Immigrants: Saving bus fare for a chicken

It’s exciting to seek a better future. To see a new land as an open opportunity. To leave everything behind and envision a better tomorrow. A better life was my grandfather’s plan when he uprooted his family from Italy to the States. This picture was snapped as they stepped out of the airplane upon arriving in New York. They immigrated when my mom and uncle were almost twenty. That’s my mom peaking out from the back and my uncle in front. When I look at their faces I can see their hopeful energy.

To immigrate, my grandfather needed both a sponsor and a promise of a job. Once both were in line, they were on their way. But on his first day, when he made it to work, the building was all locked up. I couldn’t imagine what he must have felt when he thought of feeding his family. Saving money was his first priority. Their first day to the market a winter storm dumped three feet over the city. My mom remembers how hard it was to walk several blocks through the thick, wet snow. She could barely lift her legs out because it was up to her knees. But they had to bypass taking a bus to the store. All because he said, “I can buy a whole chicken for the price of four bus fares.”

Immigrants2I wanted to express their hopes for a better life while I painted this in 2005. Cool energies intermixed in Immigrants. Merging the contrasting colors of orange and blue, I explored the personal feelings each one might have had about this move across the world. A new exciting life awaited them along with an adjustment to a different culture and new language. My nonna began learning English and mom remembers her speaking it very well. But after she got sick, she could barely speak at all.

One shape I recognize is nonno’s hand on the bottom right hand side. My nonna’s eye is in orange at the top center. I loved blending and pushing the colors. I don’t remember much of what I thought of while I painted this but I do know that it moved something within me. It made me appreciate my nonno bringing his family to a new country to start a new life. It made me understand how hard it was for my mom to leave her friends behind. And most of all it just made me feel better because I felt their positive, hopeful energy.