My mother’s immigration to Windsor also led her to meet my father. Though my father was born in Detroit, his mother had immigrated from Italy to Windsor post-WWII and later to the United States as her father, my great-grandfather, sought out work in the construction industry. My father, spending time in Windsor visiting other family members who had stayed in Canada, met my mother and a few years later they were married, moved to Michigan, and then there was me.
I typically don’t consider myself an immigrant, and barely identify as a first generation American. I was born in the United States, never became fluent in a second language, and had an upbringing that was not altogether different from others. But underneath that initial layer of American-ness is a story of bilingual households, Italian cultural traditions, a nonna who worked as a homemaker and helped run a small business while being illiterate and unable to read in any language, even in adulthood, and people who began their lives as Italian, became Canadian, and then American. While I don’t have any extended family members with me in Toledo, I’m still able to connect with my heritage by taking the short drive to Detroit or Windsor to visit family, or by creating new traditions with my wife and daughters whether that be cooking a meal at home or exploring the Toledo area.
We call Toledo home now, having come here for similar reasons my parents and grandparents moved to Canada and the United States: opportunity. We love our home in south Toledo and the cultural amenities the region has to offer (you’ll find me shredding local Metroparks trails on my longboard most summer weekends and my oldest daughter refers to the Toledo Zoo as HER zoo). I also feel fortunate to be in Toledo to work for an institution that aligns with my values, where I can help address societal inequities and strive toward making our community more welcoming.
This is what a welcoming Toledo-Lucas County community looks like to me: a place that practices kindness, that embraces the lives and stories of all its residents, and that despite its challenges, has people in the community continuously working to make it a better place. Even though there are certainly improvements we can make to our community, Toledo already has a solid foundation of being welcoming. I’m grateful that Toledo is a place that has welcomed me, just as Detroit and Windsor welcomed my parents and grandparents.