It is almost dawn as I light the ovens in my tiny kitchen. I am the proprietress of the town bakery, a 42 year old mother of 9 living in the hilltop village of Teora, Italy. I hurriedly begin the mixing and kneading of the dough, anticipating that all the children will be waking up soon. Today I am thinking wistfully about my life here. Our people are very poor, but proud. A resident sells necessities under a small tent pitched in the center of town. There is a wall that surrounds us from the beautiful fields and mountains below. A single small cantina stands beside the edge of one wall where men gather in the evenings. Our socializing occurs mainly outside of our homes and in the center of the village. We seldom see a car drive into our town. So we are mainly isolated from the rest of the world.
It is the year 1904. I have been feeling sad for almost a year now. My days have been very long and difficult. My helpers in the bakery, my two oldest daughters, Maria, 18, and Rosa Teresa, 14 went to America with my husband Salvatore last year. Because there is no opportunity for a better life here for our children, he must try to find success in America so he can send for us. Salvatore lives with my oldest son, Angelo, who preceded him. Maria and Rosa Teresa keep house for them on Cutler Street in Newark (Nevarca) New Jersey. Salvatore has written that it is now time for us to join him. He has mailed us the money for our passage. I have mixed feelings about this news. Unexpectedly, I am feeling very emotional about my life here. The thought of leaving my parents behind me in Italy causes a great deal of sorrow and brings me to tears. I feel I will never see them again.
My children and I have lived a very simple and quiet life here. I have
never traveled anywhere and I have many misgivings. They will not be used
to all the crowds and confusion ahead of us. I know that the journey by
coach down the steep narrow road to the Bay of Naples will be difficult
with the six children and our belongings. Tullio is one year old, Giulia
is three, Pietro is four, Nicolo is seven, Agnese is nine and Vito is twelve.
Warm clothing and extra food will also be needed, since I am told it could
take weeks after we arrive at the Bay for all the paperwork to be completed.
I heard that it is also possible that our family could be separated by
the inspectors who will remove any child who looks ill from his mother.
I fear that a stormy crossing on a crowded ship will bring illness. Yet,
I know that this is something that I must do for my children. I am resolved
to join my husband in America. I also place $10 in each child's pocket
in case one is taken from me. My name is Maria Giuseppa Deltufo Salerno.
I am Julia Salerno Mazziotti's mother. We will arrive in New York on March
19, 1904. Salvatore has found larger quarters on Hickory Street in Orange
so we can all be together. Another child will be born in America. He will
be called Attilio (James).
Jewel Salerno Mazziotti Rotondo, Author
Venice, Italy 1966
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