Link and Reference Page

Link and Reference Page

Not all links are active.
Related Web Site:
Active Link: Scovotti Family Web Site
Active Link: Merola Family Web Site

Genealogical Resources: National Archieves and records: National Genealogical Society: Books dealing with Italian American ancestry:
STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND by: James Periconi The Grolier Club, New York ISBN 978-I-60583-039-I © 2012
       Americans of Italian Descent, Inc.,  New York / 1976

    The Story of THE ITALIANS IN AMERICA by: Michael A. Musmanno
       Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, NY, 1965   65-17234

       James J. Periconi, Published by Shea & Haarmann Publishing Company,
       and THE ITALIAN AMERICAN WRITERS ASSOCIATION, Mount Vernon, New York 2000

  Book titles on related topics: 

    Organizing Your Family History Search 
      by  Sharon DeBartolo Carmack  ISBN 1-55870-511-2  © 1999

I hope you enjoy the following story sent to me in November 2001. The author is unknown.

No One Covered The Fig Tree

I was well into adulthood before I realized that I was an American. Of course, I had been born in America and had lived here all my life, but somehow it never occurred to me that just being a citizen of the United States meant that I was an American. Americans were people who ate peanut butter and jelly on mushy white bread that came out of plastic bags. Me I was an Italian.
For me, as I am sure for most second generation Italian/American children who grew up in the 30's, 40's and 50's, there was a definite distinction to draw between us and them, we were Italians. Everybody else, the Irish, the Germans, Poles, they were "Americans". There was no animosity involved in that distinction, no prejudice, no bad feelings. Just well we were sure that ours was a better way. For instance, we had a bread man, a fruit and vegetable man, a chicken man; we even had a man who sharpened knives and scissors right outside our home. They were part of the many peddlers who piled into the Italian Neighborhoods. We would wait for their call, their yell, and their individual distinctive sounds. We knew them all and they knew us. The Americans - went to the A&P for most of their food - what a waste.
When it came to food, it always amazed me that my friends and classmates only ate turkey on Thanksgiving or Christmas, or rather; they only ate turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. Now we Italians - we also had turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, but only after we had finished the antipasto, soup, lasagna, meatballs, salad and whatever else Mama thought might be appropriate for that particular holiday. The turkey was usually accompanied by a roast of some kind {this was just in case somebody walked in who didn't like turkey} and was followed by an assortment of fruits, nuts, pastries, cakes and of course, the homemade cookies sprinkled with little colored things. No holiday was complete without some baking - none of that store bought stuff for us. This is where you learned to eat a seven-course meal between noon and 4pm - how to handle hot chestnuts and put peach and tangerine wedges in red wine. My friends ate normal mush - we did too, but only after Mama covered it with gravey, sausage and meatballs. We called it polenta - now it's a gourmet food - Mama must have known all the time.
I truly believed Italians live a romance with food. Sunday was the big day of the week. That was the day you'd wake up to the smell of garlic and onions frying in olive oil. On Sunday we always had gravy and macaroni. Sunday would not be Sunday without going to Mass. Of course, you couldn't eat before Mass because you had to fast before receiving Communion. But the good part was that we knew we'd find hot meatballs frying - and nothing tasted better than newly fried meatballs and crisp bread dipped into a pot of hot gravey.
There was another difference between us and them. We had gardens - not just flower gardens, but huge gardens where we grew tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes. We ate them, we cooked them, jarred them. Of course we also grew pepers, basil, lettuce and squash. Everybody had a grapevine and a fig tree and in the fall, everybody made home made wine. Then, when the kegs were opened, everyone argued over who's wine tasted the best. Those gardens thrived because we also had something our American friends didn't seem to have, we had Grandparents.
Of course, it's not that they didn't have grandparents - it's just that they didn't live in the same house or on the same block. Their presence wasn't noticeable. We ate with our grandparents, and God forbid we didn't visit them at least five times a week. I can still remember my Grandfather telling us about how he came to America when he was young - " on the boat ". How the family lived in a tenement and took in boarders in order to make ends meet. How he decided that he didn't want his children - five sons and two daughters to grow up in that environment. All of this of course, in his own version of Italian/English which I learned to understand quite well.
So, when they saved enough money, and I can still never figure out how, they bought a house. The house served as the family headquarters for the next forty years. I remember how they hated to leave the house for any reason. They would sit on the back porch and watch the garden "grow". When they did leave for some special occasion, they had to return as quickly as possible, after all - "nobody was watching the house". I also remember the holdidays when all the relatives would gather at my Grandparents' house and there would be tables of food and homemade wine. The women in the kitchen, the men in the living room and the kids - kids everywhere. I must have a thousand cousins, first cousins, second cousins, and friends who became cousins - but it didn't matter. Then my grandfather sitting in the middle of it all, his DiNobill in his mouth, his fine moustache trimmed, would smile. His dark eyes would twinkle as he surveyed his domain - proud of his family and how well his children had done. One was a cop, one was a fireman, the others had trades and of course, there was a rogue about whom nothing was said. The Girls? They had all married and had fine husbands, although my grandfather secretly seemed to suspect that one son-in-law wasn't Italian. But out of all this, one thing we all had for each other was respect.
They had achieved their goal in coming to America, to Boston, to New York, Chicago or Philadelphia. Now their children and there children's children were achieving the same goals that were available to them in this great country. When my grandparents died a few years ago, things began to change. Family gatherings were fewer and something seemed to be missing. ALthough when we did get together, usually at my mother's house, I always had the feeling that they were there.
It is understandable that things change. Everyone now has families of their own and grandchildren of their own. Today we visit once or twice a year - or at wakes and weddings. Other things have also changed. The old house my grandparents bought is now covered with aluminum siding. A green lawn covers the soil that grew tomatoes. THERE WAS NO ONE TO COVER THE FIG TREE, SO IT DIED.
The holidays have changed. Yes, we still make the family "rounds" but somehow things have become more formal. The great quantity of food we once consumed without any ill effects is no good for us anymore. Too much starch, too much cholesterol, too many calories in the pastries. And nobody bothers to bake anymore - too busy. It's easier to buy it and anyway, too much is no good for you.
The difference between "us" and "them" aren't so easily defined anymore and I guess that's good. My grandparents were Italian/Americans, my parents were Italian/Americans, I'm an American and proud of it. Just as my grandparents would want me to be. We are all Americans now, the Irish, Germans, Poles - all of us citizens. But somehow, I still feel a bit Italian. Call it culture, call it roots, I'm not sure what it is. All I do know is that my children, my nieces and my nephews have been cheated out of a wonderful piece of heritage - THEY NEVER KNEW MY GRANDPARENTS.
Author unknown.

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