Showing posts with label Italian Fathers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian Fathers. Show all posts

Sunday, May 26, 2019

An Early Father's Day Telling My Italian Father's Story & Honoring Him

 As Father's day is closely approaching, I find myself taking more and more pictures and documenting my father and his daily rituals.  This past May my father turned 89, he suffers a multitude of health problems and can't move around like he used to and requires a chair anywhere he goes, its been getting very hard for him as he loses his breath dramatically and can't go far like he used to.   Its been hard to see a man who has always been so strong physically slow down so much and be limited.  Although this is the current reality right now, he continues to inspire me.

So, as he slows down at this fast rate, I'm faced with thinking about all the great things about him right now and in my whole life.  My father's story is this:  He came to America in 1956 and took a ship ( The Olympia, and Andrea Doria, which are famous historical ships) to get here, it was a 10 day journey on his first voyage. This trip he made several times over the first years as he went back and forth to support his family after he made his first minimal money here in the USA. 

My father landed on Ellis Island, as one of the last immigrant groups to actually dock there, but obviously the more modern version.   He settled in Newark, N.J., where my great uncle put him to work right off the boat.  My father also worked for the American Can Company, which was also American Can Company ranked 97th among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts)

After earning some money, my father religiously sent money back to his mother and sister in Reggio Calabria, literally just to survive.

My parents both grew up very poor and poverty was common in Calabria.  Its was a very rural area (farm and agriculture) and with minimal work.  Even to this day if you're not in law enforcement, educator or government employee you're basically living the poverty line.  Today some families do well with their own businesses, but for the most part many emigrated out of Calabria and still do to this day and go towards either in Northern Italy or another country to sustain economic stability.

After World War II, my father was urged by my great uncle to come to America, so he could work and gain a better life.   The reason this all unfolded during that era was my father was the oldest of the family and was basically responsible for the family after my grandfather was killed in World War II.  My father's family never received official notice or my grandfather's body back from war, the government at the time sent a soldier to tell you that your loved one was killed in action.  It was a tragic time then for my father.  For my father when he was a small child he still remembers when German bomber planes were going over the mountains in Calabria and dropping bombs.  They were all living in bomb shelters built in the mountains, my father said there were actual true stories where German soldiers took Italian and American soldiers and would drown them in the wine vats.   My father also owned a goat who he loved that he said suffered a bomb injury from the shrapnel and eventually died.  My father was was just a little boy, can you imagine the horror?  Then fast forward to getting on a ship (mind you my father does not swim)  to a country you know nothing about because you have to make money and basically hope your family survives, it was the 1950s but even so, poverty was a reality.

My father married my mother when he went back to Italy for a visit and year's later in the 60s, she came to the USA on one of the first ever Pan Am flights.  My parents ended up having four children and I am the youngest.  Growing up there was never a time I remember my father not working.  He worked his day job in construction and then would come home eat and leave again to hustle and work other side job till late at night and then wake up and do again the next day.   What I learned from him was the hustle.  He worked his ass off, invested in buying his first homes in Newark, NJ - he would buy, refurbish and sell when he could, he did this all by himself and obviously at a time when the American dream was accessible.   My father was always an entrepreneur, he was busy none stop, but one thing I always knew was that he loved me, if he was leaving early in the morning, which was everyday at 5 am - he would stop in our rooms and say good bye and even as a smaller child he would bring me milk in the morning.  I mean you just can't make it up, so as Father's day comes around the corner, I celebrate my father for all things he did, does, and continues to do.   Let's celebrate all of our father's and Papas. 

Ciao- xoxo

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Columbus Day-- My Father Celebrates 53 Years In America.

Happy Columbus Day to my father, who arrived in America 53 years ago on this day. He arrived with a dream and little money but endured a life long journey in America, we're proud of you Papa! Love you.
(Photo--Copyright 2009)

Friday, October 2, 2009

An Italian American PhotoAlbum..

Here are a few pictures from our very own family archive:
1. Rome--1963 My mother and father on their honeymoon.
2. Reggio Calabria--1950s- My mother as a child with my nonno.
3. Rome--1950s--Pope's Mass in the square.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Italian Americans Growing Figs..Tis the Season.

The Fall in America is one of the best times for outside activities, but as an Italian American its the time of year when we expect our figs and start thinking about making wine. Here as you see my father has been growing his fig tree for years its loaded with figs every year and the actual figs are incredibly sweet. As soon as the figs bloom and ripen the tree will begin to lose it leaves as the cold weather approaches, then my father covers and wraps the tree in a tarp keeping it protected from the harsh winter weather. We live on the East coast and as you can imagine its not Italy, so growing anything is a challenge with our extreme humidity and cold. I will say, the figs are delicious. Now, if we live in Italy the figs are in abundance and we could actually make a variety of delicious foods based from the figs, such as our famous Christmas cookies, Petrali which are filled with figs. Next agriculture update will be talking about our next Fall activity which will be making wine.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Italian American Doctorate Student Seeking Italian Americans For Important Research Study...Read here.

You are invited to participate in the research project entitled, The relationship between differentiation of self and chronic anxiety in Italian Americans. The number of Italian-Americans is increasingly growing in the United States and so is the need to gain a better understanding on how to better treat and assess individuals and families who identify with this culture.

This research will provide insight into the ways in which Italian-American individuals think, feel, and experience anxiety. In this study we are looking to see if being an Italian-American influences the relationships among these three variables. That is we are looking to see if culture influences people’s thinking, feeling and anxiety. If you are an Italian American who would like to further the research on your culture, I invite you to participate in this survey. Results will have meaningful implications for the assessment and treatment of the growing number of Italian Americans.

The first 300 participants will be given the opportunity of being included in a prize drawing to win one of three gift cards, each valued at $100. All information that you provide will be confidential and anonymous. Please take some time to participate! Your input is greatly valued!

Click Here To Take Survey

Monday, May 4, 2009

Growing Up Italian American & Celebrating My First Holy Communion.

This past weekend, I celebrated my niece's first holy communion. Ok, but the picture on the left is actually me (being a joker) and my parents. Experiencing all these milestone occasions with my nieces and nephews now always put me through these reminiscing journeys, where I think back on how it was for my immigrant parents to adjust to the Americanized ways of celebrating occasions and answering to Americanized kids who demanded the American way.

So, I thought back to my communion and how my parents made it the best ever that I could imagine. I have amazing memories of that day and the unbelievable party they threw me in one of the best restaurants. Mind you my parents worked hard and were by no means wealthy, so throwing a party and not skimping on anything meant a lot then and now. I appreciate my parents for everything they did to make that day special for me. One other example I can recall too was so many of my American friends were getting Communion portraits done and I remember not asking my mother to do one because even as a kid I knew that would cost a lot of money. But, a few days before my Communion, my mother surprised me and told me I was going to get in my Communion dress and go to a professional photographer to get my portrait done. I was so excited!!!!

Its funny now, because my niece got hers done too this week and that made me think, what a big deal it was to get a such a special picture done and my mother who didn't know the ways of the American traditions made it happen for me. The party was beautiful and full of great people, who were my parents friends..of course no family because remember we have no immediate family here, but my mom and papa did everything that day to make it one of my best memories of growing up Italian American.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy San Giuseppe's Day!

Today, in Italy is the equivalent of Father's Day here in America. Its a religious holiday honoring Joseph the father of Jesus. The day is often celebrated with great food, and incredible pastries, often called, St. Joseph's pastries. I wish you all a great St. Joseph's Day today and don't forget to kiss your fathers, brothers, cousins, etc. Auguri!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Greetings From Reggio Calabria.

Well, if you've been reading my daily posts, you know my mother is in Reggio Calabria for the holidays. She ended up going to be with her sister (my aunt) this year, because her husband (my uncle) past away this last summer. The whole concept of having to travel half way around the world to be with your sister is really something. My mother has been in America a long time, close to 40 years. When she decided to marry my father and come here, she knew she was leaving and almost giving up seeing her family frequently. We have no relatives here, I think we ended being the only ones who left Calabria. This is why when I visit Calabria, its my family in full force. Here in the states, we are pretty much on our own. We have some "family" but no one I would consider as close as my real family, obviously.

So, I got a call from my mother this morning, telling me about what my cousins are doing and how everyone is preparing for the holidays. In Italy, when someone passes on they usually don't celebrate any holidays for at least a year. So, this year my aunts and cousins will be in mourning and not celebrate. Its tough for them because they really do stick to this respectful tradition, so even the kids kind of miss out on the holidays, but it teaches them respect and honor of those who passed. I am sure someone will give gifts anyway, so the kids have some fun.

On a lighter note, so I think my mother will also be visiting with the rest of her brothers and sisters, she's one of seven. Of which, my mother lives in America, her other brothers moved to Venice and one in Rome. So, we got most of Italy covered and America. In Italy, Christmas starts about a week early with religious days, which urges the Italians to go to church and prepare for your families. I think the important thing to mention that in Italy, Christmas is not consumed with the retail hoopla. Its somewhat, but never like here in the states. Most families gather for dinner, church and if anyone gets a gift its for the children. The concentration is on Christmas and religion.

So, I had to sit and listen to her go on about what fabulous meals she's enjoying and how she's going from family to family. When you're there, its just an incredible feeling of familiarity. I mean, for example, this is a true story. Over the summer I was walking down a street near where my mother grew up, and some old lady, says to me in Italian, "are you Franca's daughter?" But the translation in Italian, sounds better. I said, "yes," this woman was so amazed because she thought I looked like my mother and recognized me. Well, turns out this lady, used to go to sewing school with mother when they were teenagers. I mean really, its just so fascinating and of course I ended up in her house having espresso and biscotti.

I'll share one more example with you because I think this one was really great. We were at the marina getting gelato of course, when this guy walks up to my father and says, "do you know who I am?" Of course, my father doesn't remember, but says, "no, who are you?" Turns out this guy goes onto to explain, that when he was a small child, he went with his family to see my father leave the port of Villa San Giovanni when he first embarked on the first leg of his transatlantic voyage to America. This guy goes onto to tell my father, how that experience of seeing my father leave on a ship for America, left such an impression on him. I was amazed, I felt like my father was a rock star. So, when in Calabria, you never know who you're going to meet and what its all going to mean to you. Greetings from Calabria are always welcome.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why I Can't Get No Fresh Bread Around Here..

I can't get no satisfaction because I can't get any fresh Italian bread around here in Jersey. Let's discuss the importance of fresh bread in any Italian household. If I'm at my parents house and there's no bread, its like there is a three alarm fire. We can not function without fresh bread. "U Pane" is the staple of the house, it was more than bread, it signified love, dinner time with my family and just always seemed to taste good with anything in it or on it..always made me feel better.

I grew up my whole life with my father coming home from work and bringing a loaf of fresh Italian bread from the bakery in Newark, NJ. Yes, these were the days when stopping "pu pane," (Thats how we say it) was an important daily ritual. Now, since I've moved out of the city suburbs into the suburbs my local grocery store has to provide me with bread that makes me want to vomit. If I want fresh bread or just even good bread I have to settle for the bagged Calandra bread brought in from who knows when. I like their bread, but I'd rather go pick up in the bakery. In New Jersey, or I should say more south Jersey, the bakery absence is a huge problem. I remember going to an occasion and promising the host I would bring the pastries, then I realized what was I crazy, I couldn't vouch for these Merigan bakeries and their pastry capabilities. What a mess. Anyway, I still struggle to find the perfect loaf of Italian bread but will remain loyal to North Jersey for what I need.

What are you thoughts? Who makes the best bread?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Voglio Fare L'Americano...Sunday Dinner --Part Due.

Today of course is Sunday and once again I am lucky enough to eat Sunday dinner at my parents home. I was happy today because my mother made the sauce with my favorite, porpetti. Oh, just amazing. Then, my father drew wine out of the barrel from the wine we made this past October. Now, the wine is not ready yet but he wanted to test its consistency and let me tell you the consistency could kick your butt. Its definitely strong. Can't wait for it to be completely done.

So, in the course of our dinner today, my father was very reminiscent about his life when he first was married to my mother. They were both saying how they would take trips to the Meadowlands race track, go into Manhattan, and visit with friends. I just think its so funny, that they actually went out and did fun stuff, I mean if any of you know Italian parents, you know its takes a lot to convince them to leave the house or do anything fun.

My father was talking about the times he worked three jobs and had money to do or buy anything for the family. He claims as he says, "volevo fare l'americano." He says there was almost a sense of romance to living, working and engaging in the American lifestyle. His greatest memory is buying his first American car, a Chevy Impala. I guess the vibe was very Frank Sinatra-ish. Everyone wanted to be American.

My father's feelings and opinions were pretty strong today as we also discussed the crashing economy and the declining American pride. I guess the idea of such a great America and the excitement he talks about from when he came to America, made me think.."Do I feel or think that?" I mean, he sounds like he's talking about a time that can never be duplicated. I guess it can't, but I wonder will we as Americans, Italian-Americans ever feel the romance or excitement of a great America again? Its hard to imagine right now, but I will remain hopeful. I'm here because the idea of a great America was real for my parents, so I will do my best and then some to keep that idea alive. Yet another reflective moment about growing up Italian-American.

(pic-My father & me)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Calabrese Secret Decoder Ring.

As the holidays are slowly approaching, I find myself spending more time with my parents or around their house. With a busy schedule, its not always easy to meet their demands of attendance at family functions or just regular everyday.

So, I really think that my family is super funny, and if you saw the day to day, you would probably laugh too. This past weekend, I helped my father put up the Christmas lights on the house. Now, mind you this is a huge endeavor every year. My brothers and sister have long resigned their duty to putting up and helping my parents put up the lights because they realize its a task that requires extreme patience and.. ok..forget that..I'm doing it because I'm the youngest and I guess I'm paying my dues last. There you have it.

Its the order of age that dictates who gets stuck with helping my parents on certain things. Anyway, so we begin putting up the lights, and no matter what year, my father always puts up a fight with me on how to put up the lights. I tell him, "Papa-- don't put the big lights with the little has to match.." Do you think he listens,? No. Here I am disconnecting lights right after he decides to mess up the symmetry of the lights. He has no regard for design, his ideology is, "what's-a -da-diff-a-rence?" I try to tell him, yes there is a difference.

So, the comedy to this is, I'm stringing lights and he's messing up the lights on the next set of bushes. The neighbors heard us yelling back and forth in Italian and English. Then, here comes my mother sticking her head out of the door, to tell me not to put lights on a certain tree because she doesn't like it. Well, Mom,...guess what?...that tree has lights on it already. " ci fa niente..) Really, as she's standing there with the infamous puss on her face, so here I go, Margaret disconnects the friggen tree so she's happy. The irony is at the end of the stringing, I test all the lights and my mother and father are both standing there. So, the tree that my mother specifically says not to string, is not lit. She says, " Ma perche, non du-ma.?"( this is phonetic dialect--not a real word.) Um.."ma, did you not tell me to disconnect the lights off this tree?" She says, "Yeah, ma se como tu i min-tiste gia, i potive ra-sarre." (again this is all phonetically spelled, so you can understand.)

I just looked at her and said, "you must be joking! You guys are incredible..!!! I need a secret decoder ring just to figure out what you guys really mean or want!!!!!" There you have it, the eloquent masterpiece of a moment in putting up the Christmas lights at my parent's house. It just doesn't get any better than that. Oh and don't think my brothers and sister weren't laughing when I told them. I'll have to mastermind a task for them to do next, so they can get the full effect of Fran and Joe.