A Life Long Story

Finding a better life

We lived in a small house with no floor, only dirt, no heating, only a fire under the cooking pot, and not enough food to not be hungry. When ever I told mom I was hungry she always gave me an olive pit to suck on and it always helped. My father had already moved to America to make money and send some to us to help us get by. I don’t remember much of my father since he left when I was small. The only thing I remember is his big mustache.  It was time to join him, I remember my grandmother was saying that I will never remember where I came from when I moved to America. When I eat the food there I will forget. I promised her I would never forget where I had came from. We went by horse drawn carriage to the steamship station, we had to wait 3 day until the the ship arrived. We were on the lowest deck. My sisters took me out on the deck. When I looked up there were rich ladies with big hats on- -people used to say that America had streets of gold I knew my sisters would look like that someday. On the ship there were rumors that in America when you get off the ship there were men that stuck button hooks in your eyes, I was afraid of that. The button hook man gave me man nightmares. But at that time there were bigger problems. A storm had hit the ship. The boat bucked like a horse. I saw a lot of sailors praying to Saint Christopher who is known to protect travelers. People started to throw coins in the water with Saint Christopher face on it. But after 3 days it stopped.


When we got to America

It took us 19 days to go to America. On the 19th day people started screaming La Statua della Libertà! I ran to the deck and saw it, New York. When we got of the boat there was a person selling fruit. Our neighbor bought us all a banana. That was my first time eating a banana. I took one big bite, it was tough, and sour, and bad. I spit it out. I didn’t know you were supposed to peel it. When we got to customs someone told us that they had to look for eye disease and they were going to look under our eye lids. That means the buttonhooks man was real. When we were walking through customs I was crying because of the buttonhook man- -when I saw him I screamed. He grabbed me and he rolled up my eyelid up and said ‘Red, he can’t come in.’ My mother fainted when she heard the news. My oldest sister found a doctor that spoke our language and he checked a bit later and said I could pass. My father met us and everyone cried. I knew he was my father because of his mustache. He took us on a train to a different part of America to work. The next day we started working in canneries. All 7 of us cutting fish- – all day a man watching over us to make sure we weren’t slowing down. They also only gave us falling apart sheds to live in. Canning fish. Sorting peaches. Shelving peas. Then down south, peeling shrimp and opening oyster shells. When there was work we moved. We moved so much I don’t remember all the places I had lived. Instead of jewels, my mother and my sisters had fish scales on their arms. When we went down the street and pass the grocery, the people that bought the cans we produced wouldn’t look at us. Some people didn’t want us here so they would throw rocks. That is how I lost my first tooth.


When things got a little better

My first baseball game. Me and my dad up in the stands.The stands smell of sweat and popcorn. The game was confusing. Each man would hit a ball with a stick than run- in a large square. When the man runs over the last corner everyone stands up. It was probably a point. But most of the time they would run then stop and lose. It was just as crazy as the people that live here. But it was heaven not to be working and sitting there with my dad. After three hours the game was over. I was still confused but it was fun. When my dad and I walked out I saw a shiny thing in the grass. I walk over and I see a quarter. This meant we could go again- -I could not wate. It was like a lump of gold people said we would find here. When I was 8 we got our first apartment all of us rolled cigars at the kitchen table. The apartment always smelled like tobacco after that.  A few years later we switched to shelling nuts for restaurants, day and night. Then my father got hired at a factory in Pittsburgh making rail round parts. My sisters worked at a sewing factory. My mother told me I should go to school, she noticed that I would see the circus sighs and I would copy the letters from them. I didn’t want to go to school, I liked my job and the American kids would make fun of me. But I couldn’t argue with my mom so I went to school. English seemed to be just as crazy as baseball. I had to sit with the little kids and they made fun of my accent but I learned how to read and to write. What my teachers taught me during the day I taught my sisters at night. Then I went to a different school where I learned typesetting. And I became a printer. After 30 years of printing I opened a bookstore. And that is where I am now.

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