We start talking about our grandparents. Of landing in the United States after months of hardship in their homelands, of escapes from war and terror and oppression, of arriving in this new land laden with sadness striving for a hopeful future for themselves, their children, their grandchildren.
The stories are full of details of coal mines and lace factories, intertwined marriages, and large families. There are stories about religious obligations to become nuns and priests, of husbands and wives widowed, of marrying the next family member in line, of keeping the family together at all costs. So many stories.
I think about my grandparents, two sets that migrated from Italy’s shores. One from the North, one from the South. My father’s parents Teresa and Riccardo; my mother’s parents Francesco and Rosa. My memories of their lives are fuzzy. I reach out to my brother to see what he can remember. I reach out to my uncle, my father’s sole surviving sibling. Both are dead ends. Figuratively. Literally.
What I do know is that my father’s parents, both from the same town in Italy, crossed the Atlantic to find each other in Brooklyn; my mother’s parents married in Sicily, my grandfather migrated to the Fashion District, my grandmother emigrated to Carroll Gardens soon after, with three children in tow. Brooklyn was everyone’s home of choice, and it has become my home of choice, too.