Eleanor’s Journey from Italy to America

By: Lutia Crum-Ewing

“The food, beautiful buildings, friends, family, these are the things that we’re leaving behind” I said to myself roaming down the streets of Italy one chilly morning.

The graceful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and its baptistery and campanile, form the heart of Florence, Italy. 1296-1462 Florence, Italy

Goosebumps were running through my body saying those words to myself. A breeze fills the air while shuffling down the neglected sidewalk. Turning the corner I take one last look around stumbling across all the old buildings that my family and I used to go to. The streets were cracked from the earthquake in Messina, Italy in 1908. It shook the southern part of Italy, and had a magnitude of about a 7.5. Moments after the earthquakes first jolt, a devastating tsunami formed causing forty-foot waves to crash down on dozens of coastal cities. Most of southern Italy lost half their residence that morning. Ever since there wasn’t any work done to fix Messina.

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One building that I stumbled across had bricks all over the streets that had dust and there was debris everywhere. Messina had lost 80,000 people and dozens of towns were destroyed.¨The streets may be cracked and buildings are broken down but at the same time, I just want to stay here in Italy because this is where I grew up and lived my life but “we are changing our lives for the better” I sighed.

One place caught my eye as I was wondering around the streets, it was the family owned pizza place “Piazza” where my husband and I used to eat at all the time when the kids were at school. We went here years before the kids were born” I laughed.

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It was almost noon, knowing that my family and I had to leave for the journey that I was not ready to take. Picking up my old green run down dress I rush to my house, while running I could feel the sole of my shoe digging into my foot. When rotating around the corner, I manage to take one last look on the outside of our little house. The outside of the house looks like it had been abandoned for years and walking up the steps it feels like I’m going to fall because the steps weren’t sturdy, each move I make it feels so shaky. Standing in the doorway I hear my husband yelling

“Eleanor! Eleanor we have to hurry up before we miss the boat!”

As my husband shouted, I step to the kitchen and look at the freshly cleaned stove and on the handle of the oven door, I see the rag that I used to use when I cooked: that’s the only thing I’m paying attention. On the rag was a little Italian man with a green swirly background. This made me have a  flashback of all the memories we had in this small little house of ours. All the pasta that I used to make and the smell of the fresh biscuits fresh out of the oven. I can just see all the buttery biscuits that are so flaky when you bite into it your mouth just absorbs all the butter and the crunchiness. I see my family gathered around the table laughing and carrying on.

Gathering my family together we went to our rooms to pick up our one little suitcase and quickly packed clothes that we wanted. Pulling out my suitcase to pack my clothes, I noticed that my suitcase is all beat up and dusty because it hasn’t been used in years. Stumbling to get our suitcases I took one last look around and we knew we had to go.

We raced to the loading of the boats, as I was running, looking down and saw that the bottom of my shoes were falling apart. Quickly, I took my shoes off and standing there I could feel parts of rocks digging into my foot as I was waiting to get onto the boat. Patiently waiting I glance around and see families hugging and saying goodbye to their families. But as I was looking at all of them my family and I were startled as  people were shoving and pushing us to make their way into the cramped boat. We could barely see anything, the only thing we could see were peoples jackets our faces. Fumes of different perfumes and colognes were consuming me.

After getting pushed and shoved that felt like an eternity we made it to a part of the boat where it isn’t as cramped. I looked over at my husband and I tell him ¨It’s going to be okay, this is just the beginning of this journey.¨

¨I know¨ he said ¨I’m just afraid that we won’t be able to find job opportunities here, like we couldn’t find them here in Italy so why America?¨

As he said that I honestly didn’t know the answer to his question. ¨What if we don’t get a job in America, then what?¨ I questioned.

Arriving in America that question that my husband asked me stuck in my head the whole time we were waiting to get there. My bones were aching as we were sitting down on the boat. I couldn’t change the position that I was in because all the people were so close together and it felt like they were on top of me.

Heading to America I was thinking about how are we going to survive here on this small cramped boat with thousands of people. As we were sitting on the boat I noticed people were getting sick so I was so scared that something would happen to me or my family while we were arriving, luckily that didn’t happen.

Two months later, a cold morning of  February of 1909 we managed to find a little house here in America. In the house it is very small but my family and I love it very much because it brings my family together. Every night when the kids get home from school and my husband gets home from work I always cook something to remind them of home. One of their favorite meals is homemade pastas. The way I like to make the pastas are making the noodles by scratch. Every time I make a home cooked meal I always write down my recipes in my little pink book with flowers so that one day my kids or grandkids can look at this book and know how to make all the meals that I know and so they can still have a little bit of Italy still with them.

When my family and I first came here to America it was hard transitioning to life here. My husband managed to get a job as a clerk for a railroad company by laying tracks for the trains. My husband helped us financially so we could get this house that we live in today, he makes about $924 dollars a year so now my family can enjoy themselves by buying nice things. Because we didn’t have this back home in Italy. While my husband worked all day I stayed home doing work around the house and cooking the meals for the family because this is what I love to do.

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Time went on, looking back I now know the answer that my husband once wanted when we were on the boat coming to America. The reason that coming to America was a better choice was because of the job opportunities. We can start a better life here and to start fresh. My family can start a new life and have kids of their own so we can bring everything that we once had to America but live a better life here instead of Italy where everything was more expensive and we just couldn’t afford it back then, but now here in Hershey Pennsylvania everything is reasonable for us. So adjusting to life in America changed our lives for the better.

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