We are on the big ship, the Vulcania, Mamma, my sister and me. I look at nonna down below. She holds her hankie to her face. We are too far apart to talk. So we just look at each other from behind crying eyes. Nonna is not coming with us … I feel sad … but in two weeks … I’ll see papà again … and I feel a little bit happy. The horn blasts from the ship. Everything is shaking. Mamma says I have to put something in my stomach. I thought I was hungry, but my stomach doesn’t want it. Mamma takes all the bread from the basket and puts it in her purse to take to our cabin. In the corridor, I throw up the bread I ate. We don’t clean it up.
After 10 days, we reach Halifax, and the ship finally stops rolling back and forth. Now I understand why Cristoforo Colombo kissed the ground when he got off the Santa Maria, in 1492. He was seasick too!
It’s been 50 years since that 1st crossing of the Atlantic. The trip that changed me forever. Canada has been good to me. I have lived a good life. I was able to go to university. But we all paid a price.
My parents left Italy when they were young to give us a better opportunity in life. They worked hard to maintain a roof over our heads. In return, I too, worked very hard to pay them back for their sacrifice. For them, I became an engineer.
For half a century, I have felt like an outsider, standing on the side-lines. I belong neither to Canada or Italy.
After 37 years in Canada, my parents decided to retire to Italy. They too, find themselves on the side-lines: In Canada, they never fully assimilated in the Canadian culture. And now that their back in their native Italy, they feel like strangers.
They don’t fit where they are. I don’t fit where I am. This is the price we pay for ‘The Good Life.