Tradition from Sicily
Did you know that when Italian immigrants came to the United States in the early 1900s they were forced to change their last name due to discrimination? Several Italian families were separated because of this change and most still carry that new name with them today. In Italy, prior to immigrating to the United States, some of my cousins had the last name Ciranni. However, when some made America their new home, they were forced to change Cirani to Sherron. Several other Italian families did the same thing, in hopes of eliminating a few vowels from their strong Italian name.
Conversations like this arise at our annual family reunion. Every year my cousins from the West coast venture to New York to celebrate the strong family bonds that my relatives brought to the United States years ago. Nothing screams a big Italian family like the family tree that spans eight long party tables at our reunion.
My great grandparents, my mom's parent's parents (her grandparents), were born in Grotte, Agrigento, Sicily as Giuseppa "Josephine" Ciranni and Giuseppe (Joseph) Mancuso. Giuseppa and Giuseppe are nicknames for Italian females and males. My great grandfather was born in 1889 and he was nine years older than his wife. Opportunity brought them to the United States at a young age and they settled in Hastings, Pennsylvania. My great grandmother wanted to be a teacher but she was encouraged to marry my great grandfather as a child. When she was 16, she already had two of her ten children. She ended up being a housewife and mother who cared for her children in a large white house that still stands in PA. My great grandfather essentially lived the American dream. He was a bootlegger and he owned a jewelry shop. My cousins in Ohio still have the register that was used in the jewelry shop and my aunt Helen (my grandpa's sister) still wears jewelry from her father's store.
My great grandparents had a great life for immigrants and they left behind a family that I cherish. I think it is pretty cool that my grandpa's brother Gus (my great uncle) married Maggie Peterson Mancuso. Maggie is Charlene Darling, Andy Griffith's girlfriend on the Andy Griffith Show. Just like Maggie, my grandpa's siblings seemed to all have a touch of fame through Jazz music. His brothers were incredible musicians and you can even find my Uncle Gus' music on Youtube. When I spent time at my grandparents, my grandpa always used to play his clarinet to MMOs or music minus one. I am so thankful that my grandpa's passion for music was instilled in me and my mom.
You might notice that I talk about my family a lot but it truly is one of the most important things to me. I truly believe that we become the people we are today because of our family and background. I am thankful to say that my grandpa taught my mom and sister and I patience, the importance of comedy in life and the value of intelligence.