Over the years, whenever our family was gathered around our favorite meeting place (the dining table!), I would tell stories about my childhood and teen years, growing up on the east side of Youngstown, Ohio. My children never knew my parents, and were always eager to hear more tales about them and our neighborhood. In time, my son used his very persuavive manner to cajole me into writing the stories down. They are recollections of fond memories that, by adding them one at a time here, I hope will not be lost forever when I am gone. I hope that some of the pleasure and the sense of the past that I get from telling them is contained in these brief retellings.
I invite all readers here to leave comments or to email me with stories of their own.
In August of 2010, my dear sister Palma died after a long and courageous fight with diabetes. Attending, as she had requested, her very simple funeral, my mind wandered back to two events that took place many years ago.
After high school graduation, my parents, who were busting their buttons because I was the first in the family to go to college, decided they would drive me to Athens, Ohio, where I would start classes at Ohio University. The journey was about four hours, and took us through winding country roads, and it seemed, through every small township and village in southern Ohio.
or "How Corrado became Antonio became Corrado"
In the 1920’s, getting all the necessary papers to be allowed to immigrate to the United States included passing a physical examination. My father's cousin, Antonio Zaza, was unable to make the cut because of some physical disability (unknown). But a passport had already been paid for, a little money set aside for the voyage, and so it was decided that someone was going to use this opportunity to go to America and start earning money to support the family back in Molfetta, Italy!
I just celebrated my 69th birthday, and of course I started thinking about my Mother, and the story she told me about the day I was born.
When he was 18 years old, my father, Gaetano Zaza, came to America with his Uncle, Pantaleo Zaza. They departed Naples, Italy on the Princess Irene, February 20, 1913. His mission was to find work and, to send money back to his family in Molfetta, Bari, Italy.
With all the fuss about immigration and citizenship in the news, I was reminded of my father's own immigration and citizenship story.
In May of 2003 my wife retired, and in July of 2003 I retired. That October we relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina, to spend our retirement years in a warmer climate, and to be near the ocean. In my previous story, I spoke of our friends Anthony and Judy Piana, and about how we kept in touch only with phone calls and Christmas cards. With the exception of one brief visit with only Anthony as he passed through our home town in Ohio while on a business trip, we had not all been together for almost 39 years.
[UPDATED WITH PHOTOS!]
Recently, my niece Adrienne emailed me about her move to New York City, and she mentioned that she ran into friends from her college days at Ohio State University. Amazing how friendships endure even when life sends friends off into different parts of the world. Such is my friendship with Anthony Piana.
My wife Marie’s mother, Mary DeGennaro LoBasso, came to the United States in 1930 at the age of 16, along with her two older siblings, Sergio and Antoinette.
Imagine starting on a journey to a new land, a three year old daughter in hand, and waiting for you at the end of your journey, a husband you haven't seen for four years. Add to that the fact that you had never been further away from home and family than the town cemetery, which was located at the end of your hometown's border. You have never been on a train, or a boat, you speak only your native tongue, and you are leaving behind mother, father, brothers and sisters and all your friends.