by Linda (Giannotti) Del Bene (Connectictut, USA)
What is this place, Gagliato, that is ingrained into oneself from earliest understanding? Where is this place, Gagliato, that possesses one’s thoughts throughout a lifetime? What makes a small child sit at the edge of the seashore to just stare out eastward over the sea wondering about a land she hears about so much; what it looks like, feels like?
This child is Gagliatese; who she is; born into regardless of not being born there; yet possessing the blood, heart, soul of Gagliato. When the child is grown, people wonder about the strong attachment and heartfelt affinity with the people of the “old country”. To some, this strong attachment and affinity could be looked upon as somewhat of an oddity for a person born and raised in America.
The explanation is simple. The child is Gagliatese; birthplace of the father, grandparents, great-grandparents; where still to this day remain members of the immediate family who still reside and live.
This child, being the first of the family to be born in the new world, became part of and totally immersed into this Gagliatese nucleus that was to last 12 years; living in a neighborhood inhabited predominantly of Italian immigrants, (including a large extended family) most of which were from Gagliato, speaking language(s) that were a mixture of Gagliatese, various other dialects of Italian, broken English. The stories of Gagliato abounded; just about everything had a relationship to Gagliato.
This “little Italy”, rich in its roots and traditions provided the “backdrop” for this child, seeing everything done the Italian way and hearing the Gagliatese dialect. It is within this neighborhood and with these people where the child felt safe and secure; developing a true sense of identity of ethnicity, and how these influences formed the child’s philosophy throughout its life.
At the age of 12, the child is shattered to learn that circumstances deemed it necessary to move out of the beloved neighborhood. The Gagliatese dialect and Italian, no longer being heard on a daily basis, was forgotten as the child is now immersed into a world of mixed cultures, proving to be a little intimidating to one who did not fully understand the exposure to a more completely American/Americanized environment. A child who never fully understood what some of her peers were talking about regarding their lives and activities and not being allowed to participate in because it went against beliefs.
Hopefully it is easier for one to grasp that being raised with the principles and traditions of the Gagliatese, it is that environment within which the child felt more comfortable and upholds to this day and setting a goal to visit Italy and Gagliato and even to live there. The stories told by the family, the traditions by which we lived form the ethnic character of the child that carries them throughout life.