Posted by on Dec 17, 2011 in Photographs, Sacred Artifacts | 0 comments

My first real memory of America happened two days after my mother and I arrived at Ellis Island on December 6, 1948.   Within two days, we were sharing an apartment in the West End of Boston with my mother’s brother. Uncle Peter’s place was small, but the combination of a black coal-burning stove in the kitchen and a pot-bellied stove in the living room kept the apartment warm from the frigid temperatures outside.

I remember looking out the window the first day we arrived.  The late-afternoon sun barely made a dent in the shadowed darkness of the street. Row upon row of four and five-storied brownstones stood on either side of the street. The street . . . about twenty feet wide, looked impossibly small even to a little kid, when you looked down from the fourth floor window.  I remember my mother telling me how we’d been forced to carry our belongings for blocks because his street was too narrow for cars.

Then, it began to snow.  It looked like a wondrous miracle to a small child who’d never seen it before. (Sicily, where I was born, never got this cold.)  I tried to stay up all night just to watch it float by the single streetlamp I could see from the window.  But, I must have fallen asleep because I recall my uncle waking me in the morning.  He wrapped me in two blankets and took me outside.

There wasn’t much snow, just two or three inches on the ground.  With the excitement of a child discovering something new, I gingerly touched it.  I remember my Uncle laughing as he threw a snowball at me.  Then he did something special that I remember more than sixty years later. He built a snowman just for me. It was small and had no eyes or a hat, but to me . . . it was the grandest thing I’d ever seen.

Uncle Peter lifted me in his arms and said, “Benvenuto di America mio Pepino.”  Then he spun me around, and smiled at me.  In a language I didn’t yet understand, he said, “Welcome to America, my little Joey.”

 

~J.K. Ingersoll~

 

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