Returning to America (1945-Present)
Returning to America lead us to live in Cleveland with my family. My husband spent a lot of time at home while I was teaching Italian as school. My mother and he would spend a lot of time talking about Sant’Agata still. Then my father would come in and start speaking in Italian but he would finish in English. My father was fourteen years old when he came to America, so he had been speaking English a lot longer than Italian. My husband would say, “Dad, I understand you to a certain point but then you started speaking English!” Felice spoke Italian, actually Sicilian. He would say to the children, “Noi parliamo Italiano in casa–we speak Italian in the house, Di Fuori Englese –outside is English! No he would actually say “American.” Cause he would say, “American is not English!”
We would have a fellow from Oklahoma or Utah come and he would ask me, “Which one of them speaks American?” Felice would say, “That one says ‘I reckon,’ did he break something?!” He would say, “What is he wrecking?!” Also when the men would say, “Ya’ll coming?” and Felice said, “What kind of word is that?” One time, he was talking to someone and this person couldn’t understand Felice so he told them to “Speak to my daughter Myriam, She could tell you” and she would said “He no speak any English!” and proceed to translate for the man.
Each one of those men had a different accent so he said, “How come they don’t speak da English?!”
West Coast U.S.A in America
My oldest son John got very sick and we didn’t have a doctor that we knew in Ohio at the time; we didn’t know of a child doctor. I had a school friend that I remembered so I called her and she gave me the name of a woman doctor that she knew. This woman doctor said that my son should be back in his own country, Sicily, where it was warm. It was just a week before Christmas when we got back from Italy
and it was a very cold winter in Ohio. She scared me so much after telling me that he needed to be in another climate. I had some friends and their families that just moved to California and so they found a place for us to live in El Monte,
California in 1949. So we went to California because of John’s health.
I was born in Cleveland, I lived in Italy, and I lived on the west side of California! And now I’m on the east side of the United States. Who knows, I might be in China next! But you know if it hadn’t been for that doctor, we probably wouldn’t have left Cleveland.
(please note: Italics indicate Virginia’s input to the story)
Besides John being the initial reason for going there, when Laura had to decide they would remain in the United States or go back to Italy, Felice said if he had to choose a place to live, he would choose California. I don’t know if Felice would have been happy in Cleveland. He said California was reminiscent of his own country, so that played a major part in going there too. He said, “If you want me to stay in the United States, I will choose to stay, because of California.” My dad was upset because they had been gone for eight years already and the idea of coming home and leaving again so soon was upsetting. But it was my mother who was very wise that said to my father, “Charles, even if they go to California and we are separated again, at least we don’t need a passport to go and see them.” My dad said, “You’re right.”
My sons love California and the three of them still live there to this day, and my daughters live on the east coast, like me. In fact, my husband, when we went to Italy for the second time, said to me, “What do you want to do? Do you want to live here or do you want to go back to California?” I used to have nightmares that I had bought a home in Palermo and remember thinking what do I do now? I have a home in Palermo, in Cleveland, I have one in California. Where do I go? Even in my dream I was crying because I didn’t know where I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to lose my chance of living here in the states but I also didn’t want to give Italy up completely. In Italy I had lived comfortably. I had my husband’s relatives that treated me like a queen, the people of Sant’Agata were wonderful to me! I had servants, I had a car driver, and I don’t remember doing housework at all. That’s why Virginia found me difficult when I came back, I think she wanted to send me back.