Life, One Sip at a Time
Over there on the wall of my favorite coffee shoop hangs a black and white photograph.
I stare at it nearly every time I’m there.
Today I find my attention rivited.
I can’t help it, for within its faded depths I began to see a story unfolding.
Three young men from another time and place standing side by side on a broad sidewalk.
Sartorially resplendent in their fine woolen suits.
Fedoras covering heads of thick, black Brylcreem’d hair, handsome by the standards of any generation.
The one on the right is dragging deeply on a filterless cigarette, cheeks hollow with the effort, eyes alive with the passion and promise of youth—and something more…something painful.
In the background sits a stack of luggage and beyond that the mooring lines of a large ocean-going vessel.
If I had to guess, I’d say the picture was taken in Italy and judging by their apparrel it was sometime between 1945 and 1950.
Santino is the one with the cigarette.
His oldest brother, Francesco is the tall one in the middle, arms folded across his chest and grinning ear to ear.
Piero, the younger brother, is on the opposite end, bent over slightly at the waist, his face reflecting laughter that is unrestrained.
And with good reason…they are waiting to board an ocean liner to the United States.
With scarcely more than three year’s difference in ages, this has been their collective dream since they first talked about it over a family holiday in Tuscany.
That was eight years ago, the summer before Francesco left for military training.
Before the world went mad.
Eight years of hoping, dreaming and desperately trying to stay alive through the horrors of World War II.
A stranger holds the camera.
They stayed alive.
Their parents didn’t.
In less than one hour the ship bound for New York harbor will be boarding.
Coming from a family of chefs, they are confident that they will be able to immediately find work.
They are also confident that with hard work they will eventually be able to open their own restaurant, raise families and live out their dream.
Because dreams come true in America.
At least, that’s what they believe.
Snapping back into reality I find myself nearly moved to tears by my fantasizing.
“Dreams come true in America.”
Yes they do.
Never let anyone tell you any differently.