There's a house in the Bronx that my Grandfather built with his immigrant friends. It's the house that my mother and her siblings grew up in. He built it during the Great Depression and I am to this day uncertain how he did it and with what means. They were not people of wealth, far from it. They came from a small town outside of Naples, Italy before WWI. They arrived by ship in steerage class and were newly weds of only 18 or 19 years old. Older cousins shared with me that they intended to earn some money here because that's where their skills were needed then go back to Italy for a better life.
There's a distant memory in my mind of hearing my Grandmother saying that they came to improve themselves and could not understand why others back home did not want to do the same. After a brief stay earning what they needed they returned to Italy but only for a short time, WWI threatened and they returned to America for good.
Eventually my grandparents became naturalized citizens and started a family in their new world, 10 children in all, 2 died in infancy. My mom was a twin, she and her brother the youngest of the 8 surviving. One of the older brothers earned a Gold Star, three of the other brothers were the more fortunate sons and earned Blue Stars, they were all in their 20s. The stars they earned were in the sunroom of the house in the Bronx that my Grandfather built. The room that my Grandmother grew her Christmas cactus which bloomed fire red on-time every holiday season, the room with her foot powered Singer sewing machine, the room that the sun streamed into in the afternoons.
As a 3 or 4 year old I would pass through my grandparent's bedroom through their double glass-paned doors from their living room, then through the second glass-paned door to that sunroom. In that room with windows on 3 sides, the center one facing the street hung a small banner with yellow fringe, a Gold Star in the center with 3 Blue Stars underneath. The Stars were for their sons who served in the Armed Forces during WWII. The Blue Stars for sons who survived, 2 in the Navy, Pete & Tano, the other for Lou who was in the Army. The Gold Star was for Jerry, Army Corp of Engineers, the uncle I never knew. He died in the Philippines, on what is called the Baton Death March.
My memory of that sunroom in the house in the Bronx is somewhat faint but not of the Christmas Cactus, the peddle powered Singer Sewing Machine or the banner of Blue Stars and a Gold Star or of visiting a grave in the Bronx with my Mother and Grandmother hearing my Grandmother say over and over "my son, my son".
Along with too many others, I come from a Gold Star and Blue Star Family and like many others it is something that is considered sacred and honorable. Something sacred and honorable that should not be diminished by anyone no matter who they are or aspire to be. To do so is an insult to those who gave the best of themselves and everything of themselves and the sacrifice of mothers and fathers who gave the most precious part of themselves.
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