On Flag Day and I am reminded of what the red, white, and blue meant to my father. As an Italian immigrant, a naturalized citizen, he took his oath of allegiance to the United States to heart. Every Memorial Day, Flag Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and even on Columbus Day, Daddy waved the flag in our neighborhood on the flagpole.
“This is-a great-a the greatest-a country in-a the world-a,” he announced.
Francesco’s ardor was fueled in the grinding poverty of his childhood in Calabria in southern Italy. The rugged Apennine Mountains located near the “instep” of Italy surrounded his miniscule village. By the time my father left Italy in 1933, Mussolini had amassed power.
“At least-a that-a son-a-ma-bitch-a Mussolini build-a good-a roads-a in-a Calabria,” observed Daddy.
His formal education ended at age ten, and Daddy was apprenticed to a village shoemaker. Showing talent for shoemaking, he dreamed of having his own shoe shop in the L’america. He was savvy, charming, charismatic, levelheaded, and handsome to boot [please excuse the pun], not a comfortable fit in a village of well-intentioned conformists. After fulfilling military service, Francesco set sail from Napoli for New York.
“When I getta here, I could-a breathe and-a make-a my life-a. This no-a could-a happen in-a the village-a.”
A World War II veteran, he was proud to call himself a patriot. His realized his dreams: his own shoe shop [“leather-a only, no-a synthetic-a junks-a”], family, and college-educated children. Bravissimo, Papa.
Ciao for now.