MAMMA’S DIARY – DIARIO DI MAMMA
When my father wakes up in the morning, he creaks like an old house. He has literally worn out his shoulders from carrying the weight of his world, a leaf blower or fully grown tree, on his back year after year. His legs are shot from walking from one lawn to another and mowing or bending down to plant flowers. His head is weary with the reflection, nostalgia, and angst of old age. Perhaps, it is his hands that tell the entire story. His hands are like leather replete with cracks and creases. The nail beds are forever gray no matter how much soap and scrubbing. Yet, he works still. At 70, in fact, he says he needs to work, not for the money but for the glory.
My father is a landscaper. My father is a small business owner. My father is an immigrant. My father is America.
Americans are expecting thousands of immigrants – documented and undocumented – to go on strike today to show leaders, not to mention the rest of the world, what the country would be like without them. The hashtag popping up on social media is #ADayWithoutImmigrants. Our dirty little secret, according to the protesters, is that we need them to survive economically and culturally. Some of them think we couldn’t go on without them, in fact. Some even say our country would be a wasteland without them. Well, guess what? They’re right.
My own day without immigrants would be a bleak one indeed for I would cease to exist. My family would vanish. I am the daughter of immigrants, the granddaughter of immigrants, the wife of an immigrant, and the mother of a dual citizen. I am literally nothing and no one without immigrants. My Nonno Giovanni (in the photo above) sacrificed the only life he ever knew and moved his entire family to the United States beginning in 1960. He never did learn English, nor did he ever have the kinds of friends he had back in Italy, who played cards with him and delivered his children, and got tipsy with him. In America, he worked and so did his children.
Those dirty hands of my father paid for me to go to college without debt. They continue to help countless customers maintain their property, enjoy the luxuries of ponds and fancy walls in their yards, and do their part for the environment (with tree plantings, vegetable gardens, and manicured lawns that keep rodents and insects at bay naturally). Along with my mother, a native born American who is the child of immigrants herself, he raised three children to contribute to society. Those dirty hands held mine and those of my brother and sister. They lifted us up when times were hard and put us down when we tried to climb on our pedestals.
Without those hands, we’d be worse off. Without those hands, you’d be worse off. Today, I salute immigrants and the immigrant experience. It’s not just my father, who has brought this light to my life. I am a better person because of my Indian friends who showed me the joy of Diwali, my Jewish friends who still pray with me, my Greek and Mexican friends who have become family, my Korean friends who grew up with me, my Muslim friends who taught me about the real beliefs of their people and not the caricature on TV, my Japanese friends who taught me the wonders of Girl’s Day, my African friends whose devotion to raising the village is like my own, and the list goes on and on.
Today, as immigrants take to the streets to prove their worth to us, a worth that should be obvious to all, I can’t help but think of the words of the mighty Mario Cuomo:
Some Americans believed that we should think of these newcomers to our land as being dropped into a ‘melting pot’ that could boil away their distinguishing cultures, homogenizing them into a new multiethnic America. I have always believed that the better analogy for America would be the mosaic, like those in many church windows, each a different size, shape, and color, harmoniously arranged to form beautiful patterns. It would be tragic if our country were to sacrifice the immigrants’ gifts in favor of some kind of bland uniformity.