You Can Go Home Again
November 25, 2015
When Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home Again was published posthumously in 1940, Wolfe delivered to his readers a sad reality. We cannot recreate a loving past. We have to adjust, move on to the now, the present and the looming future. However, like many truisms, there are exceptions. I just enjoyed one.
On November 17, 2015, I had the opportunity to address over 100 members and guests of the Ulster County Italian American Foundation, Inc. (UCIAF) at Casa Milanese in Highland, New York. The topic was my new book, 784 Broadway, a remembrance of my summers spent and lessons learned from my immigrant Italian great grandmother, three great uncles and a great aunt. The center of this life was their family Greengrocer store in Kingston, New York and at the family Camp in nearby West Hurley (both in Ulster County).
UCIAF president Tony Marmo set the stage for what was more than just another after dinner book talk. The UCIAF is organized as an IRS 501C3 charitable foundation whose mission is to preserve and promote the Italian American culture. They have no political or religious affiliations and raise funds to address community needs throughout Ulster County. Less than a year old, UCIAF is already financially supporting Ulster County community groups. The quality of their leadership and organizational vitality was apparent from the start.
When enjoying an Italian community in Italy or in the US, you always find a warm, affectionate, caring group of people willing to share whatever they have. My wife Merita joined me for the trip over from Boston as we wanted to visit the cemetery where the majority of my family members are buried. I also wanted to visit places in Kingston that remain rooted fondly in my heart to this day. From the experience of prior trips, I would have agreed with Wolfe. Places did not make a home. People did.
This is what made this evening so special. At the end of the evening when Merita and I left, we felt as though we had gained a hundred new friends. I spoke about my immigrant family and what life values I learned from them. I told how their simple life brought me such joy. A number of attendees knew of the Joseph Garbarino greengrocer store at 784 Broadway. Many recalled purchasing Christmas trees from my great uncles. Some recalled another great uncle who was mayor of Kingston during WW II and active his entire life in veterans and charitable groups
Some very special family friends, who took over the family Camp in West Hurley, saw my talk advertised in the local newspaper. To our great surprise three of them were able to attend the dinner. We enjoyed a very special family reunion which we were able to share with the audience. Merita told of how years ago she explained to a young girl in this family during a visit what it was like for Merita to then serve as an FBI agent. Inspired by Merita, this young girl, now a woman, is herself serving as an FBI agent.
We planned a question and answer session and this was perhaps the best part of the evening. It was like a conversation of family and friends around a fantastic dinner table. When it was time to leave, we were already planning our return. We had invitations. Contacts were exchanged. Columbus Day next year is already in the calendar.
We share a common purpose to preserve and promote the Italian American culture. I have done it in two books. This is a group that will do exactly the same, and do it well. Check out their website www.ucitalianamericanfoundation.org.