i-ItalyNY - 5thBirthday Special Issue. The Best of i-Itay - page 30

30 |
i-Italy Magazine
| Special Issue | Winter 2017-2018
focus
Amanda:
That’s what blowsme away, thinking
about how they physically got here. And then in
school learning about the conditions in the ships
that people did come across in, and the length of
that journey and how scary it must have been not
knowing where they were going or if you could
even get in once you got here.
Matilda:
That’s right. And they both went to
Ellis Island and they were completely examined
… And my mother would tell me the story of two
young girls, two sisters… because they had a rash
on their face, they made them go back. That’s
how strict the rules were at that time… But you
know, they both had their first-born son here and
they came to make a new life. They had an uncle.
There’s always somebodywho’s going to give them
a little help in the family. So the family—like the
Pope says, “la famiglia”—is very important.
The women of course … could not get a job at
that time. It was unheard of, you know, so they
would stay home and take care of the children. But
the men [had] to get a job, and to speak English
as well as they could—and they couldn’t at first
but they did, gradually. My father told me that
they’d pick up some words to make themselves
understood, and they were lucky if they were
working with some Italian people so they could
at least understand each other. It wasn’t easy. It
was very difficult, there’s no doubt about it. …But
when my father came to this country … he loved
the freedom. … That you could do anything you
wanted. “If you work hard, nobody will stop you,”
he said. “And if you have good ideas, use them, and
nobody would stop you.” And you could reach for
the stars…
Amanda:
I know that grandpa was quoted as
saying “after 100 years, we finally did it” when he
became governor. But I remember you both tell-
ing me the stories about how much Italians were
discriminated against … It’s just not the same to-
day … and there are definitely other marginalized
groups. But did you feel it? …Did you personally
feel growing upwith Italian parents that youwere
discriminated against?
Matilda:
No. Because I lived in an Italian com-
munity, we were insulated. That was a good thing.
But then when they say that they didn’t treat the
Italian immigrants so well, it’s true. Also because
of the lack of language.
The Pope
Amanda:
You met the Pope…
Matilda:
Yes, Pope Francis. [It was] the very
first time I have met a pope. I was in Naples on a
conference forMentoring USA Italia and I heard
that there was to be a yearly celebration where
the Pope had to come and speak to the people in
Naples. And I mean there were 3,000 people, at
least, if not more. And the Pope came and spoke.
It was something like a miracle to see him. He is
the most humanitarian pope I could ever think
to meet.
Amanda:
What does the pope mean for Ital-
ians? Because I know here—I had some friends
ww
Mario Cuomo “Spiritual Testament”
What follows are a few excerpts from a long letter
Mario Cuomo wrote for his granddaughters in
November 1999. As read by Cuomo’s grand-
daughter Amanda Cole during her televised
conversation with grandma Matilda.
“I’m writing this letter to you, and all our other
granddaughters […]
At some point you will probably find that filling
your own basket with goodies, satisfying your
own winsome desires for personal comfort will not
be enough to make you truly happy.
Chances are you will discover that to be fulfilled
you will have to lean on some fundamental belief
some basic purpose in life that gives you a sense
of meaningfulness and significance, and that
answers the question: “Why were we born in the
first place?” Without an answer, all the
accumulating of material goods can become
nothing more than a frantic attempt to fill the
space between birth and eternity.
[…]
It happens to a lot of people who spend their
whole life so involved with the challenge of just
staying alive in some decent condition that they
don’t get to think much about why they were born
in the first place. Others get past the struggle
then wander aimlessly as they approach the end,
satisfying whatever appetites are left until there
are no more appetites or no strength to feed
them. They look for answers in the world around
them, in the words of wiser people and the
leadership of some heroic figure. But the answers
prove elusive. No Moses comes to them, and they
die without ever having an answer. Don’t let it
happen to you. You don’t need another Moses…
God knows how grand the world is and how small
we are. He’s not going to expect any miracles
from you, all he asks is that you do what you can.
If you rise to great power and are able to end a
war - or be a governor - or find a cure for cancer,
wonderful. But if the best you can do is comfort a
single soul in need of simple friendship, that’s
wonderful too…If one does what one can to make
things better, it’s all God will ask. It’s a job that
you can work at every minute that you live, and
it’s a job that can make your life worth living, no
matter what else happens. So live, learn, love.
And have a happy new millennium.”
— Grandpa Mario.
A Letter to My Granddaughters
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