According to family lore, the first North American immigrants in our family were on my maternal grandmother’s side. A family of a mother, a father, and five kids were awaiting passage in England for the Colonies when the father, playing a game on the village green, broke his neck and died. Mother and children came anyway—to Maine in 1700.
The immigration on my father’s side came 200 years later—from Italy through Ellis Island to New Jersey. I remember my Italian grandfather who worked in the stone business—mosaics, terrazzo, that sort of stuff. He was an austere white-haired fellow who puzzled me because on Sunday he read the New York Times. Why one would look at a paper that had no funnies I couldn’t fathom. When it was time for my father’s graduation from high school, my grandfather, so the story goes, said he could go to college or have a new roadster. He chose the roadster.
My mother, however, did graduate from college, the only one to do so among her and my father’s 6 siblings. In my wife’s family, great grandparents on her mother’s side originated in England. An early divorce has obscured any national origin data about her father.
In the middle 1900s, our future son-in-law was born in New York City to parents originally from the Bahamas. His parents made the trek from their home in Texas seeking assurance that as African Americans, they would get proper medical treatment. Our future daughter-in-law was born in Trinidad to Chinese parents. After a lengthy family sojourn to operate a grocery store in St. Thomas, she made it to California. It was college where the kids’ relationships began, a small college for our daughter, a UC branch for our son. (Three cheers for higher education!)
For me it was the osmosis of the educational environment I inhabited for nearly 70 years that built on my own immigrant roots and increasingly made apparent how rich a nation we have become because of our blessed diversity.
Shared by Ray Bacchetti (editor’s note: retired university and foundation officer and educational researcher)