When Elvira at the very young age of 16 announced her intention of becoming a nun of the Sacred Heart (she had attended the School of Santa Rufina, an institute of those religious women, now abolished and located in via della Lungaretta, near Santa Maria in Trastevere where we then lived) my mother in her rigorous religious conception was happy about it despite she would have lost the great help Elvira was providing her with her activity and skills (she could do everything.)
My father instead was much afflicted by the news and flatly denied consent.
“Let her wait until she’s at least 21, after which she’ll do whatever she likes.”
Then we don’t know how and why, one day he comes home and says to Elvira:
“If you are still determined to go, go then … I give you my blessing.”
It was the festa of the Immaculate Conception. Elvira so entered Villa Lante as an aspirant.
When we visited her each month my father was never able to resist all the time of the visit. At one point he became red in the face, stood up abruptly and went away almost without saying goodbye to his daughter. The fact in itself moved him.
“A good-looking girl like that, a nun?”
What happened again at Villa Lante when Elvira after her novitiate in Paris made her religious profession, there including the cut of her gorgeous chestnut hair, it cannot be said. We were all moved but my father was unrecognizable and I do not know how he resisted not to give into theatrics. At one point I remember he fled from the church.
For us, for his children, he had a deep, exclusive, jealous love. To him we were the best, the most beautiful, the most intelligent of all children, although he never said this to us.
When my mother, as it sometimes happens to mothers, saw a beautiful child on the street and spontaneously said “look what a beautiful son, Nino, what a beautiful baby!” he replied cloudily “watch your own children who are the most beautiful.”