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Rose Masciello's Autobiography - Chapter Eight

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                The Dreamers

 

Shortly after Mamma Lucia and her children arrived in Illinois, she received good news
from Padre Stefano. He had just heard from the Embassy, and would soon be on his way to
America with Anichia and Pasquale. The last of the Palmeri family gave their remaining
belongings to relatives and friends, said their final sad farewells and left their home in
Roccamena, Sicily for the last time.

Their Port of Departure was Palermo. They traveled on the Columbia, in steerage and luckily
had a smoother voyage than the rest of their family had experienced on the Princess
Matoika.
The
Columbia arrived safely on March 12, 1921 at Ellis Island, NY.

Stefano, Anichia and Pasquale were greeted affectionately by Stefano’s brother, Uncle Alfredo,
“the arranger,” who had emigrated to America a few months earlier. He and his wife Laura had
no children and were happy to sponsor these relatives until the new arrivals became self supporting.

Alfredo was ambitious and had managed a fruit and vegetable store in Brooklyn since his
arrival in New York. Now, with his brother Stefano’s help, he was ready to start his own business.
The brothers worked very hard. Pasquale had just turned seventeen; he was a great help to his
father and uncle, not only in the way he handled the heavy crates of fruits and vegetables,
but also in the way he handled the lady customers. They called him ”Pat” and kept buying
lots of fruit for their homemade pies. Surely they were eating more of the healthy green leafy
vegetables than they had ever eaten before!

Back in Rockford, Illinois, Mamma Lucia was busy working at the garment factory. The “Boss”
had agreed to let her leave early every day so that she would be at home when her daughters
returned from school, but that was on one condition. She would have to finish a few coats at
home. So every day as she left the factory she would be seen carrying a shopping bag that
was stuffed with several coats and the buttons she would sew on them that evening. In the
morning Lucia lugged the coats back to the factory. She sat at her usual place among the other
“finishers.” Her needle seemed to move along in rhythm with her thoughts of Stefano. She missed
her husband and the other two children, but had decided that she would stay in Rockford until
Giovanna gave birth to her baby. It would be Lucia’s first grandchild, and as much as she longed
for her family to be reunited she knew that her dream would just have to wait a little longer to
become a reality.

Meanwhile, Padre Stefano, lonely in Brooklyn, missed his Lucia. They had never been apart
since the day they had married, twenty five years earlier. He was doing well in his
brother Alfredo’s fruit and vegetable store, and his dream was to own his own business by the
time Lucia and the girls joined him. Giovanni and Giovanna had their own special dream.
They would soon become parents and their child would be an American.

Lena and Margaret were learning to speak English and were very proud of themselves
when they tried to teach Mamma Lucia the words they had learned that day in school.
Their dream was that they would become school teachers.

Aunt Laura called Anichia by her English name “Anna.” Anichia loved her new name. The
two women got along very well. They both enjoyed cooking for the men, and the more
compliments they received the more time they spent in the kitchen. Like all women they
liked to be appreciated. Anichia, now eighteen, had the look of a fair, young goddess. Her
dream was that someday her Prince Charming, riding a white horse, would lovingly call
her “Anna” and carry her away to his palace– a mansion would be fine too!

As for Pasquale, he too had many dreams and each one was about a pretty girl! Back in
Sicily, in his hometown of Roccamena, the young girls never walked alone. When they went
shopping, there was a chaperone! Now a few of the American young ladies who came into the
fruit and vegetable store jokingly asked if they could phone the store for home deliveries!
Luckily the Palmeris would not own a phone until many years later.

Like so many other immigrants, the Palmeris were brave, ambitious, resourceful people. They
came to a new land, not knowing the language or the American customs. They were uneducated
and had spent their lives mostly on a farm. Yet they knew that with perseverance America was
the place where dreams could come true.