I Sound Like My Mother…
Actually, I think I sound more like any of my grandparents!
I was raised in a three-generation home – the kind that the Amish are known for, but the rest of the immigrant population that settled in the Northeast at the turn of the last century chose, not because it was the best thing to do, but because necessity is the mother of invention (or at least, giving everyone a home).
My mother’s parents lived in the first floor apartment of the home my grandfather bought. He immigrated from Bari, Italy and my grandmother from Naples. They were set-in-their-ways Italian: family, work and food. My father’s father died before I was born but I knew who he was from the stories everyone told. He and my father’s mother emigrated from Gibraltar (yes, the Rock; “Gib” as we descendents call it). They were set-in-their-ways Spanish/British/Gibraltarians: family, work and food.
Every one of them worked hard. Mostly laborer-type jobs, nothing glamorous, just hard work. Pop in a paper mill, Mom in household job like sewing and such; Poppa was a laborer at many different places and my Grams, she had one of the best jobs ever – she worked for Loft’s Candies, as a packager – I think of the “I Love Lucy” episode with the candy conveyor belt and the shouts of “Speed it up, Harry!” every time I think of her! They all worked hard, rested when they could, enjoyed family and good food and were happy. I don’t believe one of them ever set foot on a college campus, never mind take classes; some may have even gotten a high school diploma (or its equivalent). But they knew so many, many things! And it all seemed to just be knowledge they had – how to cook, how to take care of the house (inside for the women, outside for the men), how to build things, how to take them apart; painting, singing, joke telling and more. No one ever wondered how he or she was going to make it in this world.
They all raised children who “enjoyed a better life than they did” as the saying goes. Whether it was working for a big supermarket as a butcher (a job with great benefits and a steady paycheck), working as a “Bill of Lading” clerk in the garment district, a business manager for a township in New Jersey, a service manager for a refrigeration company or an employee of UNESCO – all of their children worked, knew what needed to be done and got the job done – providing for their families, acquiring homes and sending every one of their children to college – they knew what to do and got it done.
My first cousins and I all had the benefit of graduating from colleges and universities on the East Coast. A CPA, three teachers, corporate middle management and two business owners in the lot. We were taught from our grandparents and parents to be responsible, to pay attention, to learn, to work hard and make them proud. We succeed, albeit with setbacks along the way, but our history taught us how to deal with those setbacks and push on.
Today, I spoke to one of the many “young-ens” that I have had the pleasure of employing over the last twenty years. When I heard him say, “Basically, my generation is screwed”, I felt compelled to write this little post but felt a stronger urge to ask the readers out there a question or two. I hope you will take the time to answer and give me some feedback – yes, I need to know your age but only for perspective and what you think.
So in a few words in the comments, let me know your “around-about” age, and answer these three questions:
1. How does a person get one’s “character”?
2. Do you think your generation has learned from the past?
3. Do you agree with twenty-somethings today being on the short end of the stick? And in what areas, exactly?
4. Any suggestions on a possible “fix”?
I appreciate the time you may decide to take – I’ll let you know in follow up posts where everyone stands!!
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