These letters have been an absolute treasure to my family ever since we discovered them a few years ago. My grandmother had just passed away and my parents had the heartbreaking, but necessary task, of cleaning out her apartment. Dad was a bit more - let’s say liberal - with his garbage can than my Mom. As the story goes she eventually exclaimed “Are you even LOOKING at these things!?” And then she began to read: “My darling sweetie...” Dad thought, of course, that she was joking. But as the letters continued, and as they continued to find more of them over the course of the day, he began to realize that this was just the beginning of a story he had never heard. Once our parents brought the letters home our first thought was, naturally, that he had been some kind of spy. “Meeting a man” in “Cuba” of all places seemed like obvious signs of espionage. Although so far we have not found any indication that those suspicions are true, what we have found out is equally as exciting!
My grandfather, as we have long known, jumped ship from the Italian Navy while his boat was docked in Philadelphia right before World War I. What we didn't know - and what these letters helped reveal - is that he had to seek an official pardon from the Italian Navy before he could become a United States citizen. Part of that process was leaving and re-entering the United States as a documented immigrant. Now what isn't quite as clear is why he had to travel all the way to Cuba instead of popping over to Canada, which anyone with even a basic understanding of geography can tell you is a lot closer to New York! But while in Cuba he was able to get the papers he needed to start the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen. These letters show just how excited he was to start a family with his sweetie wifie :)
Transcript of the top left letter:
"My dear sweetie,
Did you receive my postcards? I sent you one every time I could find one and had a chance to send it to you.
From New York to Miami it was a long trip but it was not so bad as I expected it. My legs were hurting me only during the first night; after that, the rest of the trip was bearable. It seems to me, that one gets the habit of sitting continuously for hours and hours in a traveling bus. Discounting this slight inconvenience, the whole trip was a most attractive, interesting sightseeing one: the hilly wilderness of Virginia, which we crossed employing many hours of the day light of yesterday. Tuesday was fascinating: as soon as we entered Florida, the tropical vegetation started to flourish around us; it was a delightful sight of palms, flowers and palms again. Gee, sweetie darling, I wish you had been here, and were with me. I wish you had been with me today, here in Miami, walking around this little adorable city so fascinating and with a climate so spring like and healthy! When I will be back, I will tell you more, a lot more, of this trip, which is not even half finished. Tomorrow morning I will take the plane to Cuba, and, hoping to stay there only three or four days at the most, I will be on my way back Friday or Saturday.
But I will be soon near you again darling. Think of that sweetie, only of that. As tomorrow morning I will have to get up soon to catch the airplane. I am going to bed right away. I will write to you again tomorrow as soon as I reach Cuba. Don’t think of me too much sweetie. A million kisses. Your adoring hubby, Peter"