Sunday, November 21, 2010

A different kind of Pilgrim

We read about the pilgrims in our history books when we are young.  I really never understood what it meant to be a pilgrim until we moved to Plymouth in 1998.  The details of what I learned in school were very vague and did not include the details of the people that were living in this area before 1620.  I am thankful for the knowledge that I have gained over the years and the appreciation for the native people.  They were instrumental in the survival of the European settlers so many years ago.

My ancestry cannot date back to the Mayflower as far as I know.  My father and my grandparents came to the USA from Italy in 1955.  I am a first generation American.  My family history included making a pilgrimage of sorts to a land that was more prosperous and where people would achieve success by hard work.  It was truly the typical emigrant story.  They arrived in February of 1955 in NY's Ellis Island.  They did not go far, and settled in Westchester County New York.  It was a foreign land to them, and they did know a few people here when they arrived.  It is here in the USA that they made a life for themselves.

I am thankful for Pilgrims of all sorts.  The settlers in 1620 wanted religious freedoms because where they previously lived they could not worship with out persecution.  My family left Italy because they were living in poverty after the depression and World War II and sought a better life for themselves and their children. While I do not think they left for religious reasons like the settlers in 1620, I feel my family left Italy and emigrated to this country because they wanted to work hard and live the American dream. 

At times I am conflicted at my love for my family because of the current issues that I am having with my Uncle Mike.  I love the fact that they were adventurous and left behind the only county and language that they knew and came to this foreign land.  They had faith and out of desperation they exited the only security that they knew existed.  My father was only 10 years old.  He arrived in an English speaking school in NY in the winter, not knowing a word of the language.  It was a very different climate in NY than in Calabria Italy, adjacent to the Mediterranean Ocean.  My father never went back to Italy.  I think he had too many bad memories of being poor.  He spoke of stavation and not knowing where the next meal was going to come from. I remember him talking about the home he grew up in.  Dirt floors, no electricity or indoor plumbing.  The "out house" was detached.  He rarely spoke about this time in his life.  I think it was too painful for him.  He really did not like to talk about the past.  At least not until he got sick.  When he was in hospice, he spoke about the past quite a bit.  I learned many things about my dad in those few short weeks, than I did in my entire life time.

I do not know much about my Mothers side of the family.  I need to do some research.  My mom thinks we might have some connection to the Mayflower, however so do a few million other people.  I am not great at genealogy.  I would love to be better at it.  I never really thought about it until my dad died a few years ago.  That is when I became interested in it.  I am always amazed when I see someone who can trace back their family for many generations.  I have come to a stopping point mostly because I need to devote time to the issue, and that is something that is such a scare commodity for me right now.  I think my family tree is a Walnut, because they are all nuts !

This Thanksgiving I am SO thankful for ALL of the pilgrims and pioneers that have come before me and that have sacrificed so I might have a better life.  Their courage and determination continue to amaze me even so long after the fact.  As I get older I think about what legacy I will leave for my family. 

I wonder what kind of Pilgrim I will be to my family.  Hopefully one that has some of the same admirable qualities of those Pilgrims that have gone on before me and who have sacrificed so much for my welfare.


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