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Generation Unravel

Generation Unravel

Crystal May Ainardi (May 24, 2008)
Little Italy of Boston

Generation Unravel




  My own upbringing and watching the generations before me unfold and turn to dust told me the story of the immigrants. The theory in this story is focused on my own Italian family specifically, and those ones I've observed of how our culture has changed throughout the generations. I call this theory the "Generations Unravel". The definition of “unravel” is as follows: “to free from complication or difficulty; to take apart; undo; destroy” Since the first Italian mass immigrations to America, there has been an Unravel within the generations to follow.

  When I started to look for answers this past year to find out who I was, it became clear to me that I needed to go to the closest source. My great-grandparents are dead so the main source was gone. My grandfather, their son is dead, so my source on the immigrants and first generations within the family were short. Of my grandfather’s nine siblings only one is still living. My great aunt Till, being she was a first generation she would have the clues and answers to the ways the immigrants had changed. I began to find old friends of my grandfathers, great aunts, uncles and ones that knew my great-grandparents at that time, something became very apparent in the pattern in the way they spoke of their heritage. It was the kind I grew up seeing in my grandfather which first brings me to the immigrants.

   After arriving many found their customs, heritage, and language had to be concealed. Told in the book, La Storia “Was a young immigrant man who spent all of his money before he left for America buying a very expensive Italian suit for the day he arrived. On the day of arriving to NY a family member met him there and exclaimed, ‘What are you wearing? You cannot wear that in America!’ It became apparent, one was not to stand out in America in the public eye.”  This carried into the first born Americans.

  First generation equaled denial. I had noticed in many of the first generation born Italian Americans I have met, many were ashamed. To hide this, they jokingly call each other "Wop","Dego.” I recall hearing my grandfather on the phone echoing in and out of English and slang Italian with his friends. He never wanted to speak of the past with the newest generations, NEVER. I noticed this with others of his age group; they just wanted to be accepted. Sure their parents were born elsewhere, but these guys, these guys were Americans not Italians. They were not dirty like people said they were. Ellis Island wasn't the only place where name changes happened; they happened right here in shame. They wanted to be like John Smith down the street who had the nice clothes, toys, and ate something other then Macaroni. This shame and the denial continued onto generation two.

   The second generation I like to call,"We are American" In this group I observed my father, my uncle, their childhood friends, and the few I have made contact with since planning for an Italian family reunion picnic. Many spoke of being proud, loved embracing their Italian heritage. Some even attended "Italian festivals". Many brag of their cooking skills and love of wine. Vincenza Scarpaci author, talks about how "Many second-generation Italians were so busy becoming Americans they left behind their customs and language."  Still some aren't even aware of the town their family came from, know a word in their families tongue, and never knew the pain of being called a "Wop" when it truly was meant to be a racial slur. They are American, they go to work every day, they pay their bills, and life just goes on. This goes into third generation.

  Third generation find themselves asking who am I? This would be me. All that I have found in this group it's like a lost sea of people trying to swim to the ship. “Now the third and fourth generations are asking the questions about the customs and language.” Now of course many of us are blended, Irish, Scottish, Native American a little bit of everything; yet the few who still identify themselves as an Italian-American like I, struggle for our answers. Many of us are hungry for the knowledge the ancestors took with them. Many long for the land our family came from. Some now discovering what their true surname is. How can we truly be recognized by Italians of the native land, if we have lost through the generations everything that made us Italian? Only to be chasing ghosts of traditions long gone. The Unravel has changed and defined a new Italian in America.

























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