IN THE MORNING
I slept that night, but it wasn’t a peaceful sleep. I would fall asleep and then wake up suddenly; I would struggle to orient myself and remember that I was in a new and strange place. It was very late when I finally fell into a deep sleep.
It wasn’t the cock crow that woke me up that morning, nor was it the sound of the hoofs of Mrs. Giuseppa’s donkey. They were always the first to pass by on their way to the fields as the day broke into early morning.
It wasn’t even the deep voice of the stockman that would wait in the town square for the farm hands that worked with him. The stockman, Mannuccio, a huge and stocky man, would stand in the town square in the morning with his jacket thrown over one shoulder and would loudly call out to the farm workers.
I also didn’t feel Grandmother tapping on my shoulder to tell me that my barley soup was ready. Instead, I was awakened by the strong aroma of frying.
I didn’t remember well where I was. I looked for my mother, she wasn’t there; I looked for my grandmother and I didn’t hear her. I listened to hear the voices of my little sisters, but I didn’t hear them….I still thought I was home, surrounded by my loved ones and by familiar things and I would look around but couldn’t recognize anything around me. I was in a small beautiful room, made up very nicely with a small bed, a night table and a wall closet. But what am I doing here? Where am I? I would ask myself...I took a look around again...then suddenly, in a fraction of a second, everything came back to me.
America…a new house…a new world. It was a bitter sensation. I felt a thud in my heart, and I took my face in my hands as big tears already began to fall and wet my face.
I didn’t expect this reaction from myself. I hadn’t imagined my new life like this. I had thought so much about how happy I would have been to live in America, in the city, far from the small village of old-fashioned people. I would have been independent…I would have earned money.
But now I didn’t want any of this, I didn’t want to be independent. I only wanted my mother, my grandmother, my sisters and my safe little room.
I thought about how many changes I had experienced in the last ten days….the departure from the village…the crossing on the Christopher Columbus…coming ashore in New York…the trip from New York to Stamford and now my waking up.
I turned my eyes up to the sky and said: “You’re really putting me to the test, Lord.”
The euphoria of the discovery of a new world, the new relatives and the trip had passed. The realization that it wasn’t a dream placed a huge weight on my shoulders. From the kitchen came the sounds of happy voices.
I couldn’t let my relatives see me so sad, they would have felt bad.
I dried my tears, I forced a smile onto my lips and I went into the kitchen. My aunt Giovanna was preparing an American breakfast… ham and fried eggs, even toast, cake and American coffee. It looked more like lunch to me than breakfast. We all sat at the table, me, my father, my uncle Tony, my aunt and Annette, the handicapped cousin. My father asked about the other sisters who he hadn’t seen yet. They told him that they lived far away and that they would arrive within the next few days. I tried the fried ham and despite the fat, it was good. I also tried the American coffee and I found that was good as well.
I was already becoming Americanized, without even knowing or wanting it.
Aunt Giovanna would eagerly listen to the stories about Grandmother, her mother, that my father and I would tell and she would cry and laugh when she heard them. Eighteen years had passed since my aunt had left her to meet up with her husband and my aunt had never returned to the village. Hearing us talk so vividly about her mother touched her with joy. It also troubled her a bit because now more than ever she missed her mother. We spent the rest of the day unpacking.
That day and for a few days after, I received calls from friends that had come to this new land before me. I was so happy to hear familiar voices. They told me that within a few days, they would come see me. The weight on my shoulders began to lessen.
Delia Socci Skidmore
Delia Socci Skidmore