My parents were not only husband and wife, they were also first cousins. Everyone is always interested to hear how this happened to come about, so I am going to tell you the story.
As my mother approached 36, my grandmother worried that she would never get married. My mother even said that she intended never to get married. An unmarried daughter does not sit well with a little old Italian lady who wants to see her daughter taken care of by a man and also wants more grandchildren. So my grandmother decided to “make things happen.”
My grandmother wrote to her brother in Sicily. He had a single son who was 29 years old. Letters went back and forth until the elders decided this would be a good match for their children. Then my grandmother broke the news to my mother. She told her that her brother had a single son who wanted to marry her and since her brother was a good man, his son must also be a good man. My mother said “No.” My grandmother took out my father’s picture. He was extremely handsome, a long the lines of a Clark Gable (no exaggeration). My mother said, “No.” My grandmother insisted that all they would do is go there and meet him, if my mother didn’t like him she would not have to marry him. She wore my mother down and she said “OK.”
So, in August 1952, my grandmother and mother got on a boat to Sicily with all their luggage, which happened to include a huge formal wedding dress in the trunk. The wedding invitations already went out to all the family in Sicily. My parents “courted,” with chaperones, for three weeks and were married on September 20, 1952. My father took my mother to Rome for a honeymoon. There they stayed with an elderly couple who hid my father from the Germans during World War II. When the honeymoon was over, my mother and her grandmother came home to Brooklyn and filed the paperwork for my father to come to America. He arrived here in May, 1953 and they stayed in my grandmother‘s apartment.
My grandmother loved her nephew/son in-law, and she didn’t want him to work for six months. But my father was always a hard worker and couldn’t sit around doing nothing. He got a job in a shoe factory making shoes. When an apartment opened up in my grandmother’s six family house, she gave it to my mother and father.
In August, 1954 I was born. Because I was born of this “special union” I instantly became my grandmother’s favorite grandchild. She doted on me and never allowed my mother to scold me when she was around. Even though she died when I was four, I have very fond memories of her still today.
I often asked how my parents were allowed to marry when it is taboo for first cousins to marry. Apparently, no one was concerned about genetic defects in our family. The rational I got was that because my parents did not grow up together and didn’t know each other, it was acceptable for them to marry.
I guess I should be thankful because I wouldn’t be here otherwise!