Isabella lifted her young son so he could see over the rail of the ship.
“It is there”, she pointed, “Just like Papa said, Ellis Island.” Pulling the scarf from her head she let the salty breeze whip her dark curly hair about her face.
“Will Papa be waiting for us Mama?”
A frown furrowed her forehead, but she responded happily. “Si baby, Papa will be there.”
Her husband Dominick sent them tickets to come, but she hadn’t heard from him in eight months. She hoped fervently that he would be there to meet them and sent a prayer to heaven as she watched the shoreline grow. “Look there, Lum, this giant city is New York! Poppy has prepared a home for us in Canton, Ohio.”
The eight year old squinted his eyes at the shore and shrugged, “It does not look so big Mama.” The woman laughed and hugged her boy tight; maybe by the end of the day she would see her precious Dominick.
For seven long years she had taken Dom’s letters to the local schoolteacher to read and raised their boy on her own. Now they would be a real family!
Isabella wrapped her perfumed scarf around her face again as a large man lifted his arms above his head and scooted the others out of his way. He looked down at her with interest and she set her square jaw and showed him her wedding ring. With a shrug he lowered his arms and the acrid stench whipped by her face with the casting winds.
“I already have a job fighting in a local bar”, the man boasted boxing with the air just over the railing.
Lum shook his head and ignored his mother’s stern glance, “They pay you to fight in America?” The boy learned to fight at an early age if he wanted to keep his bread. “Papa says the streets are not gold, we can’t see gold streets until we go to heaven.”
The man shook his black hair out of his face and answered, “My sponsors even paid for my passage. I got here with my fists and a few black eyes.” Lum laughed at the idea of fighting for a living, though he could tell his Ma didn’t approve. He decided he liked being on the deck and loved watching the shore get bigger and bigger.
“My Papa is going to be waiting for us.” The man nodded and caught a glance at the boy’s mother. She was a tiny thing, probably five foot tall with her heals on, but she had a strong spirit about her. She would make it he thought his eyes memorized by New York in the distance.
“Will you stay in New York City”, the fighter asked his tone now respectful.
As Isabella opened her mouth Lum answered quickly. “We are staying in New York City with cousin Luigi for three days then we are taking a real train to Canton, Ohio!” The boy had obviously memorized this bit and Isabella laughed kissing the top of Lum’s head.
They were finally in America and Isabella fought the urge to kiss the ground like the others were doing as they took their place in line. As she held tight to her boy’s hand she took time to thank her God for bringing them safely to this beautiful new country.
Dominick Barbato landed in New York with nothing but the tomato seeds sewn into his pockets and a dream. He built an oven in their back yard and Isabella made bread for the entire neighborhood. Life was hard, but the young couple had hope and faith that they were building a new life for their children.
Dominick did greet his small family as they exited Ellis Island and they went on to start a successful green house. He learned to read and write for the first time in his life at a night class and insisted that all of his children graduate from high school.
That same green house, all started with a handful of tomato seeds, is still a thriving business in Canton, Ohio to this very day.
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