During Pandemic I’ve become anchored to my desk. Why? My granddaughter announced she was going to apply for dual citizenship, to Italy. A graduate of F.I.T. and residing in NYC, she wants to continue her education in Italy. How did I get on board?
She asked if I had any documents about my grandparents? Five generations ago! I do and that’s how it all began. In my memorabilia treasure chest, I found the beginning of our long search.Thanks to my Aunt Annie and her daughter Barbara, both passed now, I have so much information about my grandparents. My cousins, Carmen and Beverly, are great contributors, as well. My daughter and granddaughter are diligently doing their share of cell phone work, also! So, we’re traveling, backwards in time; 1873 and 1875; 146 years ago! So much unearthing from Calabria, Italy to New York and Ohio. Connecting the dots is a great feat.
Just when you think everything in life is in place, something up roots the past. Skeletons! And
shadows begin to appear. What we feel, think and remember from yesterday, changes. Our memories, we think, remain intact but become jaded and feelings do vary with age. I have become a witness to my grandparents lives as well as my mother’s. But, when you’re travelling down memory lane and comparing notes and recollections with family, yesterday’s frames become distorted. My views of the past are not the same observations that my cousins recall. The words, “that’s not how I remember it” kept recurring in our conversations. I’ve begun dancing with my shadows!
As we mentally journeyed backwards, we unearthed much old wisdom. You might refer to it as an imaginative expedition. Of course, our thoughts derailed us. Our mission was to find old certificates that substantiated proof of our grandparents existence. For this information, we had to contact a NYC agency connected to Calabria, Italy that dealt with “digging up the past” about their lives in Italy. Interesting, expensive and fruitful. My grandfather had saved all his
papers; his Declaration of Intention/Citizenship papers! We had to retrieve documents from several County and Village offices in Ohio and New York, as well. Thanks to the great Town Clerks that helped us.
I can understand errors being made in my grandparents’ time; due to the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of languages. But as we climbed the ladder of time, errors abounded. Slowing the process. Now, I can fully appreciate the work involved in maintaining all records. To think that these old documents, and pictures, represent human beings that have left their footsteps of time in a dusty drawer of a records department somewhere. Unearthing an era has become a sentimental journey!
“It takes a long time to bring the past up to the present.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Peeling back the layers of an ancestral tree doesn’t always explain the why and how of
their journeys. In the case of my grandparents, it seems as though confusion abounded!
They definitely weren’t fearful but, God Bless them, they must have lived with much un-
certainty! It had to be their faith that carried them through.
Antonio and his wife, Francesca and young son, Frank sailed on the S.S. Europa and arrived
In NYC Port of Entry on May 22, 1907. They made their way westward to Ohio; residing in two or more towns before finding their permanent place in their new world; Lima, Ohio. They had
ten children; lost five. Their son was born in Italy; their four daughters in various Towns
My grandfather’s first sailing was not to the USA but to Ethiopia, Africa as a young soldier
in the 1800’s. That was where he encountered his first Cultural battles! The language,
the steamy heat of the jungle, the odd food and his very first experience with men of color, were all a challenge to him. Plus, he contracted malaria and lost much of his hair. Maybe his crossing to the USA was like a dream to him.
I don’t know if I could pack up my family and travel the less travelled road; to a different future? It has taken me these eighty seven years to fully realize and appreciate their pilgrimage to America. As I type this, my eyes are a bit moist and my heart is filled with
appreciation for their adventure into the unknown.
So many left the old world but they brought their work ethics, cooking and baking ideas and incorporated their dreams for a better world; unlike the one they left behind. And we think we have it hard!
I wonder what my Grandparents would think of the ‘new world’ today! There definitely was no time for ‘unrest’ for them! They toiled their gardens in spring and summer for their winter food. No government checks! They baked their daily bread; made their own wine, grew their own vegetables and fruit trees. Daily prayers and Sunday Mass were a must!. They, I know, would have been appalled to see how some people of 2020 are behaving!
When I began my blog, I wasn’t sure how I would introduce it into today’s world and make it
interesting for my reader! Unearthing the past is tedious and their journey had to be horrendous but they were grateful for their new beginnings. They were not always made to feel welcome. Italian immigrants had become the nation’s underclass. Derogatory terms, including guinea, wop and dago became part of America’s vocabulary for the new settlers. With time and their peaceful persistence, they overcame and built a better world for themselves! They, too, became a part of a beautiful mosaic!
While their barrier of language and my Nonna’s loss of hearing, made them feel insecure and produced anxiety; their work ethics and kindness persisted. They learned quickly to salt and pepper their native tongue with their new language. Often clueless about the American way, they prevailed.
Italian skin color does vary; being farmers and from southern Italy, they were a little darker. My grandmother looked as though she had a tan! Their work morals were pure and honest! They visited Italy only once more. They loved America and my grandfather had a deep respect for FDR!
Ruminating the past reminds me of 2020 but minus Covid-19! And turmoil still very much exists. Politically, racially and the way we do or do not worship! When will we learn? Maybe,
Covid-19 and the horrendous bitterness of it will teach us how to think, feel and treat all humans as equals! A bitter lesson but we have the right to be, the right to belong!
I am dedicating this blog, (and it is not complete yet), to Antonino and Francesca Corsaro, my grandparents. They left their home, Fiumara, Italy and sailed on the S. S. Europa. Their Port of Entry was NYC. Their arrival was May 22, 1907. I will never cancel their culture, nor mine!
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: “I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus Written: 1883
Emma Lazarus’ poem was written ten years after my grandmother’s birth. Emma’s poem is inscribed on a bronze plaque, mounted on The Statue of Liberty, at the Port of Entry dated 1903.
While I am busy “unearthing my past” for a good reason, I am caught in a net of news that displays a form of hatred and destruction for America’s past! Where are all the Historians?
Picture of Antonio & Francesca and and Declaration of Intention
Nancy Fraioli is a retired Benefits Asst. from Town/Village of Harrison, NY. She’s alive and well, residing in Sarasota with her daughter and family and enjoying the Floridian lifestyle daily.
Her passions are writing, reading books of philosophy, children’s stories and poetry. Her deep love is living, learning and sharing how faith, meditation, and music guide her daily life. And she loves to lunch with the ladies!