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Cavaliere Anthonly Lascio

Cav. Anthony Lascio Chapter - PIP 1

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le nostre origini
by Cav. Anthony Lascio
“Down Memory Lane”

If genealogy is about families, then remembering one’s youth is also about genealogy.

It is said that once we grow older, all we have left is our memories.  As I find myself ever so present in that category, my remembrances of yesteryear grow more vivid.  Accordingly, I am proceding to share some of my memorable recollections of a youth long gone, but deeply etched into my memory.

When I was about five years old, my parents and I, an only child, moved into the west side home of my paternal grandparents, Domenico and Maria Rosa.  They lived on the first floor and we rented a flat on the second.  The neighborhood was a melting pot of ethnic European immigrants and their first American born offspring.  It was more Italian than anything else, but not truly one of Chicago’s ten original Little Italy communities. Yet all of the neighborhood sights, sounds and smells were Italian.  My first recollections were of my grandpa and grandma speaking Italian to each other with their Vagliese (Basilicata) dialect. Then, I cannot forget the Italian spoken on the street between neighbors; the “negotiating” between the women shoppers and the Italian produce peddler; and the angry dialogue between grandpa and a neighbor who dared to conduct manual labor on the Sabbath Day, Sunday.

While outside playing numerous times, I was mesmerized by the operatic tones blasting from the Italian barber shop next door; or the excitement of the Italian organ grinder and his monkey begging for pennies with a tin cup; or the sight of nonno returning from work with a sack of dandelions over his shoulder for the next meal of dandelion and neck bones cooked in olive oil.

Then there were those aromas.  Ah, those delightful smells of garlic, olive oil, pasta gravy and those tantalizing Italian spices emanating from so many windows up and down the block.

How could I forget Christmas Eve downstairs at my grandparents with a feast of baccala and all the trimmings which I anticipated for days before the event? How could I forget grandma telling me stories in half Italian-half English about her home in Italy? How could I forget grandpa reading his bible on Sunday mornings for an hour as he walked back and forth along the back yard sidewalk? Or Saturday evenings downstairs when grandma and grandpa would entertain their paesoni with pitchers of home made wine and stories of their homeland especially those scary ghost tales.

I will never forget so many times when I would go into the dark basement for something and become startled to find grandpa at his corner desk, quietly writing letters to relatives in Italy. Or watching grandpa proudly working in his vegetable garden of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini and a variety of Italian herbs.

The neighborhood consisted of two story brick residences, but also several apartment buildings.  Along Grand Avenue due east were the Italian delicatessen, the Italian bakery and the pizzeria.  We had no nearby Italian Catholic Church, but not too far southeast was Our Lady of the Angels, the future site of that disastrous school fire.

I learned whatever Italian I remember today from those early impressionable years growing up with my Italian born grandparents.  Although both spoke some English, primarily grandpa, they mostly communicated with me in their native tongue.  I regret, like most of us who today are knee deep into our genealogical research, not asking them more questions and primarily those pertinent questions.  But who knew then, what would drive us in the future?

As I look back on that golden age of my innocent youth, I do so with the complete realization how privileged I was to have spent seven years with my grandfather and seventeen with my grandmother, sharing their home, their lives and their culture.

It was that time and that place which truly influenced me to understand what it was to be Italian.  I would not trade those years for any other.  In that era, it was the grandparent’s home which served as the heart of the family center. Not only did I have a share in the lives of my grandparents, but uncles, aunts, cousins and other extended family members who regularly congregated at the home of my grandparents.  This experience cannot be measured in time or counted in dollars-but only weighed in value.

One could say the earliest seeds of my interest in genealogy began at that Hirsch Street home of nonno and nonna starting in the late 1930's.  What a family tree which grew from those first seeds!


© PIP Chapter 1, 2003 ~ Webmaster:  ~  page last updated on Tuesday, April 22, 2003