My grandfather Katerino Palumbo came from a large Italian family, one that emigrated from Italy’s Abruzzo region when he was only four years old. With intelligence, hard work, and a bit of “grit” his father achieved his own “American dream” – a cobbler shop that could sustain his large family and place him as a respected, contributing member of his community. My grandfather learned his father’s cobbler trade and worked in the capacity that he could while also fully dedicating himself to his education (something which the family regarded as not only important, but indispensable).
These young Palumbos faced the difficulties commonly present at the crossroads of two cultures – including philosophical and linguistic divergences as well as unfortunate stigmas. For instance, his older brother introduced him to his “Americano” friends as “Bill” because he was embarrassed to reveal his very ethnically Italian name. An uncle of theirs even had to change his name to a more American version just to gain employment. Despite these comprisings of their identities, they found their own successes in this sometimes unforgiving, yet potential-brewing nation.
For instance, “William” (Katerino, in truth) graduated from Boston University and established Palumbo Insurance. His daughter (my aunt) Marie-Theresa and her husband John took over the business to great success. Through it they gained great financial stability for themselves, yet also have found ways to give back to their communities. For instance, my uncle sits on the board of a non-profit ballet company that does much social outreach in addition to its performance endeavors.
My mother found that education suited her better than business, just as her father found his own unique way rather than his father’s. She thus continued this tradition of finding one’s own success. I believe I also carry this on through my path towards work in Dance/Movement Therapy, for which I am presently studying at Lesley University (Cambridge, MA). We have all have faced our own challenges on these separate paths – but we share that applied intelligence, hard work, and so-called “grit” with which we make our dreams possible for ourselves and our loves ones. It all started with a little Massachusetts cobbler shop, and has gone – and will continue to go – so much further.