I traveled to SCP in late May /early June with Janet and a number of my cousins on a quest. Of course, we would see many of the usual sights in Venice, Florence and Rome, but underlying the joint travel was a return to our roots. SCP was the home of my great grandmother and great grandfather, Teresa and Vincenzo Ardovino. They made their way to New York early in the 20th century, arriving November 2, 1902. Moveover, I lived with Teresa, or Nunny as she was known, in her last years of life—the early years of my life.
We knew a lot about Nunny, Vincenzo, their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren before we left the U.S., but there were questions whose answers we hoped (and still hope) to find. Vincenzo and Teresa left SCP for no clear reason, except for a rumored falling out Vincenzo had over furniture (Vincenzo was a furniture maker and carpenter) built for the daughter of SCP’s mayor. Or, was it something else? SCP may be small, but it’s very nice—the view of the Bay of Naples is not too bad either. We also knew that their oldest son, Americo, did not travel with them in 1902, arriving in the U.S. several years later. Americo was the child of Teresa’s first marriage. Her husband died, leaving her a young widow. She met and married Vincenzo, and started a life that eventually spanned two continents.
But, there was much more. As noted above, they arrived November 2, 1902 in New York. For the next 40 years, until February 26, 1942, they were unregistered aliens (planet unknown). Yes, my grandmother, Nunny, was an illegal alien in the U.S. for 40 years. I do not think she was a threat to national security over those years. And, there were untold thousands like her. She and her family lived, worked, payed taxes, and otherwise contributed to the strong fabric of our nation. Then, 11 years after she registered, Nunny decided to become a U.S. Citizen. On May 18, 1953, at age 79, she filed for naturalization, and on June 22, 1953 she became a U.S. citizen. Why she chose citizenship so late in life is a question that we are unlikely to be able to answer. There are no family stories to provide any insight. As noted above, I lived with Nunny and my grandparents, and I do not recall any conversation regarding the why. However, I was four years old, making me hardly the dude who might remember anything at all. Perhaps my mother and cousins can speculate. Vincenzo, on the other hand, died an Italian citizen.
Over the next several posts, I will tell you more about our travels. However, just a few more facts before I close. The first legs of our (Janet and Lou) trip involved Omaha (Eppley) to Chicago (O’Hare), Chicago to Rome (Leonardo De Vinci), and Rome to Venice (Marco Polo). The flight time from Chicago to Rome was just at nine hours (4, 817 miles). The ride was a B787, a very comfortable and well-outfitted plane. Much to my disappointment, there were no ‘unusual’ people to observe, except for the guy across the aisle one row up that had a snack for every moment of the flight when he wasn’t sleeping (the Twizzlers looked good), and managed to get crackers, chips, and crumbs all over the plane. It was a nasty mess.
A side story here. I had not been at Leonardo De Vinci Airport in more than 20 years. Its remodel and expansion is terrific, although the desire to drive all foot traffic by and through the many shops that line the walkthroughs between terminals is a bit annoying. Their airport has a special place in my mind. In 1992, I was in Leonardo De Vinci after having been in Northern Ireland and Romania (multiple times) in 1991 and 1992. While this was before the creation of ‘no fly’ lists, the security staff in Rome was busy looking out for passenger safety and weird folks like me. I clearly remember being escorted from the Alitalia check in line, back to an office for interrogation purposes. I discovered the reason later, and it was a good one given the times.
I learned that when the Soviet Union disintegrated and the countries of Eastern Europe became independent, new ‘partnerships’ emerged. The story, unconfirmed by me (so if you have a better one let me know) is that arms began to pass between Romania and the IRA. Thus, a younger guy (yes, it was that long ago) who was traveling alone and had spent a fair amount of time in Romania and Northern Ireland would be due some extra attention. And, I got it. We reviewed my travel itinerary, discussed the reasons for my travel, and after about ten minutes they let me go. Fascinating, as Spock might have said.