If you've followed this blog recently you probably already know that Sally and I have been on an ancestry kick. We've started a family site and have now documented over 700 members in our family tree.
As I've navigated through my branch of the tree I've found some wonderful documents which show when, where and how my maternal grandparents arrived in this country. As a child I knew my grandparents as elderly people who spoke no or only broken English. I was just a kid and they were old and talked differently. My memories include my grandmother always in the kitchen, always with an apron on, and the only word I remember her saying to me was, "mangia". My grandfather being tall, often sitting in his rocking chair, and his cardigan sweater on. The documentation I have found gives me more of a sense of who they are, but not a picture of how their early lives in this country might have been.
Surprisingly, not through my research through Ancestry.com, but rather through my garage cleanup work, I think I have a better view of their lives.
On Saturday as I was cleaning the garage I came upon an old, but large portable A/C. I put it at the street with a sign reading, "FREE (works)". It sat there for two days without a nibble. Monday I loaded it into the back of the wagon and off to the Salvation Army I went. "Sorry, we can't take that," was the greeting from the SA attendant. Back home with the A/C to sit on the front lawn again. While Sally and I worked outside an elderly man and woman stopped to look at the A/C. Sally hollered that it was theirs if they wanted it. Some discussion ensued (not in English) and then they started to carry it off. Now this A/C must weigh at least 75 pounds, is bulky and it's tough for two to carry. They got about five feet and I could see on the woman's face this was not going to work. I hurried down the driveway offering to help. She thanked me in a non-verbal way. "So, where are we going? Where's the car?" No car, apartment is a block away. Down the hill we go. The elderly gentleman and I take about ten steps and he starts to wheeze. "I have emphysema." Visions race through my head - none good. We eventually make it to the apartment and they motioned to just leave the A/C outside the stairs to the apartment. Figuring they had help there I did just that and headed home. 20 minutes later I'm feeling a bit concerned so I take a peek from the end of the driveway. There they are attempting to pickup the A/C unit. I whistled my loudest whistle and got their attention. "Put it down I gestured" and jogged on down to help. They had the window open and ready for the A/C. There was no way two people were going to make it into the apartment carrying the A/C so I volunteered.
I entered what I thought was going to be the living room. It was not. It was THE room; maybe 10x12 (there was a single door to a utility looking room which had to serve as closet and bathroom (I hope). ) Regardless, I got the unit in the window ready for their use.
The apartment was filled with religious ornaments. It reminded me of a room in my grandparents home. Madonna statues abound. As I left and walked back to our modest home I could not help but think that probably was how my grandparents lived when they first arrived in this country. Take whatever space they could afford. They managed.
My grandparents came to this country trying to build a better life for their future family. The couple I helped probably were doing the same only a century later. Good luck with that. I'll be peeking down the street to help when I can. It just seems right.
Lest You Dwell Overmuch on the Amazingness
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