Sunday, July 4, 2010

Where There Are Diamonds In The Sidewalks & Gutters Lined In Song

"Not too bad for a bunch of immigrants, right?" So said my father-in-law Joe yesterday afternoon as he sat in the dining room at his brother Sal's home in Staten Island. His question was not broad or intended to express some sort of political statement. He said it as he looked around the table and saw his sister Connie and his brothers Andy and Sal. Andy and Connie are both on the far side of 90 while Sal and Joe each is closing in on 80. The four of them between them have almost three and one half centuries of history. Each of them is a first-generation American - the child of Italian immigrants who sailed to the United States in the hope of making a better life for themselves and for the children they would have after they arrived here.

We spent a few hours yesterday afternoon in Staten Island. And in the span of those few hours, the four of them (principally Joe and Sal) gave us an extraordinary history lesson. Not an American history lesson. A far move valuable one. A lesson about the history of the Bozzomos. You cannot read it in a book anywhere. Classes are not taught on it at colleges and universities. You will never have the chance to get a tote bag from PBS while watching a mini-series on Channel 13 dedicated to it.

Yet its importance cannot be overstated. The history of the Bozzomos, much like the history of my family and the history of your family, is the fabric and the foundation of America. Each of us has a history - whether our ancestors came here a century ago or more on a ship that sailed into New York Harbor or sometime much more recently than that - and it is those histories that make us Americans.

On more than one occasion yesterday Joe said, "The best thing my father did for me was get on a ship and come to America." The most important decision in the history of the Bozzomo family. A decision that helped shape their history. And by extension the history of America. And of all of us. A decision to make their home in the American Land.

Happy Birthday to all of us. And to all of the stories we can tell.

-AK

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