One day my father said to me: “How come that when Mario arrives you disappear?”. It was just like that: I was about 16 years old, full of complexes and uncertainties, I could not stand that feeling of love and hate I felt towards those who sacrificed thousands of young lives for our freedom.
My uncle Mario Maccaferri became an American citizen and assumed the American way of being: the very same year he came to Italy with his wife, daughters and a black convertible Cadillac, a brand new seal of his success. This time I was unable to slip away and so I found myself embarked on a triumphant tour through the streets of Cento.
After a couple of years Mario returned, alone this time. He hired a car and drove around to visit relatives – he had six brothers – and one day he came to my house. He had a guitar with him that he kept in the trunk of the car. Once the usual small talk finished, someone asked him to play. It was the opportunity that he was waiting to let us know, beyond words, that it was still one of us, that he didn’t forget his origins and that he knew our difficulties in the hard years of the war. It was a magnificent concert, one of those rare moments that music misteriously gives us, and my feeling for him changed.
In the years that followed, he returned to Italy once every two years. Meanwhile, I had approached violin making and in one of those occasions I showed him my first poor works. He has always been generous and encouraging to me. We used to talk about classical luthiery: despite the worldwide success of his manouche guitar, the instrument that he loved most was the violin and before leaving for the States, he won several international classical luthiery competitions with his instruments.
I went to visit him at his house near New York in 1976. He was already old and tired for the many battles he had fought but still unchanged. Our day usually started at six in the morning; at midday we ate a sandwich and at six in the evening we went home. While my aunt Maria was preparing dinner, we sat in the study and talked about our favorite topic.
I haven’t told yet about my aunt Maria, who would have deserved some medals, too. She was Mario’s most precious collaborator: her task was to translate into practical directions his ideas, sometimes even only sketched, and to realize his brilliant intuitions. As a matter of fact, as soon as he saw that a project was under construction, Mario didn’t care anymore about it, all taken by somenthing new that came to his brilliant mind.
One morning, talking with Maria, I learned that Mario used to practice guitar in those evening moments. The same evening I asked him to play something for me overcoming his reluctance. It became a recurrent pleasure that we repeated in the last few days we spent together. When we said goodbye, he promised to do everything possible to return to Cento. Unfortunately he couldn’t keep his promise, but we kept in touch by phone and letter. He passed away on April 16, 1993 at the age of 93.
A booklet about Mario Maccaferri and his guitars (in Italian)