Tuesday, September 3, 2013

where do you come from?

this is pretty much a repost 
from one i did almost two years ago
but it still holds meaning
and is perfect for today's first blogtember post.

describe where or what you come from

so here i go...

i'm proud of who i am and where i came from. 
i'm 100% italian 
and my family is large, loud, and always hungry. 

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.

my grandpa, enrico, was an interesting man.
his english was choppy,
he was quiet,
and had quite the life.
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,
like many, 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 parents had arranged for him to marry my grandma's sister! 
but when he 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 following year.

in 1940 my grandparents bought a horse. 
her name was trixie and this is how their business started. 
my grandpa sold fresh fruits and vegetables on the back of trixie. 
he would wake up every morning and ride her 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 settled into a rowhouse. 
my family lived on the second floor 
and decided to open up their very own Italian American Grocery store 
right below them. 

This was a HUGE accomplishment. 
growing up my dad and uncles would tell me stories about working in the store 
and how they would goof around with the customers. 
they would say my grandpa worked very long hours
 to make sure the shelves were always stocked with fresh produce and meat. 
my dad would 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
throughout their marriage, 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 instead heartbroken. 
he had been married to my grandma for 68 wonderful years
and 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. 
i'm lucky that i got to spend 20 amazing years with him.

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 than when somebody asks me "what are you?", 
and i get to answer 
"i am italian. 100% italian."

please, tell my your story.
where do you come from?

don't be shy

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