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A Sicilian in East Harlem By Salvatore Mondello

Chapter 1:  The Family
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A Sicilian in East Harlem

The Family

It was ten in the evening and I could see him down the block. I watched him as he made his way to the stoop of our building. He was now out of sight. I left the window and went into the kitchen where Grandma Rosalia was warming his minestra. I waited near the big door listening for his cough. I began to hear his heavy breathing as he climbed the few remaining stairs leading to our apartment on the fourth floor. I opened the door and kissed his stubbled cheek. He was home and I felt safe under his paternal protection and affection.

My grandparents and I lived in Italian East Harlem in New York City in the early twentieth century. My maternal grandmother, Rosalia Cassara, was born on April 28, 1890, in San Fratello, Sicily and died in Hempstead, New York, on July 27, 1972. San Fratello is a small village in the Nebrodi Mountains in the Province of Messina and is known for the breeding of Arabian horses introduced in the village during the Muslim occupation of Sicily. She and I spent most of our time in East Harlem. Her San Fratellese dialect was the language of some Sicilian poets.