Sunday, December 15, 2002

The Neckar

This is the ship that my grandmother came to America in. The ship left from Naples in 1907, with my great grandmother Vincenza, 39, my grandmother (just a year old) Carmella, and a son Francesco (5 years old) on board. Now for the rest of the story: My great grandmother had been in America, living in Pennsylvania, when her homesickness got so bad--she missed her own mother back in Sicily so terribly--that her husband said, go then. Go visit your mother in Sicily. Did I mention she was pregnant for that journey back to Sicily? Yep. And do you think she had to take the kids with her? Of course.

So Vincenza took her two sons, then 2 and 5 years old, pregnant, by herself, and made the journey back to Sicily to see her mother. While Vincenza was there, the older boy became gravely ill and died. Two weeks after his death, my grandmother Carmella was born.

When my grandmother was a year old, Vincenza took her now-five-year-old son and her one-year-old daughter, boarded The Neckar, and journeyed back to America.

Just to recap, this woman--my great grandmother--had taken the arduous journey from Sicily to America to make a new life, had two children, travelled back to Sicily to see her mother, lost a son, given birth to a daughter, and journeyed back from Italy to America again with two children, in just a matter of years.

So what I'm trying to say is, no *wonder* I've had terrible cases of homesickness my whole life. I think it's in my genes! No, I'm kidding. What I'm really saying is how brave those early immigrants were. Especially the women.

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