Continued from Page 1


The papà friend

My father was the richest of the peasants in the area where he lived. One could easily tell from the amount of his harvests, that his methods were far advanced compared to the other peasants and it was still more obvious by the amount of his harvests compared to his neighbors.                 

In October, just after the end of the Harvest Festival, the corn cobs were bound in big bundles and arranged then in long long strings the facade of the house and of the hut. At times they overflowed facade of the house of his brother Aniceto, which was otherwise empty because Aniceto, Head of the carpentry department of the Tobacco Manufacturers of Lucca, did not cultivate the land and therefore had not need to hang up bundles in front of his home.

Often my father, when entering the courtyard, would enjoy the show for a time from a distance, calling to me with my nickname, he said to me: "Poldo look and count the strings of the crops and notice that we have more than all the others put together!" Then he added: "Now you must peel... but I do not take care because that one is a beautiful part of the harvest festival!" And it made perfect sense, since that job would have been most tedious for more awaited the grape harvest. Yes, because this was an intimate festivity of family, where father and many others particpated for hours and hours in the fields. There were enormous hay fields of 5 or 6 thousand square meters. Then we were elbow to elbow, seated comfortably in a small room that for the occasion became the granary and it was wonderful that we could here speak calm between ourselves..
Like the other jobs, this was carried out with recise and unchanging ritual. At the moment that my father thought just right, around the middle of November when the crops were quite dried, thanks more to the wind than to the pale sun of the autumnal season.  Father said "Boys, you got ready because tomorrow it is begun to sgranà". That "you prepare yourselves and hurry every day to do your school homework, because you will otherwise have to engage in this work. But for us working with the crops with father was not a job, as we leap delight at the announcement.

The next day, immediately after lunch, while we dealt with the task of school, my father leaned a long ladder, that he had constructed himself using the sturdiest and straight poles, to the side of the house. It reached to just the right point and one by one he detached large bundles of crops and with skill of a superior marksman would throw them in the center and exclaim each time "Lah, hit the center!"  Father was tall, and to pass from the door of house with his load on his shoulder, he had to bend himself almost to his knee and did it with a crooked movement that repeated always with large ease. But the hard work weighed on the shoulders, as four flights of staircases had to be ascended before reaching the barn, until we emptied the small room that we called it "storeroom".

…Between the rows of grain or of long bean of one hundred meters...

(The field of Enjoy that we called "the field of potato")

La “luce”

Io m’ariordo
di ‘uand’ arivò la luce ‘ndelle ‘ase!…
Prima la misse
chi ci aveva ‘r sordo manesco

e quell’artri dicevino:
“Se quando vienghin’ a riscuote

si puole pagà anco ‘on l’ova,
allora la metto anch’io!”
E Gustavo di Poderi mi disse:
“O bimbin’,
tu pa’ la missa la luce?
“Sì, dissi”. E lu’:
‘uando vien’ il luciaro…
dinni ‘n po’ se le lampadine accese
consumin’ anco di giorno…
E io:
Ma po’,
quando viense l’Orselli di Meati,
un ni dissi nulla
per un passà da citrullo!

We arrived when the storeroom towered with a fine heap of corncobs. Then father rested and immediately he made the work assignments. To rethink the work as an adult, I never have succeeded to understand how he made much differentiations in a work so monotonous, but he was somehow able to do it. One of my sisters he directed to use the bushel because it was more streamline and with the bushel it produced more. Another child was directed to use the quara, because it required the second most skill to the first one, and also the quara was a valid tool, almost as good as the bushel. The third child in skill was directed to take the scythe, that in that case should be used by costolo, and so on until he got to me, the tiniest one, and the usual good biscaro to nothing, therefore I was able to be very well to satisfied with any job. Then it l came the allocation of the places and he was always calling us with our nicknames, to us he said: "You,  'Segalina,' put your there with the bushel and with this chair that is just the right height for you, 'Protruding chin' put yourself here with the quara and the small stool; you 'Trasando' you take this, you take that... and you 'Poldo' take the small stool we use when washing the clothes, so you can sit astride and gadget there. Then came the lesson. "Ve the riordate how it is done to sgranà?" The older sisters answered yes and those who had not answered, he taught how to grasp the corncob, how to turn it with force to detach the leaves from the corncob. To me he said simply: "You, biscarella, fa' as he seems to you".

At the conclusion of the work we exploded into twittering of chatter as young sparrows would find themselves in group in springtime to enjoy the warmth of the first sun and it is proceeded threfore for approxiamtely one hour. Then, to little by little, with the decreasing of the evening, the rhythm slowed down and the twittering became more faint until there were some pauses of silence that often coincided with the dampened light of twilight, that advances swiftly towards the first darkness. At this point one of asked: Papa, can we light the light? Today this request seems banal, but in those times, that is to say in 1929, to have electric light in your home was a luxury which allowed itself to pass suddenly from the faint light of a candle to that of an electric light bulb that had the power of quite twenty-five and to times absolutely of fifty candles, is not a trifle. "Yes" said father, with a simple turn of switch, and the room exploded in light from twenty-five candles that a dish in maiolica varnished of white and systemized to the of above of the light bulb, make rebound downwards leaving the ceiling in the half-light. Fantastic! And it spontaneous l came' exclamation of wonder aside of everything: Oooh! The brightness was exalted from the color of the grain, that already in considerable quantity was scattered around and wrapped us all in a golden orange atmosphere, never seen before then. Then miraculously the chattering resumed livelier than before, but inevitably, little by little, again came the moments of silence.

Now we tell the story of America "La novella americana."

But the silence was brief, because immediately on of my elder sisters would ask Papa: "Please Papa, tells us one of your stories from America." My father would respond: "Story? The short stories I tell to you on the Epiphany feast?" "Like the time that levee overflowed in Oakland! or twenty horses drowned, or the other short stories!" And here he began to tell a row of facts that had happened him in America and brought great excitement and fascination to hear the colorful true short stories. We were enchanted to listen while peeling the corn, until the mommy called us for the supper. Every time that Papa spoke out sprang a new event, always recounted with emphasis, fantasy and much love as to make it appear fresh as if it were happening yesterday.

The quara and the bushel

In our industrialized society of this century, these objects lost their function and are now only found in an attic, or, the most fortunate, in a museum. We do not have to forget that for centuries they occupied an important role like unity of measure for cereals. Three quare form a bushel and three bushels a bag. A bag of grain weighs kg 56 about. For my sisters there were also tools which they used to peel different kinds of crops.

The scythe and the cote

In the museums of the ancient Greek or Roman civilization, they often have precious jars of glass where they saved the tears of their own beloveds or important persons. Thoughts of Poppea and Nerone. Turning to these museums you find objects which me served to preserve the sweat of our ancestors. So I have intentionally included photos of objects that can symbolize the sweat of my parents: one scythe and the cote. , But that cos' it is cote? ... the Giacomo Puccini knew it and in the "Turandot" dedicated to beautifulst chorus to it, but today delays is already not known and to me it is arrived that one young teaching seated near me in tatro, when felt that wonder of chorus, me churches submissively: "Mr. Stagi, she knows it cos' is the cote" It is the "stone", I answered, the stone is used to sharpen. Watch as they use these tools! The cote it seems the propeller of an airplane. We used the rib of the scythe to peel the grain!

È importante leggere le avvertenze (come per una medicina amara).

“…devono prendere imbarco su un piroscafo di vettore di emigranti…”

     Questi racconti ci lasciavano in ansia e creavano in noi aspettative sempre crescenti poichè ci lanciavano alla scoperta di un mondo lontano, sconosciuto e per noi fantasioso quanto affascinante.
     Mettendo insieme tutte queste “novelle americane” si viene a costruire il racconto di fatti veramente vissuti e ci si accorge come mio padre, forse senza nemmeno rendersene conto, svelava i sacrifici certamente suoi ma comuni anche a chissà quanti altri emigranti.
     Io riporto qui di seguito questo racconto così come me lo ricordo, senza fronzoli, cioè denudandolo di tutti gli abbellimenti che ci faceva lui, di tutte le nostre esclamazioni e delle nostre richieste di conferma nei casi di incredulità. Questo anche perché non sarei capace di ricordare gli infiniti abbellimenti che apparivano come un raffinato ricamo su di un oggetto già bello di per sé come, ad esempio, sull’abito da sposa. Comunque, anche cosi denudato, lo ritengo ugualmente valido e commovente. Quel racconto comincia così: “O papà, quanti anni avevate quando emigraste in America?”
     Avevo 16 anni quando nel 1898 mi resi conto che in Italia non era possibile trovare un lavoro adatto a me e decisi di emigrare in America seguendo l’esempio di altri miei paesani che erano partiti qualche anno prima e dei quali però si avevano scarse notizie. I soldi per il viaggio me li trovò mio padre dietro la promessa che al più presto glieli avrei mandati perché potesse restituire il prestito. Il giorno stabilito per la partenza da casa era di Lunedì e il Sabato precedente, mentre eravamo a cena, i miei genitori mi dissero in presenza degli altri due fratelli: “Da domani l’altro te ne dovrai andare libero per il mondo a guadagnarti il pane, ed allora riteniamo giusto darti già da domani il permesso di andare dove ti pare.”
     Il giorno successivo era una Domenica di Carnevale (del 1898) e, dopo essere stato al Vespro, mi sentii autorizzato ad andarmene da solo, cioè senza l’accompagnamento nemmeno dei miei fratelli, nel vicino paese di Meati a vedere il “Bruscello”. Era la prima volta che assaporavo la libertà totale ed ero ben consapevole che questo grande privilegio mi era stato concesso con molto anticipo rispetto alle usanze.

     Seguivo la scena del Bruscello ma al tempo stesso mi sentivo autorizzato anche a rivolgere lo sguardo dove mi pareva e fu così che i miei occhi s’imbatterono nei capelli e nel volto di una fanciulla che per la sua semplicità e la sua bellezza, si differenziava da tutte le altre. Anche lei seguiva il Bruscello ed era in piedi dalla parte opposta alla mia così io potevo soffermarmi ogni tanto ad ammirarla poiché la sua immagine si collocava all’altezza dei piedi degli attori che recitavano sul palco: un piccolo piano ti tavole sistemato in mezzo alla corte. Terminato lo spettacolo tentai di avvicinarmi a lei ma non mi fu possibile poiché, come si usava a quei tempi, era severamente scortata dai genitori e non riuscii nemmeno ad incrociare con lei lo sguardo per capire se anche lei mi aveva notato. Andò a finire così la prima grande libertà che mi avevano concesso i miei genitori! Fortemente deluso mi ritirai in casa, chiuso nel mio dolore finché, dopo cena, i miei familiari mi convinsero ad andare alla Bettola lì vicina per salutare gli amici. Accorsero anche i vicini di casa e tutti mi fecero gran festa ma ad un certo momento fui colto dall’emozione e cominciai a singhiozzare forte. Non volli farmi vedere da nessuno in quelle condizioni e sgattaiolando via per una porticina secondaria, andai di nuovo a rifugiarmi in camera mia.

La traversata dell’Oceano
     Il Lunedì mattina, molto presto, mia madre mi mostrò tutto l’occorrente par il viaggio: poche cose raccolte nel fazzoletto da fagotti come si usava a quei tempi, compreso una cartata di polpette che la sera prima aveva preparato apposta per me.
     Il treno l’avevo visto tante volte, ma non c’ero mai salito e la prima cosa che osservai fu che standoci sopra non è rumoroso come quando si sente passare da vicino.
     Il viaggio in mare fu una vera avventura e una mezza tragedia. Già quando il bastimento staccò dal molo di Genova fu per me come strapparmi dalle viscere di mia madre e pensai: Cara mamma, quando nacqui il dolore dello strappo per la nostra separazione lo sentisti solo te, ma ora siamo in due a sentirlo. Non avrei mai pensato di volerti tanto bene. Di tutte le persone che ho incontrato nella vita, in questo momento non ricordo più nessuno e penso solo a te. Vedo solo il tuo volto e il cuore mi si gonfia tanto che mi comprime i polmoni e non riesco a respirare.
     Mamma, soffoco per te, ma non sono mai stato tanto felice perché senza questa prova non avrei mai saputo di volerti tanto bene. Solo tu, mamma, mi sei compagna in questa avventura.
     In men che non si dica, Genova scomparve. Poi, per qualche giorno, ogni tanto s’intravedeva laggiù in fondo un tratto di costa, prima dell’Italia, poi della Spagna, Gibilterra e poi si finì col vedere solo mare e cielo. Per giorni e giorni, sperso in mezzo all’Oceano, il piccolo bastimento che io chiamavo “affogagatti” saliva in cresta a onde di venti metri per poi calare a picco nella parte bassa. Questo continuo fluttuare era per noi l’inferno e nessuno riusciva a mangiare o a trattenere nello stomaco un po’ di cibo. Per molti giorni le polpette di mia madre furono l’unico mio alimento e ricordo che le assaporavo briciolina dopo briciolina senza mai poterne mangiare una intera per timore di doverla rigettare. Il mal di mare è tremendo, specialmente quando ti paralizza per quasi un mese.
     Finalmente nell’affogagatti risuonò un sussulto di gioia: New York, New York! Siamo arrivati a New York! Ci abbracciammo come fossimo un’unica famiglia sopravvissuta ad una grande catastrofe. Finalmente salvi, tutti salvi e ognuno prese a raccontare i suoi progetti con energia.
     Il mal di mare era scomparso e dimenticato, come si dimentica la peste che ha travolto i nostri antenati dei secoli scorsi. La speranza riaccese la gioia sui nostri volti e l’affogagatti tornò ad essere un bastimento rispettabile. Ora scivolava via liscio e tranquillo nella Baia di Hudson. Di nuovo si sentirono ovunque grida di gioia: “Eccola, eccola, guardate laggiù....è la statua della Libertà.... Com’è alta!.... Com’è bella!....” Qualcuno disse: “Se non fosse bella come potrebbe rappresentare la libertà?” Tutti eravamo intimamente convinti di essere approdati finalmente nel paese della “Libertà”.

Il Paese della Libertà
     Terminate le manovre di attracco, ognuno prese il proprio fagottino che, come il mio, era ormai alleggerito della scorta dei viveri, e si avviò raggiante di gioia a metter piede nel paese della Libertà. Eravamo tutti emozionati e nessuno di noi riuscì a capire, a prima vista, a cosa servivano quegli steccati in legno messi lì a bella posta per delineare un percorso obbligato come si fa per gli animali. Istintivamente, alle persone che si trovavano nelle prime file della colonna, venne fatto di deviare per scansare quel percorso, ma alcuni uomini in divisa agitando dei ganci strani, fecero cenno che era gioco forza imboccare il passaggio transennato che era stato eretto per far affluire tutti gli emigranti in una baracca disadorna e corredata solo di lunghe panche a mo’ di sedile.
     Qualcuno ci additò pronunciando una parola strana che nessuno di noi conosceva, poi altri si fecero coraggio e tradussero. Allora un brivido freddo ci percorse lungo la schiena e quella parola venne bisbigliata sempre più marcatamente in italiano: “Quarantena....quarantena!
     Tutti noi emigranti venimmo fatti salire su di un vaporetto e accompagnati all’isola di Ellis o della “Quarantena”, proprio sotto la statua della Libertà e lì fummo informati che dovevamo restare quaranta giorni in isolamento per evitare di trasmettere agli americani malattie contagiose di cui fossimo eventualmente affetti. Non ci sottoposero a nessuna visita medica e non ci offersero nessuna assistenza ospedaliera: praticarono solo l’isolamento a carattere cautelativo. Non ci trattavano male anzi, ci davano anche un po’ da mangiare, ma nessuno poteva sollevarci dall’umiliazione di trovarci imprigionati e ammassati come animali in un serraglio e in un ambiente tanto squallido, proprio nel paese della Libertà e sotto la statua della Libertà!
     Fortunatamente le lancette dell’orologio girano con la stessa velocità sia per il Re che per gli schiavi e così questi quaranta giorni, pesanti come il piombo, passarono anche per noi. A dire il vero, qualche volta ci capitava di dimenticare la data e non sempre ci si trovava d’accordo nel calcolare esattamente il tanto sospirato giorno.

Finalmente nell’affogagatti risuonò un sussulto: New York, New York!

…guardate laggiù… è la statua della Libertà… Com’è alta!… Com’è bella!

Terminate le manovre d’attracco, ognuno prese il proprio fagottino…

…e accompagnati all’isola di Ellis o della “Quarantena”, proprio sotto la statua della Libertà.

     Finalmente esplodemmo ancora in un nuovo sussulto di gioia: “Domani! Domani!” Quasi tutti passammo in bianco l’ultima notte della nostra quarantena sotto la statua della Libertà e quando il sole di quel famoso giorno apparve dal fondo della Baia, trovò tutti noi puntualmente schierati fuori della baracca a festeggiarlo. Ancora poche ore e poi...finalmente la libertà, ma quella vera, quella che ti viene offerta da un paese libero, che ne conosce tutto il valore e quindi sa che libertà significa anche libertà dalla miseria. E’ per questo che con la libertà ti offre anche un lavoro attraverso il quale tu troverai la tua dignità di uomo e non sarai più costretto a dire come quando eri al paesello: “Io non sono nulla perché non ho un lavoro”. Fra poche ore dimenticherò i sacrifici del mare e della quarantena e dopo un’altra galoppata di una quindicina di giorni in treno per attraversare gli Stati Uniti, sarò finalmente in California, a San Francisco, dove mi aspetta un lavoro sicuro, già prenotato per me.
     Mentre rimuginavo nella testa questi pensieri, si aperse finalmente il cancello principale ma, l’addetto alla sorveglianza anziché far uscire qualcuno di noi fece entrare un energumeno che ispirava poca simpatia. I più grandi fiutarono l’aria e si resero subito conto che era un tipaccio e che sarebbero stati guai per tutti. Parlava un italiano stentato e quando gesticolava, sembrava che minacciasse pugni per tutti. Il sorvegliante ce lo presentò dicendo: “E’ autorizzato a parlare personalmente con ognuno di voi” Il che, in parole più chiare, significava che ognuno di noi per uscire di lì doveva vedersela con lui. Cominciò a parlare con quelli che avevano più fretta e tutti uscivano da lui umiliati e sconsolati. Finalmente uno dei primi che aveva parlato con lui ci spiegò che per farci uscire di lì, l’energumeno voleva soldi. Se uno aveva già in mano la promessa di un posto di lavoro da parte di una Ditta americana, lui esigeva una cifra salata per portarlo col vaporetto alla stazione e se uno non aveva una promessa di lavoro, doveva accettarla per forza da lui e in quel caso la cifra da sborsare era doppiamente salata.
     Quando toccò a me mi chiese: - “Hai un’offerta di lavoro?” Sì, risposi, a San Francisco.
     E lui: - “Hai soldi?” - Assalito dalla paura che mi prendesse tutto il malloppo, che già era diventato assai smilzo, risposi: - No, perché il viaggio me lo hanno pagato dall’Italia con un prestito che dovrò restituire con i primi guadagni che farò a San Francisco.
     Lui replicò seccamente: - “Tu allora dovrai restare qui a New York per guadagnare i soldi che mi devi lavorando come lavapiatti in un ristorante dove ti porterò io. Quando mi avrai pagato, potrai andare dove vorrai”.
     Mi portò davvero in un ristorante a Broccolino (Brooklyn), nei bassifondi della città, dove ogni giorno passava a controllare se c’ero ancora. Non mi disse quanto tempo avrei dovuto restare lì a lavorare per lui ma certamente tanti giorni e così decisi che la mia occupazione principale non doveva essere quella di lavare i piatti, da cui non potevo certo sottrarmi, ma di studiare il modo di scappare. Non mi fu facile capire dove mi trovavo e dove era la stazione del treno per San Francisco ma, con l’aiuto di un compagno di sventura che si trovava lì da qualche mese, riuscii a conoscere anche l’orario di partenza del treno e poi, dopo aver calcolato il tempo giusto per raggiungere la stazione, sgattaiolai inosservato dal ristorante e poi sfrecciai a gambe levate per un paio di chilometri verso il treno che raggiunsi con la lingua fuori come un levriero, pochi minuti prima che partisse. Tutto doveva essere calcolato in modo esatto perché si accorgessero della mia fuga soltanto dopo la partenza del treno e ci riuscii!

Il viaggio in treno verso il Far West
     Delle musiche belle ne avevo già sentite, perché l’organo di Fagnano è antico e quando ero ragazzo io lo suonava un bravissimo organista, Don Paolo Simoni, ma il fischio di quel treno che partiva per San Francisco era per me una musica insuperabile. Mi commossi e scoppiai a piangere.
     Al pianto sopraggiunse inavvertitamente il sonno e non so dire né quanto piansi né quanto dormii. Direi che dormii tanto perché quando mi svegliai, vedendo il Sole basso all’orizzonte credevo che fosse il tramonto ed invece era l’alba! Finalmente l’alba di un nuovo giorno e l’alba di una nuova vita! Avrei dovuto traboccare di gioia nel ritrovarmi finalmente libero ma non so per quale motivo non riuscivo a gustare la piena felicità di quell’istante. Forse m’intristiva l’andare monotono del treno, o forse era per l’ultima umiliazione subita che mi sentivo più un fuggiasco che un uomo finalmente libero.

Mi portò davvero in un ristorante a Broccolino…

Foto di una delle più antiche costruzioni (in legno) che sopravvivono nel malfamato quartiere di Brooklyn a New York.

     Scrutai con sguardo attento i miei compagni di viaggio ma non ravvisai né volti né persone che m’incoraggiassero a proferire parola. Non capivo la loro lingua e non riuscivo a capire chi fossero né da dove potevano provenire. Certamente era gente povera come me e forse andava in capo al mondo come me, alla ricerca di un lavoro.
     Mi raggomitolai di nuovo nel mio cantuccio e mi chiusi gli occhi con le mani per cercare conforto nei volti e persone dei miei ricordi, quando inaspettatamente mi comparve lei: la fanciulla del Bruscello! L’immagine era un ritratto a mezzo busto come l’avevo vista di là dal palco a Meati ma nitida come dal vero. Non conoscevo la sua voce, non l’avevo mai sentita, ma in quell’istante la udii sussurrarmi dolcemente all’orecchio: “Coraggio, sei un bel giovanotto!”

     Fu un solo istante ma questo ricordo mi scosse bruscamente perché era la prima volta che mi capitava un fatto del genere: era segno che non l’avevo dimenticata, e forse anche lei mi aveva notato ed ora anche lei certamente mi pensava. Mi alzai di scatto e mi misi a passeggiare nel poco spazio che ci riservava la carrozza ferroviaria. Ancora volti nuovi, sconosciuti e insignificanti, quindi non mi restò che soffermarmi a guardare il paesaggio. Com’era diverso da quello al quale ero abituato! Fino a qui non ci avevo posto attenzione ma mi ero reso conto ugualmente che il paesaggio americano è di una monotonia spaventosa. Subito dopo New York vengono immense praterie, immense distese tutte uguali, senza laghi e senza montagne! Cambia solo la tonalità del verde che è più intenso nelle zone coltivate e meno intenso o tendente al giallo nelle zone di pascolo o addirittura abbandonate. Si camminava giorni e giorni senza incontrare un centro abitato, una casa o in qualche modo segni di vita. Il treno si fermava raramente perché il deposito di carbone gli era sufficiente per diversi giorni e per approvvigionarsi di acqua il macchinista allungava un tubo come la proboscide di un elefante e, senza rallentare, la pescava in fossi dislocati a bella posta lungo il binario per chilometri e chilometri.
     Dopo cinque o sei giorni di cammino il treno si fermò nelle vicinanze di un fiume e dopo un po’ venne un incaricato a borbottare un discorso lungo ma io non capii nulla. Tutti scendevano e anch’io scesi ma non sapevo il perché. Finalmente trovai un uomo che parlava italiano e mi spiegò che era crollato il ponte sul fiume, quindi si doveva attendere lì per qualche giorno in attesa che finissero di ricostruirlo. Disse poi che nei giorni di sosta la Compagnia delle ferrovie avrebbe passato il cibo ma dietro pagamento poiché nel prezzo del biglietto non erano compresi gli imprevisti. Infine disse che le Autorità locali raccomandavano di non allontanarsi dal treno e che loro garantivano l’incolumità delle singole persone soltanto restando sul treno.
     E’ facile immaginare come il mio stato d’animo piombò di nuovo a zero. Ora il problema non era solo quello di capire in che misura tutti questi ritardi avrebbero influito sulla mia offerta di lavoro. Mi preoccupavo anche per il motivo che tali imprevisti mi avevano tagliato fuori dal mondo e da quando ero partito da casa, nessuno sapeva più nulla di me. Il pensiero più assillante però era che mi cominciavano a scarseggiare i soldi! L’unico risparmio che potevo fare era quello di non comprare cibo. Già da un po’ mi limitavo a comprare solo il pane; mai mi permettevo il lusso di un po’ di companatico o di una bibita. Inoltre bevevo solo quello che mi passavano e se mi capitava una fontana, facevo il pieno come un cammello. Ma ora?....
     Dopo qualche giorno di attesa mi feci coraggio e accodandomi a un gruppetto di gente del treno, andai anch’io a controllare a che punto era la ricostruzione del ponte. Mamma mia! Pensavo che fosse in muratura come quelli del nostro fiume Serchio che avevo visto a Nave e a Monte S. Quirico, ma qui invece niente pietra. Era in legno! Tutto costruito in legno affastellando quattro a quattro enormi tronchi di pino per la parte sottostante il livello dell’acqua e tronchi di abete per la parte superiore.


The papà friend

It is important to read the warnings (like for one bitter medicine).

"... they must take boarding on a steamboat of carrier of emigrating..."

These storys left us in anxiety and created in we always increasing expectations poichè far away launch us to the discovery of a world, disowned and for we fantasioso fascinating how much.

Putting with all these "novels Americans" it is come to construct the story of facts truly lived and one notices to us like my father, without not to perhaps become of account, revealed the sacrifices sure common its but also goodness knows how many emigrating others.

I bring back here of continuation this story therefore like me the memory, without fronzoli, that is denudandolo of all the embellishments that it made us, of all our esclamazioni and our demands for confirmation in the incredulità cases. This also because I would not be able to remember the infinites embellishments that appeared like a refined embroidery on a already beautiful object of for himself like, as an example, on the dress from spouse. However, also cosi denudato, I think it equally valid and moving. That story begins therefore: "Or papà, how many years you had when you emigrated in America"

I had 16 years when in 1898 I became account that in Italy was not possible to find a job adapted to me and decided to emigrate in America being followed the example of others my countrymen who were you leave some year before and of which but insufficient news was had. The moneies for the travel me found my father to them behind the promise that to more soon glieli I would have sends to you because it could give back the loan. The day established for the departure from house was of Monday and the previous Saturday, while we were to supper, my parents said in presence of the others two siblings to me: "the day after tomorrow you you will have some to go free for the world to earn the bread, and then we think just already give to you from tomorrow the permission to go where it seems to you."

The successive day was a Sunday of Carnival (of 1898) and, after to have been to the Vespro, I felt myself authorized to go some to me alone, that is without the accompanyment not even of my siblings, in close country of Meati seeing the "Bruscello". It was before the time that I savoured the freedom total and I was very aware that this large one I privilege me had been granted with much advance payment regarding the customs.

I followed the scene of the Bruscello but al same time I felt myself authorized also to turn the look where it seemed to me and it was therefore that my eyes s' imbatterono in hats and the face of a child who for its semplicità and its beauty, differed from all the others. Also it followed the Bruscello and was in feet from the opposite part to mine therefore I could stop every a lot to admire it since its image was placed to the height of the feet of the actors whom they recited on the theater box: a small slowly tables arranged to you in means to the court. Finished the show I tried to approach itself she but me it was not possible since, as it was used to those times, strictly was escorted from the parents and I did not succeed not to intercross with she the look in order to understand if also it had noticed to me. It went to end therefore the first great freedom that had granted my parents to me! Strongly disappointed I withdrew myself in house, closed in my pain until, after supper, my relatives convinced to me to go to the near Tavern lì for greeting the friends. The house neighbors noticed also and all made great festivity me but to a sure moment I was picked from the emotion and I began to sob strongly. I did not want makes to see me from nobody in those conditions and sgattaiolando via for a secondary small door, I went of new sheltering in room mine to me.

The traversata one of the Ocean

The Monday morning, a lot soon, my mother showed me all being necessary par the travel: little things collections in the handkerchief from fagotti as it was used to those times, comprised one cartata of polpette that the evening before had prepared on purpose for me.

The train I had seen many times to it, but not never I was salted and before what that I observed was that being to us over it is not noisy as when it feels to pass they give near.

The travel in sea was one true adventure and one average tragedy. When the ship already detached from the wharf of Genoa was for me like tearing viscere to me of my mother and I thought: Beloved mother, when nacqui the pain of the tear for our separation you felt only you to it, but hour we are in two to feel it. I would not have never thought about wanting much good to you. Of all the persons who I have met in the life, in this moment not memory more nobody and task only to you. I see your face alone and the heart swells to me so much that the lungs compress me and does not succeed to breathe.

Mother, soffoco for you, but never has not been much happy one because without this test I would not have never known of wanting much good to you. Only you, mother, me six companion in this adventure.

In men that it is not said, Genoa scomparve. Then, for some day, every a lot s' caught a glimpse laggiù in bottom a coast feature, before Italy, then of Spain, Gibilterra and then ended with only seeing sea and sky. Per.giorni.e.giorni, sperso in means to the Ocean, the small ship that I called "affogagatti" salted in crest to waves of twenty meters in order then to decrease to peak in the low part. This continuous one to fluctuate was for we hell and nobody succeeded to eat or to withhold in the stomach a little food. For many days the polpette of my mother they were only the my food and memory that I savoured them briciolina after briciolina without never to be able some to eat one entire for fear of having to reject it. Badly of sea it is tremendous, especially when a month paralyzes you in order nearly.

Finally in affogagatti risuonò a sussulto of joy: New York, New York! We are arrives to you to New York! We embraced ourselves as we were an only family survivor to one great catastrophe. Finally it knows to you, all it knows and everyone taken to tell its plans to you with energy.

Badly of sea it was scomparso and forgotten, like the plague is forgotten that it has swept up our ancestors of the slid centuries. The hope the joy relit on our faces and the affogagatti ones returned to being a rispettabile ship. Hour slipped via smooth and calm in the Bay of the Hudson. Of new they were felt ovunque grida of joy: "Eccola, eccola, watched laggiù... è the statue of the Freedom.... Com' is high!.... Com' is beautiful!...." Someone said: "If it were not beautiful as it could represent the freedom" All intimately we were convinced of being lands to you in the country of the "Freedom finally".

The Country of the Freedom

The maneuvers of berthing, everyone taken finished just fagottino that, like mine, by now it was lightened of the supply of the provisions, and set offed raggiante of joy to put foot in the country of the Freedom. We were all moves to you and nobody of we succeeded to understand, from the first moment, to what served those steccati in wood puttinges lì to beautiful mail in order to delineate an obliged distance like is made for the animals. Istinctively, to the persons who found themselves in the first rows of the column, he came made to have for scansare that distance, but some men in uniform churning of the strange hooks, made signal that it was game forces to feed the barred passage that was erected in order to make to flow all emigrating in a shack disadorna and only equipped with long benches to mo' of seat.

Someone pointed out to us pronouncing a strange word that nobody of we knew, then others made courage and translate. Then a brivido cold covered along the back and that word was come more and more in a marked manner bisbigliata in Italian: "Quarantine... quarantena!

All emigrating we came made to go up on a vaporetto and we accompany you to the island of Ellis or of the "Quarantine", just under the statue of the Freedom and lì we were informs you that we had to remain forty days in isolation in order to avoid to transmit to the Americans contagious diseases of which we were eventually affections. They did not subject us to no medical visit and they did not offer to no attendance hospital worker to us: they practiced only the isolation to cautelativo character. They did not deal to us badly indeed, they gave also a po' to us to eat, but nobody could raise from the umiliazione to find to us to us imprisons to you and amasses to you like animals in serraglio and an atmosphere a a lot squallido, just in the country of the Freedom and under the statue of the Freedom!

Fortunately the pointers of the clock turn with the same speed are for the King who for the slaves and therefore these forty days, heavy like the lead, passed also for we. To say the true one, some time capitava to forget the date to us and not to always found of agreement in calculating exactly the a lot us yearned for day.

Finally in affogagatti risuonò a sussulto: New York, New York!

... watched laggiù... is the statue of the Freedom... Com' is high!... Com' is beautiful!

The berthing maneuvers finished, everyone taken just fagottino...

... and it accompanies you to the island of Ellis or the "Quarantine", just under the statue of the Freedom.

Finally we exploded still in a new one sussulto of joy: "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!" Nearly all we passed in.bianco the last night of our quarantine under the statue of the Freedom and when the sun of that famous day appeared from the bottom of the Bay, it found all punctually we lines up to you outside of the shack celebrating it. Still little hours and then... finally the freedom, but that true one, that one that comes offered to you from a free country, than of it it knows all the value and therefore it knows that freedom means also freedom from the misery. E' for that with the freedom it offers also a job to you through which you you will find your dignity of man and more you will not be forced to say like when you were to the village: "I am not null because I do not have a job". Between little hours I will forget the sacrifices about the sea and of the quarantine and after other galoppata of fifteen or so days in train in order crossing the United States, I will be finally in California, to Saint Francisco, where a sure job waits for me, already reserved for me.

While rimuginavo in the head these thoughts, the main gate was opened finally but, the attache' to the surveillance rather than to let out someone of we made to enter a energumeno that little sympathy inspired. Largest fiutarono the air and became endured account that was a tipaccio and that they would have been troubles for all. A found it hard Italian spoke and when he gestured, he seemed that he threatened fists for all. The overseer ce introduced it saying: "authorized E' to speak personally with everyone about you" that, in clearer words, it meant that everyone of we in order to exit of lì had to look at it with he. It began to speak with that they had more haste and all exited from he humiliate to you and discourage to you. Finally one of first that had spoken with he explained us that in order it lets out us of lì, the energumeno wanted moneies. If one already had in hand the promise of a workplace from part of a Company American, it demanded a salata figure in order to carry it with the vaporetto to the station and if he did not have one promised of job, he had to accept it from he by force and in that case the figure to disburse was doubly salata.

When it touched to me churches: - "You have a job offer" Yes, I answered, to Saint Francisco.

And he: - "You have moneies" - Attacked from the fear that took all the malloppo to me, than already it had become much smilzo, I answered: - Not, because the travel me has paid from Italy with a loan that I will have to give back with the first gain that I will make Saint Francisco.

It replied dryly: - "You then will have to remain here to New York in order to earn the moneies that you must working to me like dishwashers in a restaurant where you will carry you I. When you pay to me, you will be able to go where you will want ".

It carried to me indeed in a restaurant to Broccolino (Brooklyn), in the slums of the city, where every day passed to control if there were still. It did not say how much time I would have had to me to remain lì to sure work for he but many decided days and therefore that my main occupation did not have to be that one to wash the plates, from which I could not sure sottrarmi, but to study the way to scappare. It was not easy to understand to me where I found myself and where train for Saint Francisco was the station del but, with the aid of a sventura companion that was found lì from some month, I succeeded to know also the departure timetable then del train and, after to have deliberate the just time in order to then catch up the station, sgattaiolai unnoticed dal restaurant and sfrecciai to legs rises for a pair of kilometers towards the train that I caught up outside with the language like a levriero, little minuteren before that it left. All it had to be calculated in exact way because they only noticed of my escape after the departure of the train and I succeeded to us!

The travel in train towards Far West

Of beautiful musics I had already felt some, because the organ of Fagnano is ancient and when I was boy I played it a best organista, Don Paul Simoni, but I hiss of that train that left for Saint Francisco was for me one unsurpassable music. I affected myself and I burst to cry.

To I plant sopraggiunse the sleep inavvertitamente and I do not know to say neither how much I cried neither how much I slept. They said that I slept so much because when I woke up myself, seeing the low Sun to the horizon I believed that it was the sunset and instead it was the dawn! Finally the dawn of a new day and the dawn of one new life! I would have had to traboccare of joy in finally free finding again to me but I do not know in order which reason I did not succeed to taste the full happiness of that moment. M' perhaps intristiva going monotone of the train, or perhaps was for the last endured umiliazione that I felt more fuggiasco that a finally free man.

It carried to me indeed in a restaurant to Broccolino...

Photo of one of the most ancient constructions (in wood) that they survive in the malfamato quarter of Brooklyn to New York.

Scrutai with careful look my companions of travel but not ravvisai neither faces neither persons whom m' they encouraged to proferire word. I did not understand their language and I did not succeed to understand who were neither from where they could come. Sure she was poor people like me and perhaps it went in head to the world like me, to the search of a job.

New me raggomitolai of in my corner and me sluices the eyes with the hands in order to try comfort in the faces and persons of my memories, when unexpectedly it appeared me: the child of the Bruscello! The image was ritratto to means busto as I had seen di.là.dal theater box to it to clear Meati but like from the true one. I did not know its voice, I had not never felt it, but in that moment I heard it to whisper me to the ear sweetly: "Courage, a six beautiful young man!"

It was a single moment but this memory me jolt abruptly because it was before the time that me capitava a fact of the sort: it was sign that I had not forgotten it, and perhaps also it had noticed to me and hour also it sure thought to me. I raised myself suddenly and I put myself to take a walk little in the space that reserved us the carrozza railway. Still new, disowned and insignificant faces, therefore did not remain to me that to stop to me to watch the landscape. Com' was various from that one to which I was accustomed! Until I did not have place here to us attention but I had become account equally that the landscape American is of one monotonia frightful. Endured after New York immense praterie, immense extended come all equal ones, without lagos and mountains! It changes only the tonality of the green that is more intense in the cultivated zones and less intense or tending to the yellow in the pasture zones or quite abandoned. One walked days and days without to meet an inhabited center, one house or in some way signs of life. The train was very rarely stopped because the coal warehouse it was sufficient for various days and in order to provision of water the machinist it lengthened a tube like the proboscide of an elephant and, without to slow down, it fished it in pits dislocates to beautiful long mail the railroad for kilometers and kilometers to you.

After five or six days of way the train was stopped in the vicinities of a river and after a po' a person in charge came to mutter a long speech but I did not understand null. All came down and anch' I came down but I did not know because. Finally I found a man that he spoke Italian and explained to me that was collapsed the bridge on the river, therefore had to be attended lì for some attended day in that finissero to reconstruct it. It said then that in the pause days the Company of the railroads would have passed the food but behind payment since in the price of the ticket the unexpected were not comprised. Finally it said that the local Authorities recommended not to go away from the train and that they only guaranteed the incolumità of the single persons remaining on the train.

E' easy to imagine as my state of mind piombò of new to zero. Hour the problem was not only that one to understand in that measure all these delays would have influenced on my offer of job. I took care myself also for the reason that such unexpected had cut to me outside from the world and from when I had left from house, nobody knew nuller than me. The more nagging thought but was that they began to me to scarseggiare the moneies! The only saving that I could make was that one not to buy food. From a po' I already limited myself to only buy the bread; I never allowed the lusso of a little companatico or one drink. Moreover I drank only what they passed to me and if me capitava Fontana, I made the full load like a camel. But hour....

After some attended day of I made courage and putting in line me to a small group of people of the train, I went anch' to control to that point was the reconstruction of the bridge. Mother mine! I thought that she was in masonry like those of our Serchio river that I had seen to Ship and Mount S. Quirico, but here instead nothing stone. She was in wood! All constructing in wood bundling four to four enormous log of pine for the below part the level of the water and log of fir for the advanced part.

Continued to page 3

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