Thursday, April 5, 2012

my heritage.

a few months ago jenni asked me to write a guest post for her about my heritage and it brought back so many lovely memories of my grandparents. i felt such joy while writing the post that i thought i'd share it here on my blog for all of you that might have missed it. so here you are, i hope you like it :)


her-it-age: [noun] something that comes or belongs to one by reason of birth.

when jenni asked me to write about my 'heritage' and what it means to me, so many emotions ran through my head. i guess you can say i have a strong sense of heritage. i'm proud of who i am and where i came from. i'm 100% italian. i come from a large, loud, and always hungry clan. we call 'sauce' gravy, we eat the feast of the seven fishes on christmas eve, we talk with our hands. a lot. and we eat dinner at 1:00 pm on sunday afternoons.

but it's not all about the food (well, sometimes it is - let's face it). to me, my heritage means a lot of different things. but if i had to pick something it would be the 'american dream'...and everlasting love.

my grandpa, enrico, was an interesting man. his english was choppy, he was rather quiet, but had so much depth to him. he grew up in castleforte, italy - a small town about an hour north of naples - and came to america in 1938 when he was 30 years old. with only a 4th grade education and a few bags, he was determined to make something of himself in the bustling city of new york.

my grandpa, bottom right, with his family in Italy

my grandpa (on the horse) at 25 years old , serving in the Italian army

my grandpa settled in harlem and was quickly set for an arranged marriage...only it was not to my grandma. my grandpa's family had arranged for him to marry my grandma's sister! but when my grandpa went to meet his soon-to-be bride and her family, he took one look at my beautiful grandma and changed his mind. he instead wanted to marry my grandma. now if that's not the most romantic thing you've ever heard, then i don't know what is. my grandparents married the next year.

in 1940 my grandparents bought a hourse. her name was trixie. this is how their business started. my grandpa sold fresh fruits and vegetables on the back of the horse. he would wake up every morning and ride trixie down to the pier to stock up on produce. he would then take trixie and his wagon full of plentiful fruits and veggies and sell them on the streets of new york city. seriously, i'm not making this up.

he did this for about 11 years. in 1951 my grandparents took their family of three boys (including my dad!), and moved to newark, new jersey where they were able to afford a rowhouse. my family settled in on the second floor and decided to open up their very own Italian American Grocery store below. This was HUGE. my dad would always tell me stories about working in the store with his brothers and how they would goof around with the customers. he would always tell me how my grandpa would work long hours to make sure the shelves were stocked with fresh produce and meat. and my dad would always tell me that no matter how busy my grandparents were, they would always take the time to talk to every single person who came in the store. they were a lovely team.

a picture of the Store and their home on the second floor.
*it's very old so we had to tape pictures together, that's why it looks like this

throughout the years my grandparents put three kids through college, had 9 grandchildren and got to hold 5 great grandchildren. my grandpa lived to be 98 years old. he was not sick, but rather heartbroken. he had been married to my grandma for 68 wonderful years. when it was her time to leave this world he could no longer continue on. he fought for 1.5 years but in the end he was taken from us so he could be with her again. the love he had for my grandma and for his family was beautiful. my grandpa was a great man who worked extremely hard to make a better life for himself and for the ones he loved. he taught my dad how to persevere in hard times and how to work hard for the things you want in life...which in turn, my dad was able to teach me. and for that, i am grateful.

there is seriously no better feeling when somebody asks me "what are you?", and i get to answer "i am italian. 100%."


Danielle said...

That's such a great story friend! I can't believe I've never heard it before. Thanks for sharing & I love the pics!! :)

Lottie said...

I remember this post it led me to your blog and made me into a regular reader--oh the memories :)


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