that there was someone interested in marrying her; the son of a farmer who lived in Milazza, some five miles northwest of Furnari, the small town in which they lived. It seemed that her father was satisfied as to the young man and his family, and so they were to discuss terms for the joining of the two families that mid-morning. Even the distance from each town was acceptable since the visits of the young man to his daughter required that he visit at least two times per week so that they could know about each other and the five miles was the accepted limit since the young man would have to be walking when he visited.
Carmella’s younger sisters, Adela 12, and Maria 16, both exchanged glances and smiles much to the consternation of Carmella who wondered about this change in her life and way of living.
“Just wait”, she said,” when they spring this surprising news on you both and you will know how I feel.”
What was this man like? Was he young or old, fat or thin, ugly or handsome. She had no idea what her father considered suitable for a husband . Her nerves were taut and she could feel the perspiration running down her back and a tight feeling in her stomach. What was being discussed was her whole, future life and the person she would be spending it with. Why shouldn’t she have something to say ? But, like a well behaved, obedient daughter, she would follow her father’s advice and marry who he suggested. She could only hope that her mother would have some decision making since she knew what it would be like if the proposed suitor was not to Carmella’s liking.
The morning passed quickly and Carmella watched while her mother prepared some small repast and her father brought out some vermouth and anisette. Carmella tried to ask some questions as to whether or not she ever saw the suitor or sought hints as to what he was like but she could receive no information as to this possible husband that was being chosen for her.
Carmella prayed silently to her patron Saint Joseph for help and promised to set up a tavola “table” for him for the next three years if he would grant her satisfaction in the person to whom she was being betrothed. Carmella felt sure her prayer would be answered since this was March, the month that St. Joseph’s name day was celebrated, March 19th.
The “table” was an old tradition that marked the ending of a devastating drought in Sicily. The people prayed to Saint Joseph to end the drought and by what was considered a miracle of a downpour, saved the crops and enabled the people to survive. In celebration, the families that wish to honor the saint, set up a table in their home, blessed by a priest and usually had a statue of Saint Joseph, votive candles, flowers and different non meat, Lenten foods but mainly braided breads which were given to those who came to visit the “table”.
Carmella Carlucci was an intelligent, strong willed girl of 18 when her father proposed that she marry Ennio Deluca, the young man from Milazza. She had always been an obedient daughter and was of great help to her mother. Being part of a farming family, she was expected to work in the fields along side her mother, her father and two younger sisters. Often times, her strong willed personality and common sense led her to being listened to very seriously when matters concerning the family were being discussed. While she had only a rudimentary formal education, she could read, write and solve simple arithmetical problems. These were sufficient for the maintaining of the workings of the farm. Her father often relied upon her in his dealings with other farmers or suppliers of goods since he wished to keep whatever was private in the family within the walls of their home. Having no sons, Luigi’s marrying her to Ennio Deluca was in one sense going to be a hardship for Luigi since he relied on her good sense and judgment more and more these days. Carmella’s sisters were too young and her mother always complained that she had no head for numbers and such. But, as tradition would have it, he could not hold back his daughter’s marriage and his strong wish for grandchildren. They would manage somehow and he would initiate Maria who was 16 into taking more responsibility.