Category Archives: immigration

Coming to America

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Once my mom was granted the VISA to come to the USA to join my father in San Francisco, things moved fairly quickly. My dad purchased her ticket and all the arrangements were made for her trip in January of 1958 from Milan to San Francisco. The day of her departure came and her father escorted her to the airport in Milan. When they got there, she was told that the fog was too thick for them to take off and that they were being trained down to Rome for departure. She said goodbye to her dad and boarded the train headed for Rome. Eight hours later, they arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino airport and boarded the plane headed for San Francisco. But…on the way, they would be making a stop in Milan to pick up more passengers! By that time, the fog had lifted and the plane was able to land and take off! My poor mom – she’d already spent all day travelling and hadn’t even left yet!

This plane ride was the first time my mom had ever been on an airplane and she didn’t feel very well. She was motion sick and the smell of food made her nauseous. Her seat mate was an American man who had just gone to Italy to marry an Italian bride. He was from San Francisco and would be travelling the entire way with her. The plane was scheduled to make a stop over in New York and then continue on to San Francisco. But yet another snafu was in the making. As the plane was landing, a flock of birds flew into the engine and so they had to spend a night in New York! My poor mom – young, not speaking English, not knowing anyone – was made to share a room with another woman whom she’d never met before. As they made their way to the room, the other woman told my mom she would be meeting some friends she knew in New York and if my mom would like to join her. My mom politely declined and stayed in her room. As the night went on, this “roommate” brought some of these “friends” to the room. As you can imagine, things were a bit uncomfortable for my mom. She pretended to be asleep but the whole while heard all that was going on.

The next morning, the man who had been sitting next to my mom, called her and invited her to breakfast. Being in a big city, seeing people of all races (which she’d never been exposed to before) made her very apprehensive and scared and so she welcomed the kind gentleman’s invitation. He told her that he had gone to Italy to marry his wife and he would be bringing her to San Francisco soon. She was from Asolo in the Veneto and he said that it would be great if she could meet my mom once she arrived. He took down my mom’s last name and said he would call her when his wife arrived.

When they finally landed in San Francisco, my mom was so excited to see my dad that she forgot about everyone else. They moved into the small room my dad was renting, but soon afterwards, found a two bedroom flat in the Marina District.

A few months later, my dad received a phone call from the gentleman saying that he had travelled with my mom from Italy and that his wife had just arrived. They made arrangements to meet and the ladies became fast friends. My mom, being originally from Padova, spoke the same dialect as her new friend. It is because of this friend that I picked up the Venetian dialect just listening to my mom and her speaking together.  Eventually we ended up moving very close to each other and the ladies remained good friends for many years!

My mom had a hard time when she first emigrated. She didn’t speak English and even though many of their friends were of Italian descent, they would start off speaking Italian but then revert to English. My mom felt isolated and lonely even though she spent a lot of time with my uncle’s wife. She desperately wanted a baby to keep her occupied, but she also missed working. She’d been working since she was 11 years old and missed it. She found a job working at Levi Strauss, but it didn’t last long. My dad never wanted her to work, and once they found out that she was expecting me, she quit. Her employment lasted all of 2 weeks! During her pregnancy, she took some classes to learn English and she practiced with my aunt. Her English didn’t take off, though, until she had me and met other moms at the playground. She slowly began to feel more at home in America, even though she missed Italy and her family.