These and the other images I will post in the coming days are made for my brothers Joe and David and my Uncle Joe and the rest of my family.
These are the streets that my grandmother walked in the village of Villa Franca do Campo, Sao Miguel, Azores. Grammy was born in 1900 and emigrated to the United States at an early age. She met my grandfather, Grampy, in the United States. Grampy emigrated from Terceira, another Azorean island. Grampy was younger than my grandmother by several years. They married and had five children, sending one, Antone, off to fight in World War II in Patton’s army. They put two sons (my Dad Louis and Uncle Joe) through Boston College. Antone went on to become vice president of a local transportation company. My dad and his brother Joe became educators. Aunt Dolores worked as an administrator in the town school system. Aunt Mary was a voracious worker with a whirlwind business mind. All of the siblings were keenly intelligent. Grampy’s mantra to my brothers and I was to strive to education, and this has been a life-long motivator for me. Four of the siblings raised families within a few blocks of Grampy’s home. Antone settled in Portsmouth a few miles away. True to Azorean tradition, Grampy kept a large garden until he died and our steps would be filled from its fruits on summer days.
Grammy was raised by a single mother, her father having left for California never to return. He came to visit Grammy’s home in Bristol one day, and my grandfather told him to leave and shut the door. Growing up in the village in this way was surely difficult on Grammy and my great-grandmother and the rest of the abandoned family, since life in Villa Franca is weaved tightly around the church built from the island’s volcanic stone. I took many images of her street, Rua da Vitoria but I was unable to determine the home she lived in. That discovery is for another day.
The seaside images were taken at the foot of Grammy’s street. Surely she walked the beach and swam in the cool water and admired the volcanic remnant of an island offshore. That is, if Grammy could swim. My grandfather never learned to swim. All of the other images were taken in the streets surrounding Rua Da Vitoria. Cathy and I named our beloved daughter Victoria. Perhaps this was a gift from Grammy.
I sat and cried at one point during this walk. I was overcome by the humble life Grammy led, and by the courage she garnered to leave Villa Franca for the unknown. My father revered her, that I know. He did not talk much of his upbringing or of Grammy. I don’t think he ever recovered from Grammy’s early passing. What I know about life after the emigration I have learned from my godfather, Uncle Joe.