48. Chain Migration

I received this email from my cousin Anna Abbruzzese on September 27, which would have been my father’s 98th birthday:

“When I noticed today’s date, couldn’t help but remember the sweetest man I had the privilege of growing up with. With all the homework, etc, that your Dad had to do to keep up with living in the US, he always had time to sprawl out on the living room floor and color with a five year old. It warms my heart to think of him today, he was so special.”

When war was declared in 1939, my father, age 19, left Italy, so he would not have to serve in the Navy, where with his vision problems, he would surely not have survived. His father had come to America before he was born, so my father had dual citizenship. My grandfather was unable or unwilling to take him in, so when my father landed, he was taken in by his uncle Nick and his family, who lived in Cohasset, a picturesque old seaside New England town. There he lived while attending Cohasset High School, working in the family liquor store downstairs, and later hitchhiking into Boston to attend Northeastern University.

I often wonder how he went over in that old WASP-y town. After all, he was of a nationality thought to have a “criminal element,” and from a country with which we were at war. He barely spoke English. His uncle was bringing over his extended family — chain migration — where would it end?

My father (right) with his Uncle Nick (center) and another cousin, in the 1940s.

Of course, we know the end of the story of “chain migration.” Generations of people who are successful in their work and family lives, pillars of their communities, leaders in their churches, devoted to service.

Those people who are afraid — I wonder if they picture a young man on the floor, coloring with his 5-year-old cousin.

My parents with cousin Nancy (center), from Cohasset.

One thought on “48. Chain Migration

  1. wow, you should send this post directly to you know who (Betsy DiBenedetto!!!!) I too wonder if your dad had to put up with any nonsense in Cohasset. Wish he was here so we could find out. I’ll never forget him.


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