Since my grandma died about two weeks ago, I’ve been feeling nostalgic. I’ve had some rough nights thinking about her, but I try to make sure I’m remembering the positives. As I think about all of those great things we did together, I can’t help but remember other members of my family that have passed within the last decade; members of my family that did cool things; members I hope I never forget.
Most of my family never did anything amazing or ground breaking, hell, most of my dad’s side of the family is still across the Atlantic Ocean in the old country (Italy). However, there is one person in my family, my great aunt Helen, that not only lived over a century (she passed away at 102 I believe), but was also a part of something for the only two years of its existence and is my only real claim to fame.
She was the Queen of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1926 and 1927.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my family to pieces and to be honest, I could care less if they were “famous,” and that’s not because I know I won’t be unless I go on some crime spree and wind up in the papers. I like my simple existence and don’t need anything huge, even in my family’s past, to gratify a non-existent ego.
Anyway, when I think about the history of my family, where everyone came from, and all the things they did during a century that seemed to transcend what could happen in a century’s time, this is something I can proudly connect with.
I remember being there for her 100th birthday party in Florida and on numerous other occasions. She remember everyone’s name, always sent birthday cards, and knew what everyone was doing. She loved everyone, and after 3 generations which followed, there was a lot of us.
She was the first generation born in the United States, making me the 4th generation, which from what I understand is a very long time for Jewish families in America.
The historian in me likes to better understand those roots and make sure I can tell the story to my grandkids one day. My dad’s side is much easier, as my grandpa and his brother came to the United Stats in the 1950s from Brazil and the Dominican Republic (respectfully) after leaving Italy when there mandatory military service was completed. They went to South America to avoid the low immigration quota that was placed on Italy after World War II, though I also know that many mobsters from southern Italy also went to South America to clear their names before coming to the United States, which is much more fun to tell people even if I have zero evidence my family was connected to that.
This nostalgia also helped re-kindle my idea to write about how social media and the internet will change how we are able to look at history. Not really sure where it’s going to go as of right now, but a friend of mine and myself will be slowly working on it in the near future (I hope). My grandma has a Facebook and Instagram, and though my Aunt Helen didn’t, I was able to find this New York Time article about her coming back to the parade as a guest of Macy’s.
It’s really cool looking back and it makes me proud to be who I am and where I came from, even if we’re just a regular family.