My mom arrived at Penn Station in NYC on November 24, 1954, the day before Thanksgiving. I asked her many years ago about her ride from NYC to Los Angeles. She said she slept most of the time. But remembers waking up at one point and a black man was sitting across the aisle from her. Growing up in a convent in southern Italy, she never saw a black man before. She stared at the man for a long time before her father slapper her across the face and said not to stare.
I grew up with stories. Immigrant stories. Stories of my grandfather “jumping ship” to get into the US, of my father and uncle driving Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in their 1955 Pontiacs, of my mom being raised by nuns in a convent in post-WWII southern Italy, of my Uncle Filippo being murdered by members of the Manson Family in Bishop, CA in 1969. All true stories.
One of the most influential stories to me as a writer was written by my mom when she was a junior in high school. The writing assignment was for students to write a story about their childhoods. My mom wrote about her best friend, Marie, an orphan who she grew up with in the convent in Molfetta, Italy. I’m amazed at the level of fear my mom was able to convey with a limited English vocabulary. And the level of terror my mom must have lived with as a child.
My mom swears the story is true: Marie’s Fear_Lucia Tenerelli