Where Were You in ‘22?

Posted on 20 November 2009

Philadelphia 1922

Eighty-seven years ago on this date, my mother was born.  World War I was a memory, and the United States was embarking on a period of prosperity known as the “roaring ‘20’s” when women were Constitutionally-recognized as “equal” to men and technologies like automobiles, trains, and mass communication by radio and telephone began to proliferate.  It was a time of hope inspired by “modern” conveniences and ways of thinking.  Short-lived though it was, it must have been an exciting time in which to start life.


In addition to my mom’s birth, 1922 witnessed significant breakthroughs in science and medicine.  Human growth hormone was discovered and insulin was first isolated and used for treatment of diabetes.  Two British Egyptologists caused quite a stir by unearthing the intact tomb of King Tutankhamen, the only tomb that had been untouched by looters through the centuries.


Of course, 1922 also produced less positive news.  In Italy, Benito Mussolini marched on Rome and formed a Fascist government.  Also in 1922, a Commission formed as a result of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I established German reparations to be paid the Allies (the U.S. opted out of these reparations) at 132 billion gold marks.  The onus of this staggering debt created historic inflationary pressures in Germany that contributed to the rise of Hitler and his Nazi Party.  Thus, the stage was set for yet another “war to end all wars.”


It is difficult to understand the modes of thinking and motivations of those living in another time.  And, I doubt that I can truly understand the world in which my mom grew up.  One of five daughters of Italian immigrants, she undoubtedly faced discrimination from those of Anglo-Saxon heritage who represented the predominant culture of the time, but I don’t ever recall her mentioning it.  In fact, she may not have even given it much thought.  She lived in a neighborhood in South Philadelphia composed largely of families of Italian heritage.  And so, in her world, everyone was largely the same.


As I was growing up, I was taught to be proud of my Italian heritage and would frequently hear my grandmother comment on the disgraceful practices and behaviors of the “Medigani’s” (or, Americans) as she referred to all non-Italians.  And, I’m sure my mother was schooled in her mother’s beliefs. 


My mother was raised in an environment in which “family” was of primary importance, and this was a tradition that she perpetuated.  In fact, as a child, I spent an enormous amount of time with my grandparents, uncles, and aunts.  I considered my cousins to be my closest and best friends.  I don’t know if any extended families today are as close as was mine.


My mom and her sisters were extremely close-knit, you might say “thick as thieves.”  Although they might argue with each other, they never permitted anyone outside of the “family” to come between them.  In fact, unfortunate would be the individual who crossed my mother or one of her sisters, for that person would find himself at odds with all of them.


Although I did not realize it then, I was privileged to have grown up with such love, caring, and devotion showered upon me.  As I think back to Holidays spent with my extended family, I only wish that others could experience the unadulterated joy of those occasions.  In fact, in our family, every Sunday was a holiday of sorts when we all gathered at my grandparents’ home to enjoy each others’ company.


More than thirty years ago, my mom passed on to her reward, all too young and much too soon.  And, I believe that she is waiting there, amidst the company and love of others in our “family,” for the day on which we can be reunited.  For me, the wait is interminable.  For her, it is brief, for scores of years are but seconds in eternity.


Happy Birthday, Mom.  Love you, miss you, see you soon. 

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One Response to “Where Were You in ‘22?”

  1. Katheen Felleca says:

    This was a beautiful article.

    Like you, I grew up in a close-knit family, with my parents, grandparents, and sibling all under one roof. Joyous memories of holidays with the entire extended family are stamped onto my soul, as are much quieter memories of time spent as a child, one-on-one, with my grandparents. Maybe I’ll write an article about some of them. 🙂

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