I've always felt that I fit in. In the neighborhood where I grew up in Hartford there were lots of Italians, many of them first-generation like myself. My mom and dad established lifetime relationships with these people. They all clung to one another for support. Some of their children are my friends to this day.
My parents spoke Italian at home. They had to go to night school to learn English. I was the youngest of five, and my two oldest sisters and brother spoke back to them in Italian. But my sister Gloria, the fourth, used to answer in English and Italian. And when I came along, I only spoke English. "This is America," I used to tell them. "You've got to learn how to speak English." I wanted them to be more American. I regret that to this day. I'm the one who lost out. I can understand Italian, but I don't speak it fluently like the others do.
I've always felt as if I belonged here. But I'm very proud of my heritage, and of my parents. I don't know if I could do what they did. They came here in 1919, leaving their families in the same small town in Sicily. My father said they would come for a few years and go back home. But he loved America. And he never went home.
I married an Italian American. A lot of the people I dated were from Italian backgrounds. I think we had a lot in common.
I've got two sons. One is married, but not to someone of Italian heritage. That doesn't bother me one bit. My daughter-in-law's background is English and Irish, and she loves the family. We're very huggy people, very emotional. That's a natural part of our heritage.
Janet Sottile, 63, is an Italian American from Avon, Conn.