A Journey Through America | Teen Ink

A Journey Through America

June 5, 2019
By Jessicaaiello8 BRONZE, New City, New York
Jessicaaiello8 BRONZE, New City, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The last memory I had of my life in Italy was the day we packed. Overwhelmed with a sense of betrayal, I remember opening my window and inviting a cool breeze to rush across my fragile face. Like a baby opening their eyes and taking their first breath of air, I had looked around, trying to absorb every last detail of the landscape. Unfortunately, this would be my last breath of Italian air, and I would soon forget her once familiar face. As a child, I never understood how my father could so quickly destroy the tree that his ancestors had planted and nurtured for several years. Our roots remained in Italy, as my father packed away his heritage and took his dreams, and me, to America.

My father was determined to wedge his way into American society, but struggled to channel his determination into proper assimilation. He dreamed of an American Dream, yet that dream was more impossible and irrational than ever. Businesses didn’t want a possible mob member representing their company. My father was shunned from society, and once again, I was dragged along. Unlike my father, who was so desperate to make his living in America, I missed my home in Calabria. New York’s suffocating buildings and perpetual stench of garbage were incomparable to the sweet perfume of bergamot and the endless expanse of ocean. America was supposed to be the land of the free, but I never felt more restrained.

It wasn’t that learning the American culture was difficult for me. I had always been a quick learner. But as much as I tried to act like an American, my face was not American, my dark hair was not American, my clothes were not American, and I was no American. My italian features that once made me beautiful, now acted like bright hazard signs, warning every American of my foreign presence. I was an enigma, an abstract stranger drowning in a vast sea of blonde hair and white skin. The stench of my foreign meals made it difficult to make friends. Children would brace themselves for the moment I opened my lunch box, as if I had set off a stink bomb. They mockingly held their noses whenever I’d walk by in the halls, and whispered as soon as my back was turned. In America, children were not taught to accept those that were different. I quickly learned that my ingredients were unwanted in America’s melting pot.

I remember the day everything changed. Although, I had one last tribulation left before fate would veer in my favor. I remember walking home from another torturous day of school when I began to sense something strange. I had grown a second shadow, mimicking my every move. My shadow’s eyes stared daggers, reaching the depths of my soul and sending chills down my spine. Then my second shadow multiplied, like a virus, with the single purpose of terminating its victim. My shadows seized me, and threw me to the ground. Suddenly, my knight in shining armor appeared and liberated me from the darkness. The damsel who had spent years in distress had finally been rescued. On this day I found my other half, an italian immigrant named Anthony. He promised to stand by my side and always protect me from the darkness.

Anthony made me believe in the endless possibilities of America. We planted a seed in New York and watched our tree grow larger and larger. I would soon have several grandchildren, whom I helped to nurture, and share my stories with. I never forgot the roots that had remained in Italy, but I now appreciated my father for taking me to America. I discovered that my home was no longer in Italy, but in the hearts of the people I loved. Society soon came to appreciate the flavors I added to America’s stew, because I too was an American.

The author's comments:

This piece was inspired by my Italian-American background. I took experiences from my grandmother's journey to America, as well as my growing up in America. I hope this piece encourages people to become more accepting of those with different backgrounds. 

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