It is approximately 4,700 miles from Wenonah, New Jersey to Messina, Sicily
Ricordo di Messina – A Proven Theory
I have a theory that was proven true. The theory is that whatever it is you are looking for, it is not far from where you live. If you keep on looking, something that you can connect to is bound to turn up.
My maiden name is Messina. I always believed my father was born in the town of Messina in Sicily and my brother Frank believes it was Palermo. My brother Salvatore doesn’t know any more than Frank or I know. Yes, my father is gone. He was with us for almost 80 years, and he is not here to verify.
A few months ago I pulled out the only two things that are left of my father, Thomas Messina. One is a booklet in Italian that I believed was his passport until I found an Italian to American translation. It appears as if what I thought was a passport is a bank savings book. Now that I have found a bank book, I will investigate to see if I have “found money.” The other piece of him that I have is his father’s naturalization paper. This is a document from 1928 and the document notes that he (Salvatore Messina) had his 15 year old son Thomas with him. I believe at that time, this served as the means for my father to also become a citizen.
My mother’s maiden name was DiEnna and we do not know where her mother and father originated from. We did not think to ask the obvious – Di (of) Enna – was there a town in Italy named Enna?
When I pulled out the passport/savings book, it had a stamp with what I thought could be the name of a town – Castrogiovanni. Thinking this was a passport, I thought I may have stumbled across where my father came from. Interestingly enough, there is a town in Sicily that was named Castrogiovanni, but in the early 1920’s, the name was changed to Enna. This now leads my family to believe that my mother’s father may also have had Sicilian roots.
What we do know is that life was hard for everyone who immigrated here, and most especially for my father. He was an only child. His mother died when he was two or three, and he came to America with his father as a young boy of five. His father died when he was 15, and he had no one to really care for him. The word homeless is the terminology used today. He never talked about his early years. It seems that life really started for him when he met my mother and together they had three children. Because of his experiences growing up, he now had what he had always hoped for – a family.
He met my mother at a wedding that he had crashed. Crashing weddings on a Saturday evening was a guarantee for one good meal a week. Her name was Carmella as was his mother’s. I believe that may have been one of the bonds that kept them going for 50 plus years. Their years together were not easy. Money was a scarcity, but not a focus. He provided for us what was never provided for him, a roof over our heads and food on the table. We were never left out in the rain, nor did we ever miss a meal. Because this was my experience growing up, I have never feared losing what is the most precious to me – the love of family and friends. And for material possessions, I know that I can survive as long as I have the basics: food and shelter.
Traveling a yard sale in my own hometown of Wenonah, New Jersey, I came across a ceramic plate with the words – Ricodro di Messina. Wenonah has a population of less than 2,000 and is only one square mile. Of course, I was curious and asked how they came to have the plate. The young lady told me that her husband had lived in Sicily and brought the plate home with him. I am hopeful of one day making the trip to Messina, Sicily, but in the meantime I have in my heart the translation of what the words on the plate are: memory, recollection, remembrance of Messina.