When I was first getting started to begin writing this story, I felt as if this was going to be a difficult topic for me. After watching all the stories on madeintoamerica.org I did not think that my story had anywhere near the same difficulties. I have lived in the same culture my entire life, and I was born into it. I was intrigued after I had listened to some of their stories because although my way of “immigration” had the same feeling that they were talking about, I feel as if there is still a level of disconnect.
The culture that is mainly present in my life, started with my Great Grandmother and Grandfather coming here through Ellis Island from Italy and Poland. I have lived and grown up in American Culture throughout my entire life, but have always had the ties back to where we started. My mom and dad met in the Navy after they both left home after high school and immediately joined the military.
My mom was from the east coast, New Jersey, and had grown up there her whole life. My dad was from California, Chino Hills. They had both come from completely different cultures and lives. My mom got pregnant with me when she was in the Navy and had to obtain a leave of absence to be able to have me. After I was born and my parents got out of the military, it was a deciding question of whether to move back to New Jersey where my mom’s family lived, or to move to the west coast California, San Diego. From the time that I was born until I was around sixteen months old, I lived in New Jersey and when my parents decided they could not live that close to my mom’s parents anymore, they moved all three of us to San Diego with a hundred dollars to each of their names. They moved to California on a limb, hoping when they got there to find an apartment and get jobs.
My family in New Jersey did not see this moving being prosperous, and held a lot of resentment towards both of my parents for making an “irresponsible” decision. When they got here, my dad’s brother had been living in the same apartment complex for a year or so and got my parents a good deal on a one bedroom apartment. They got very lucky and because they both had military experience and got jobs quickly; my mom at a hospital, and my dad with a contracting company.
Once I started to get older I would go back to New Jersey every summer, and usually for one more holiday throughout the year. I remember those trips back to New Jersey as happy and feeling blessed to get to see all of family that lives three thousand miles away more than once a year. Although, every time I went back there it was a good experience, it was always a lot different than my life in California. It was everything, from the weather, to the food, to the types of people, and even the different cultures that were present in daily life. My family in New Jersey was all very strong Catholics and growing up I was baptized Catholic. At around five I made my Holy Communion. Going back to New Jersey was always a different experience for me and I had felt like for some time I was a part of two very different life types. I always went to church, and we blessed each and every meal that we ate; but when I would come back to California those things were not occurring in my life.
When the years started to pile up and I became older, I stopped caring about the religious aspects in my family from New Jersey and began to forget many of the traditions the less that I went back there. They took it very close to heart that I did not share the same fate that all of them did, and my family acted as if it was a personal attack and did not see it for what it was; that I just did not see that religion fitting in to my life. I tried for many years to explain to them that the only time I was involved in this culture was when I would come back to New Jersey. The fact that they heard this, landed my parents with the backlash of my family’s emotions. My family would tell my mom and dad that it was their fault that I did not want to complete my confirmation or go to confession on a weekly basis.
It was hard being able to communicate with them that this was my personal choice and my parents had not influenced my decision in any way. All growing up my parents had always told me I was allowed to believe whatever I wished, as long as if they asked me a question about why I felt like this I had an intelligent and worthy reason to accept this belief. My disregard for their religion put a strain on my relationship with that side of the family for many years, and the only time I remember feeling as if it was completely over was when my little brother started to grow up and was not exposed to the same ways I was. It took me many years to begin to understand why they felt so strong to believe a certain way, and not until I got into my teenage years, did I start to feel comfortable about the topic of the situation. It was hard for me to grow up with two different cultures, even the setting in which they both were present left me baffled as a kid for a while. It taught me a lot about tradition and how important it is to people to remember things like wishing them a happy birthday to remembering the prayer that we do before dinner.
During my teenage years, I started to feel spiteful towards them because I did not understand why they just could not respect the way I felt, so I began to stop participating in things like prayer before dinner and going to church. After a while I realized that this point of view began to get me nowhere, so finally I just respected the traditions that had been in my life forever; and since I already knew them it was not too much of a struggle.
My immigration story feels as if it is miniscule to some of the hardships that people face when they have to adapt to a new culture, such as language barrier and common rules of that society. By going through this it taught me a lot about tradition and that there are many hidden depths to every set of people, respect is the best way to conform to other people’s views and my maturity with this is the reason I believe I have such a strong relationship with my family today. Although these people have been around many more years than me and have dealt with more, it was my grace with the matter that influenced the outcome of today.
Shared by: Jasmine Wallis