Sign in | Log in

A Discarded Photograph Encapsulates the American Dream

A Discarded Photograph Encapsulates the American Dream

Darrell Fusaro (December 11, 2011)

The man's smile was irresistible. I had to pick up the photograph.


I stepped out of my car and as I was about to step up and on to the sidewalk I noticed a old photograph of a man laying in the curb.  The man's smile was irresistible.  I had to pick it up. 

I turned the picture over to look for identification but there wasn't any.  Stamped on the back was "Photo Post Card" along with three handwritten dates and to the left of each date was a corresponding word.  After reading and re-reading the dates and words I kept turning the photo back over to look at this man.  A photo of a man with the tools of his trade and by the looks of it proud of his profession.  From the type of shirt he is wearing and what appears to be a scale weighing a bowling ball I imagined he was employed at a bowling alley.  The fact that this photo was made into a photo post card made me conclude he had family back in the "old country" with whom he wished to share his success with.  He certainly looks Italian to me.  Funny, this stranger's photo brought to mind a photo post card my grandfather made of himself.  My grandfather too was an Italian immigrant and now I feel certain why he had his photo post card made.  It was to do the same as this man: share concrete proof with those back home that it's true - the American dream is a reality!

That along with the three handwritten dates and words is enough for me to appreciate this man's wonderful life story.  The dates and words are as follows; "1974 manager, 1984 owner, 1994 retired."

Looking at the photograph I imagine him as young man coming to America with the dream of a successful life.  A life with greater potential than he believed possible in his country of origin.  I can see him in my mind's eye him bumbling through his first day at the job, embarrassed at times but determined to master it.  His dream is greater than any obstacle he encounters.  He believes in the American dream.  He believes it is true.  It is this belief that keeps him enthusiastic in spite of any hardship.  I can hear the sound of the bowling pins being knocked down, the heavy balls rolling down the wooden lane, the planks creaking slightly under the ball's weight as it rolls over them, the sound of the pins being swept out of the way and reset by the machines that are designed to do that, and the roll and "clunk" when the ball ends up back in line for the next time down the lane.  I can smell the unmistakable ever present smell of wood, rubber, and machine oil - that bowling alleys have.  As seasons pass I see him cheerfully performing his duties, when the owner informs him that he is being given a promotion putting him in a position of greater responsibility.  I imagine the years passing and his family growing up around him.  Then the big news!  He races home to his wife enthusiastic to share an incredible opportunity.  He wants to buy the business he's been working for - now up for sale.  It's a huge risk.  His wife is concerned and scared but trusts him, she loves him.  So far the American dream has proved to be a reality and with that they take a leap of faith.  He does his best and things go well, he is proud yet generous business owner.  Their kids grow up and bring grand kids who love spending time with grandpa at the bowling alley.  And finally, he and his wife, old and gray, who look forward to having their now large and extended American family at their home for the holidays. 

I still have his photo.  It's safe in a box along with personal photos I cherish. If someone asked me, "Do you know this man?"  I would answer, "Yes, I feel like I do."
"To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream;
not only plan, but also believe."-Unknown


DISCLAIMER: Posts published in i-Italy are intended to stimulate a debate in the Italian and Italian-American Community and sometimes deal with controversial issues. The Editors are not responsible for, nor necessarily in agreement with the views presented by individual contributors.
This work may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission.
Questo lavoro non può essere riprodotto, in tutto o in parte, senza permesso scritto.