Thursday, April 30, 2009

My "History"

I have been thinking a lot lately about my family history. This photo is of my grandmother as a bridesmaid at her sister's wedding circa 1916. It is one of the precious few photos that I have of her. She was about 16 years of age when this was taken. She and her family came here by ship from Sicily in 1912. I cannot imagine how hard that must have been. My mother remembers my grandmother telling her stories of how hard that vogage was and the hardships that everyone endured to come here to the United States. She was only 12 years old when she made that voyage with her parents and two sisters. They, like so many immigrants, went through Ellis Island. What I find so remarkable is how much she and I look alike - it is like looking into a mirror and seeing my reflection when looking at this photo. The resemblance is uncanny.

Both of my fathers' parents were immigrants from Italy; my grandmother from Palermo, Sicily and my grandfather from a small village near Naples that bears my surname. I loved hearing stories from my grandfather while he was alive (he died in 1994 at age 99) about his life and how he met my grandmother. My cousins and I got together one evening many years ago and decided to tape my grandfather telling us the story of his life. I am so thankful that we did and that we each have a cassette of that family history; however, I have yet to transcribe it. I know it's silly that it has been so many years, but I think I may finally be able to listen to it and hear to his voice again. I was very close to him.

My grandmother (whose picture is above) Ester, died when I was four, but I can still remember going through her jewelry box and being mesmerized by all the sparking pins and necklaces that she had. I have some of those pieces now, which I treasure. I know that this is where my love of jewelry began. Even back then, I felt that it was such a priviledge to be given the "permission" to go through her jewelry box, especially since I was so young. I only wish that she had lived long enough that I could have known her better. It tugs at my heartstrings when I remember those family members who were so important to me who have passed, but I hold onto the promise that we will be reunited one day and hold on to that, especially the older I get. It does bring me a sense of peace.


Ellen Bloom said...

WONDERFUL photo and even a better story!

susanc said...

Thank you Ellen. It is really like so many of our "histories" - after all, we are truly a country of immigrants and I know everyone has their own story to tell.

susanc said...
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farmlady said...

I love stories like this. Family history is do important. Knowing where you are from give continuity to our lives.
My great grandmother came to Ellis Island from Milan, Italy. Then to California from New York. She came to marry my great grandfather who had come earlier with his brothers to farm and grow grapes in the Napa Valley.
Your relatives and mine where hardy, brave people. Can't you imagine coming that far from your home to make a new life?