The Melting Pot

One of the school boys doing a tour at the Schottler farm at Old World Wisconsin asked me, as he was working with rye dough, “Did they make pizzas?”  I told him that pizza is an Italian food and that these German immigrants probably would have no idea what that was.  This boy looked to be Hispanic.   Would it be an epiphany for a 10 year old to look around at all the things that seem to be “normal” to his life and realize that they all came about in a particular way and have a particular story?  How did pizza get to be part of life in America?  Another kid said that he thought the dough smelled like beer.  How did beer get to be part of life in America?  Other kids said that they were making tortillas.  Or pita bread. 

I wonder what kind of connections they’re making….or not making.  In 20-minute rotations through so many presentations and activities, what kind of sense are they making about all this converging and co-mingling history?

Migration, immigration and assimilation are fascinating.  Everyone approaches it differently.  Some people are very proud of their origins and hang on to ways of life and culture with a firm grip.  Others push to assimilate as quickly as possible and let go of the old ways.  Some have their culture systematically stripped from them, often under the pretense that it’s “for their own good”.   Just tracking down how a family name has been changed can reveal a lot.  Who changed it?  Under what circumstance, and why?

I suppose the thing that I’m learning most is this: respect everyone’s history.  We are all inter-connected, we all change each other. 

I am thinking also today of the man who was my father-in-law for 24 years.  Today would have been his 78th birthday.  I carry his family name with me and intend to do so until I die.  Maurice Galasso’s dad, Antonio, was born in Italy.  He emigrated to the United States and eventually moved to the Monterrey Peninsula.  Mo (as my father-in-law was called) recalled that his father had various jobs, for example, gelato vendor and dance instructor.  Antonio died when Mo was only 7.  As the “man of the house”, little Maurice was quite resourceful and ingenious.  He eventually became a highly respected structural engineer and owned his own company.  Their family story is full of struggle, creativity, serendipity, stubbornness and grace.  As is, perhaps, everyone’s.  The more I listen to stories, the more I understand about people, and the more compassionate I am capable of becoming.  I want to honor Maurice Galasso today and thank him for the connections I have because of him.  

Maurice and his son, Jim Galasso

Mo and his Galasso grandchildren (my kids). Taken at the grave site after the interment of Jim’s ashes.