Torn Between Two Worlds
by Mary Vella
(Milwaukee, WI, USA)
My father came in 1955 for a future for his young family. Came to Milwaukee, WI. He worked hard in construction. He was part of the workers that built Highway 41 from Milwaukee to Chicago. He was always so proud of that fact.
After saving enough passage money he sent for us. That was three years later. My mother and four children came. We came on the Vulcania, a transatlantic ship at that time. Sicker than dogs, we experienced very bad weather at the end of April, 1958.
We arrived, I don't know where exactly, I was only 10 years old and had no knowledge of areas. I knew we had docked in Lisbon, Portugal, passed the mountain of Gibraltar, met with a lot of fog somewhere in Canada and then finally after 12 miserable days we stopped somewhere in New York.
A cousin of my father came to pick us up and took us to his home. Made sure all of my mother's trunks were sent to the proper place and we arrived in Brooklyn. So many people were there to greet us. Unknown to all of us; after all this was my father's cousin from long ago who had settled in Brooklyn. The tables were set with fine tablecloth and a lot of food. We had been so sick that we really did not eat that much. I was in awe of the way they talked. The younger daughter had told me that her dad had been in the States over 50 years and to me that seemed almost impossible. To think back to those words I chuckle now, because I have been here 55 years. Back to Brooklyn we changed clothes and then in the late afternoon we went through some tunnel and there we were at a train station. Off to Chicago.
It took all night and at daylight we kept seeing these small little houses; my mother couldn't believe that people actually lived in such small places. We kept looking to see if there were any cowboys and Indians popping up anywhere. We were excited; soon we would see our father. I had missed him so much. I was daddy's little girl. Only girl, older brother and two younger brothers, and then my sister had to break the cycle. I loved my daddy.
We finally arrived in Chicago and my dad was there with my cousin and her husband and so we drove now in the car to Milwaukee. We were used to the horse and buggy to get to the other town and then on the bus to the city twice a year to get school supplies, so all this boat, train, and car was so exciting for a little girl. Fun. Loved it. For a ten-year-old life was good.
Until we got settled into a routine and then we started missing the grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncles and lots of cousins. Life became a little lonely. So isolated. A small town in Sicily is full of sounds, people, colors, so much. Here the big city became so dark and gloomy. Yes we grew up, had a future, but nothing takes the place of your origins, the small town where you were born and had a sense of family. That was gone.
Yes you visit, but the saying you could never go home again is so true. We were left to have two worlds and yet have none. I love the States but I wish we never came. We missed the FAMILY. We have kept up with news and life but now the family is gone; a few cousins don't know who I am. She is the Americana, not the cousin that their mother or their father shared sleeping together, spending time at Nonna's house, laughing at the same jokes and just playing around together. They don't know us anymore. We missed all of them growing up without us.