I recently visited Amalfi, Italy with two collaborators to show our documentary on Wooster Square. Because there were so many who immigrated to New Haven from Amalfi and the neighboring towns, we thought it would be a nice gesture to bring it back to the place of origin.
Since the mayor of Amalfi Daniele Milano was very enthusiastic in his offer to host a presentation of “The Village, Life in New Haven’s Little Italy” in Salon Morelli in the Municipio, or city hall, we decided to go.
In spite of being excited about the experience of showing the film to a totally new audience, I was very reluctant to go. It would be my first trip alone, and I would be responsible for making the arrangements and then traveling there on my own.
Now, at my advanced age, one would think that I would have had a lot of experience traveling, and therefore able to take this on easily. In fact, all of my travels prior had been with Angela and sometimes other family and friends. What happens when you’re left on your own to do all the things that someone else did prior to leaving for your destination? You panic.
I hesitated for so long, that it almost became too late to make travel arrangements, but I did finally decide to go.
What might otherwise have been a pleasant experience - getting ready, packing, making arrangements for my dog Zoey’s care, thinking about the trip, all became something I dreaded. I was simply overwhelmed.
Getting the plane ticket and figuring out all of the new-fangled devices at the airport challenged me, and even deciding how much stuff to bring was cause for prolonged deliberation. I couldn’t believe how incompetent I felt. When I stepped back, I realized how foolish I was being. I decided that I just had to do this
But, in the end, my angst was rewarded with a very heartwarming reception by the locals, many of whom were connected to the mass migration to New Haven of the early 20th century.
Even though I had visited Amalfi numerous times in the past, I always feel a special connection each time I step into the piazza. As a child, this is the place that my mother described to me many times as she recounted her own childhood there. And I would try to imagine it in my mind’s eye. So being there seemed like I was in a familiar place, and I was happy to be walking on the same cobblestones that both of my parents had walked on.
The presentation at the city hall was an inspiring and emotional event for me and the others. The audience, perhaps for the first time, was able to understand the struggle that those immigrants endured to find a place here in New Haven. Some of them may have imagined the transition to a better life here to have been an easy one. Hearing the tales of early deprivation and struggle stunned some of them. They were equally impressed to know that the cultural and emotional ties that were there originally, still exist in our own lives as we maintain traditions and strong family ties.
I must admit, it gave me a sense of having participated in something really special. Suddenly, all of my doubts about making the trip were eradicated and I knew that we had done a good thing. They were pleased to have met us, and we were proud to be a part of such an important human and emotional connection.
Sometimes your fears can turn into something really worthwhile.