All Aboard the Hiawatha

Posted by on Oct 29, 2018

Carmela sat fireside, paging through her newly acquired Pfister Hotel coffee table book. Self-possess and stylish, she sipped her drink while she waited for her daughter, Maria, to rejoin her. Soon, the pair would head to the train station and return to the Windy City, but for now, this moment was still hers in which to relax and savor. She loves beauty, whether it is formally displayed, as it is in the Milwaukee Public Museum, unexpectedly encountered in places like the ancient streets of Pompeii, or in a hotel she describes as “a jewel.”

Born in the Catania area of Sicily, Carmela, known as Millie by those she loves, arrived in the United States when she was 13. She recounted the immigration process for her American-born mother and their Italian immediate family with little sentiment. Her mother was only allowed to bring her oldest child with her when she journeyed across the ocean to what would be their new home. The law required her mother to secure employment and a place to live before the rest of the family could join her. She remained in Italy with her father and siblings until the family could be reunited. Rather than remembering this time as one of hardship, she recalls it with pride, feeling those events helped her grow into the strong, accomplished woman she has become.

Young Millie found herself the only Italian in an Irish neighborhood, quickly learning the English that was being spoken all around her. She remembers her father saying “if we wanted Italian, we would have stayed in Italy.” Taking those words to heart and wanting to please her father, she soon became fluent, removing all trace of accent from her speech.  She was happy in her new land, surrounded by her family and ready to embrace all of the opportunities available to her.

Millie grew up, married and had two daughter, and is now the adoring grandmother of twin granddaughters. She lost her husband and it is in his memory that the mother and daughter have travelled to Milwaukee. Years ago, the loving couple made a trip to the city, but their visit to the Milwaukee Art Museum was too brief to satisfy her urge to explore the landmark. Returning with her daughter, she explored the Calatrava, steeped herself in the luxury of the hotel and enjoyed the company of the daughter she dearly loves.

The ladies visit was far too brief and soon they were dashing to catch their train, where they will spend a few additional days together in Maria’s hometown of Chicago.  Perhaps we’ll see them again before too long.


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