My Grandparents Angelo and Josephine Fileccia on their wedding day in Sicily.
People are not surprised when I tell them my favorite movie is The Godfather. Most assume it's because I'm half Sicilian. Therefore, I must have gangster blood. The reason that it is my
favorite actually has nothing to do with the mobster element (well, maybe a little bit), but rather the story of family, and how it reminds me of my own. Particularly the story of my grandparents.
mom, Giuseppina (Josephine) LoPiccolo, grew up in a town in Sicily called Giardenello, which means “small garden.” My mother's father, Angelo Fileccia, was born in the United States, but his parents also came from the same area in Sicily. My Grandfather
fought in the U.S. Army during WWII. He was stationed on the Panama Canal, and he also was a middle weight boxing champion. Just after the war it was suggested by his family that he marry and start a family. His parents knew my grandmother's parents and suggested
they meet. My grandparents then began to write letters to each other. I've heard this story from both of my grandparents at separate times.
One day my grandmother and I sat on her couch and she told me the story
of how they met. She told me that her parents had been in touch with my grandfather's family and that Angelo want to meet her. They said he would write to her. She soon received a letter from him, but it was in English. At this time my grandmother did not
speak any English, so she took it to a friend who did. She said she was so eager to hear what the letter said. She was like a child opening a present. Her friend read the letter and roughly translated the message. She then wrote her own letter back to Angelo
and sent it off to America. When the letter reached my grandfather he had the same problem, his Italian was not very good. So he had to bring the letter to one of his friends to help him translate. At this point in the story I remember my grandmother stopped
and laughed, she said in her thick Italian accent, “Everyone else read our love letters before we did!” She shrugged and put her hands up in the air, “n'gut what you gonna do?” The letters continued on for a while until he was able
to come to Sicily to meet her. Finally after a few months my grandfather made the trip overseas to meet his potential bride.
Sitting with my Grandfather at the kitchen table one night, after dinner, he told me
about the day he met her. I remember I asked him directly if it was an arranged marriage. He said to me, “I went over there with the intention that if I liked the look of her, I would ask her to be my wife.” He sat back in his chair and moved his
toothpick to the other side of his mouth. “So, I get there and she looks good to me,” he pauses, “so, I ask her to marry me and move to America with me.” I sat there with him listening to his story, and I wanted to ask him if she had
a choice, but how do you ask that question? He must have seen my expression because he interrupted his own story to say, “She didn't have to say yes, she could have stayed in Sicily and married someone else.” I sat back in my chair and felt relieved
to know that they did choose each other, so she must have liked the look of him too. “So,” he continued, “two weeks later we were married.”
The day they were married was July 13, 1947
at the Jesus, Mary, Joseph Church in Giardenello, Sicily. The service was officiated by Father Costantino. Soon after they came over to America to start their life together.
They had five children, the oldest,
my mother Vita, Frank, Joe, Nanette, and Jim, eleven grandchildren and so far nine great-grandchildren. When my grandfather passed in 2002 they had been married for 56 years.
Every time I watch The Godfather,
I always pay very close attention tothe part when Michael goes over to Sicily and he meets Apolonia, his first wife. The beautiful, local Sicilian, girl from a small village makes me think of my grandmother, and
I can't help but be transported into the past. I dream that I'm looking into a moment when my grandparents met each other. Perhaps they also took a walk together through the Sicilian countryside, still too timid to hold hands, with the entire family ten paces
back as a chaperone, of course.