Submitted by Gina Teresa Orazi, who lives in Chicago.
The black travelling trunk sits in my living room, holding unknown answers to unasked questions. The trunk belonged to my mama. It held all of the possessions that came with her when she travelled by ship to America with her nine-month-old daughter.
I always thought Mama had bought the trunk in Italy. However, when my son carried the trunk into our home, he noticed a sticker that says it was made in the U.S.A., in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Dad told me the trunk belonged to Mama. He didn’t want to discuss their early life in America. Why didn’t I insist on answers?
When he was seventeen, Dad immigrated to America to earn money to help his family. He had a hard life in the coal mines of Denbo, Pennsylvania. At age twenty seven, Dad returned to Italy to marry Mama.
Dad had possibly purchased the trunk in Pennsylvania and filled it with items to take to his family in Italy. Could Mama have then filled the trunk with her embroidered linens and other items? Did she take bits of treasured memories? Did she shed tears of sorrow, knowing that she would probably never see her parents or her homeland again?
My sister has no memories of arriving in America and their early time here. My mama died when I was four, and I learned early in life not to ask Dad questions.
I admire the courage and strength of will that my parents had to leave the land of their birth and come to this challenging country. They gave me a life with many opportunities and blessings. Still, I wish the trunk could satisfy my nagging curiosity.