Of Our Hell and Heaven

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Thanks Pepere, my editor. He took a raw and grammatically messed 80 or so written pages and made a story of them. An achievement by itself.

Thanks again.



It is a beautiful autumn day and I’m seated on a bench in the park surrounding Boston’s Northeastern University, where I teach Italian Literature 102. My name, or the name I used in documents when I was a child and came to the States, was Maria del Lujan Nolan Petrucci. ‘Maria del Lujan’ because I was born in Argentina and it’s the name of the Blessed Virgin, patroness of Argentina, and is a common name there; ‘Nolan’ because, at that moment, it was my father’s ‘official’ surname, and Petrucci because it’s my mother’s family name. My father changed and Americanized my name at the American embassy before we, him and I, left Argentina forever, and I came to the States as Marie Nolan Dellacasa. My real name is Maria del Lujan Foster Petrucci, because Foster and Petrucci are my real family surnames.

My father was an employee at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires; he had told his family that he was a ‘Cultural Attaché’ working in the consulate. He was, in fact, a man with the ‘Agency’ who had tight ties with the high echelons of the military Junta, if you get my drift. He was 28 years old, tall, muscular, had blond hair, and brilliant, warm, dark blue eyes. He was an American boy who was the wet dream of many young and not so young girls and women.

My mother was a young heiress of a deeply Catholic southern Italian family living in Argentina at that time, and was being educated in a strict Catholic nun’s college –Solamente para señoritas – only for young and affluent ladies. She was fifteen and had that soft, dark, rich Italian style skin, raven black hair, and beautiful green eyes. She was a beauty; any time, any place.

My life’s story starts on a late August day, when my father was acting as chauffeur for the American ambassador and was sent to the nun’s college to pick up the ambassador’s daughter at the end of the school day and found nobody had gone to get the ambassador’s daughter’s best friend. My father, at the urging of the ambassador’s daughter, picked that beautiful girl up, and after delivering his precious charge to the embassy, took the girl to her home and into her Italian parents’ loving arms.

Something strange happened that day, and as I don’t believe in love at first sight, I would say it was ‘lust at first sight’, at least when it came to my father’s feelings for who would be my mother. My father offered to go to the nun’s college every evening, and pick up the ambassador’s daughter and her little Italian friend as a favor to the Ambassador, from that day on.

1)On my way to heaven

My paternal grandfather’s name was Mario Petrucci, not Dellacasa; he was born on December 25, 1922, and went from Italy to Argentina at the end of World War II when he was 24 years old. His wife, my grandmother, Lucia Petrucci, nee Russo, whose family also went to Argentina with the Petruccis, was born on April 29, 1932. They were married on August 10, 1967, and had a daughter, my mother, who was named Sofia, exactly nine months later.

My grandfather didn’t have a college education, barely finished first grade, but that didn’t stop him from building one of the largest and most profitable construction companies in Buenos Aires. He had learned his trade from an uncle in Italy, starting when he was a strapping lad of thirteen, and he would toil each summer, carrying totes of bricks up ladders or scaffolding to the men who were toiling to build the exterior walls of a building or other types of architectural masonry walls or walkways.

He knew everything about masonry by the time he was eighteen years old. His father was proud of him for learning what he needed to pass each grade in school, but was proudest of his abilities as a mason and budding businessman until the war wrecked his world and his dreams.

In Argentina, he grew stronger and smarter, both at business and at work as the years passed, and as was normal at that time, brought those who would be his trusted men; not only his brothers, but also a handful of cousins and other relatives, a very veritable clan, from Italy.

He was ‘Il Patrone’, the head of the family from then on, and as was the custom in the old country, his orders were law and the women of the family and their honor were sacred; nobody but nobody, could be disrespectful to them, otherwise the irreverent could and would confront sawed-off shotguns in a vengeful vendetta.

He was 47 years old when he got married to grandma, and she, at 37 years of age, still had time to be able to safely get pregnant. He had worked hard in the construction business before starting and building his own company, which had then thrived, making him a very prosperous and accepted rich man.

My father committed one of what this tight-knit family considered was the worst of sins; that of disgracing a woman of the family. Little Sofia kurtköy escort – la bambina – was suddenly sick one morning. She was fifteen and everybody thought the reason for it was something she had eaten, but when the ‘morning sickness’ and retching continued for a week they called the family doctor when the old country remedies didn’t work. Because of severe cases, those were who aware of the problem usually prescribed, and he ordered a pregnancy test, to her parents’ incredulous and horrified eyes.

Sofia was forced to stay in her room until the results of the medical tests were known with certainty. The medical report was conclusive; Sofia was pregnant. The house suddenly seemed doomed. The family and household were astounded, and the questions many; how, when, and most importantly, who?

Don Mario didn’t want to know anything about being in love, about sentiments, or any other bullshit; he only wanted blood, the blood of ‘El figlio de una grandisima putana’ (the S.O.B) who had violated and gotten his little girl pregnant, and out of wedlock. The Spanish Inquisition would have had a privileged member in Dona Lucia, Sofia’s mother, and my grandmother. With persistent threats or affection, Dona Lucia did wear out Sofia’s will, and my poor young mother told her the name of her paramour.

Once the family knew who had dishonored their little girl, the men met in council to agree on a proposed punishment, and above all, to take the necessary action; uncles, cousins, and in-laws proposed several punishments, including death. When they found out that their enemy was an American working at his country’s embassy, they were still determined to ambush and kill him as they would do in the old country.

It was Dona Lucia, my grandmother, who poured cold water on the situation and calmed the bloodthirsty spirits. The Petruccis discussed the problem in the sanctuary of their bedroom that night, and Dona Lucia suggested to her husband that the most important thing was to get the American boy to marry their daughter to repair the family’s dishonor and in that way make sure the still unborn child wouldn’t be a bastard. As usual, the men of the family who were so bloodthirsty a few hours before accepted Dona Lucia’s advice.


The family took the appropriated steps; Don Pettruci called his lawyers’ offices and asked Dr. Tarantelli, the principal partner, to visit his home for a matter of the utmost importance. Dr. Tarantelli was very well connected with the higher echelons of the economic and military powers that be, those of the country’s government, and with many embassies. His influence was well-known.

Nobody knew what was spoken between the two men, both well versed in matters of family honor, and the next days in the Don Pettrucci household were frantic; nobody knew the sequence of events and only later, much later, after several years, in fact, when Don Pettrucci’s granddaughter disappeared from Buenos Aires one tragic Sunday morning, was the family informed about the whole seven year history.

Things seem had happened this way: Dr. Tarantelli went to visit some friends he had in high places in El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores, the Argentinean equivalent to the British Foreign Office, or the American Department of State. Once there, he related the delicate case of a powerful friend, whose minor daughter had been impregnated by an American embassy employee, to the officials.

The good doctor explained to his friends at the Chancellery that his Italian clients, being very proud of family honor, wanted it repaired, or if that wasn’t possible, vengeance. Being the first marriage, it was to be a big wedding with all the trappings, cathedral, white dress, sumptuous party, and all the bells and whistles. The second option was maiming or death, no matter how long or whatever it took.

Members of the Argentinean Chancellery went to talk directly to the American Ambassador and make him aware of on the situation, and the danger that his employee was in. They explained the solution the family wanted, and the certainty of punishment if not. To make a long story short, my father, pressed by the agency he worked for, accepted responsibility for the pregnancy and married my young mother; nobody knew that he was starting to think about his own vengeance at that very moment.

The Petrucci family was exultant, everything was as it should and the – bambino – the child wouldn’t be a bastard, the ‘bambino’ meaning me. My father wasn’t happy at all, but he kept his anger on a tight leash and made plans to make the Petruccis pay, and pay dearly they would. Nobody thought of the young pregnant woman, Sofia, and/or of her future and her life.

After the marriage ceremony, with no honeymoon, my father went on a “mission” to Chile, and later from Santiago to Bolivia, leaving his in-laws to take care of everything. He went back to Buenos Aires after a couple years of wandering from country to country on the southern continent for aydıntepe escort one mission or other, and went to the Petruccis’ to get to know and get acquainted with his one year old daughter; while thinking about revenge and how to carry it out at the same time.

First thing; he never bedded my mother again nor lived near her or any of the Petruccis. Second; he, as a Secret Service employee of the Embassy, had access to the documentation section and could provide himself with a complete set of American documents in my name as an American citizen and that I was entitled by being his legal daughter. The third part of his revenge plan was that he started visiting me, taking me to the park, holidays was to the zoo or some circus. He was very patient, and I was so small, grateful, and delighted being with my ‘papa’ that I never asked questions about where we were going.

My every birthday was unique from then on if he was in Buenos Aires. We usually went to celebrate together after a party at home, where he was always very civil to my mother, and being with Papa was pure bliss for me. This was so until I was six years old. We had a party with my little friends at home on the day of my sixth birthday as usual, and papa took me to go to my usual birthday holiday with him afterwards, but we went to Ezeiza International Airport instead of going to the zoo or a similar place.

I was jubilant at seeing so many planes big and small, and when I asked, he told me that day we were going to a little trip and that I would like where we were going. Everything is a blur in my memory, but I remember Papa dressing in military garb like the other men in the plane. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was leaving everything that had been my entire life up to that day behind.

Next thing I knew we were in an airport again but it was now night-time and I told Papa that I wanted to go home and be with Mama; he told me I was going to be with him and not with Mama for now, and it would be funny, not funny like the zoo, but funny anyway. He said that I was going to meet new people and his sister, my auntie, and I was going to love her very much.

When we left the airport (later I knew it was Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, DC), we got in a car and Papa told me to try to sleep because it was going to be a long trip. I wasn’t afraid as I was with Papa; fear would come later and it was going to mark my psyche and life forever.

It was a long trip from Washington to Fort Dodge, Iowa, where as I later learned, would be my home for the next twelve years. My father rented a car and we started a long, tiring, and to me, depressive trip. It was a twenty four hour trip, as I understood later, designed so as to not leave any trail for the Petrucci hunters who would surely try to follow our trail sooner or later.

Father drove tirelessly the almost one thousand and one hundred miles between Andrews Air Force base and Fort Dodge in Weston County, Iowa, in 22 hours. We stopped only so I could use the restroom to pee, or in small malls and cafeterias to buy food to eat in the car; it seemed as if we were on a mission, he wasn’t Papa anymore, he was a stranger who treated me as if I wasn’t his daughter, only as someone he had picked up on the street. He was cold with me from then on, so much so that in the six years before his death, he only came to Fort Dodge to visit me three times, and phoned me no more than half a dozen times.

As I remember the trip, my first in the States was anything but glamorous. A long strip of cement in the middle of the nowhere by night, and a succession of small towns, farms, and big city skylines during the day, driving on turnpikes and country roads that were so bad sometimes, it was a miracle the car didn’t break. We arrived at long last; early the second night to what would be my new hometown and the house where I would pass the years of my late childhood and early adolescence.

It was almost ten in the evening when we arrived at 1113 South 25th Street, between 11th she was around thirty five years old, and he looked a little older. I later learned that she was 33, him 37, and they were childless.

Greetings were contained, undemonstrative, without the warmth, people have who don’t see each other very often, regardless of their family relationship.

“Hello, Sis, Jim,” was my father’s curt greeting, and he presented me before either of them could open their mouth. “This is my daughter, Marie” then speaking to me, “Where are your manners, Girl? Greet your Aunt Susan and Uncle Jim; you’ll be living with them from now on.”

I nodded my head, but couldn’t open my mouth; I was six, it was my birthday, and my father’s gift had been to bring me far away from home to live with people I didn’t know. Silent tears started falling down my cheeks, and I wanted to die at that moment.

That was the moment Aunt Susan began to become ‘Mom’ Susan in my mind. She addressed her brother with a stern “How could you?” and tuzla içmeler escort taking my hand from her brother’s, she took me in her arms, trying to calm my anguish by holding me tightly against her chest and softly and lovingly kissed my head and cheeks, murmuring “It’s OK, my baby, OK, please don’t cry. I love you, I love you, we love you” at the same time and I suddenly fell asleep in her arms.

Aunt Susan was seated at my bedside when I woke up the next morning, looking at me with a look of deep love, “Good morning, my love; do you want breakfast?”

I was bewildered, the lady was a stranger, the room was strange, the bed wasn’t my bed, and I couldn’t remember where I was. The recent events slowly came to my mind, and I told the lady I wanted to see my mama and papa and asked where they were.

“Your father left last night, leaving you with us to take care of you,” she sadly said.

“But I want to go be with my mama,” and I started to silently cry again.

Last night’s scene repeated itself: I was crying and quietly sobbing, and the lady who is my aunt was taking me in her arms, hugging and trying to comfort me. “No, no, my baby, don’t cry, please don’t cry; we’ll love you with all our hearts”

And that is how it was. They loved me with a passion; I was the child they hadn’t and couldn’t have; we lived in a nice single family home with two bedrooms, and my bedroom very different from the house where my family, the family I was slowly forgetting, lived in Buenos Aires.

The people in that part of the country tend to speak the dialect that linguists call North Central American English; and since my English pronunciation is different, very different, I was the recipient of the jokes and taunts, some of them quite bloody, from the children of the neighborhood first, then at the school for a time.

My new parents tried to protect me from all this, but as one of the teachers told them, it was a phase I must endure in order to integrate with the rest. I now think it was then that my introverted temperament was born. I went to St. Edward Catholic Elementary School, and as I was a solitary person and a loner, books became my escape from the world, and if you added my knowledge of another language to that, I was always considered a rare bird by my peers in elementary school and later in high school.


At eighteen and out of high school, a completely different person from the one that had been taken from Argentina when she was six started on a new path in her life. I went to Iowa State University to get a masters degree in World Languages & Cultures, I substantially changed my physical appearance at the same time. There no longer was a chubby girl or young woman with an Italian doll-like look of the late nineteenth century. I had become a lanky young woman with a slender-looking, classic Roman face, dominated by two jet black eyes.

Some of my father’s genes had appeared with force at some time in my late teens, and among others, one of his features had changed my hair from being an opaque brown mousy look to a brilliant honey golden blond. Exercise had shaped my body, and while my breasts are small in size, maybe a 32B, the rest of me looks like a muscular shapely sculpture.

How could I get to go to University and pay the tuition with my parents being low middle class? The answer to that question is quite simple. A government car stopped in front of my parents’ house when I was twelve, almost thirteen years old, one Saturday morning. Two men who identified themselves as employees of a government agency got out and once inside the house, they asked the family to be present together.

In short, they had to tell us that my father had died in a mission in a foreign country; they didn’t tell us how or where. They merely gave us the condolences of the Government and the Agency, and told us that I had a pension for life coming, and a fund that my father had created for me that I could access when I was twenty-five years old.

They took a bundle of documents from a briefcase that my parents were asked to sign and told us to never contact them again; they would take care of everything. That’s how I went to Iowa State University, and to Italy later, for a two year Masters in Italian Literature.


As to my sexuality, what can I say? I’m a lesbian; being a lesbian actually has nothing to do with either for or against men. It has to do with women: my love, attraction, sexual desire, and affection for other women. I’ve liked women since I could remember, and I’m a particular kind of lesbian; I’m very feminine, and I like very feminine women. I wasn’t driven to lesbianism by a man’s aggression, or deceived by an adult woman as a child; I just think it’s in my genes, somewhere in my DNA.

My lesbianism wasn’t caused by environmental factors, such as upbringing or child molestation, an absent mother, or an overly affectionate father. On the contrary, I have had the most loving family you may wish for since I came to the States and, it’s true that my biological mother was absent – not by her decision – and my father was far from affectionate, so those weren’t the cause of my sexual orientation. I think is it something I was born with, an inherited trait, like skin or hair color.

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