The Greens led the life to which the Levys, Kupczeks, Scabelli-Gugliermos, and Colellas aspired. To most of the newly transplanted city dwellers who were the offspring of recent immigrants, the Greens represented the perfect suburban still life. Dad worked, mom cared for the kids, the house was maintained to perfection, meals were on the table at the exactly the same time every day, the kids were happy, and did fairly well in school. Jerry was already shaping up into a modestly good athlete. The girls belonged to the Brownies and Girl Scouts. But most importantly, the Green family had roots in the community. Their family had lived in Bayview for the last three generations–one generation before most of the city folks’ forbearers had even left their respective European countries.
They seemed to posses that sense of fitting in, of having a place in the world, of being connected. Families like the Levys, Kupczeks and Colellas were from “The City” and before that from unpronounceable municipalities throughout Europe so they felt in a state of transition–sort of like a plant growing in the air, reaching and hungering for soil in which to grab root. City living for immigrants proved to be a purgatorial existence. People had the resources to get out of their home countries and that was it. They settled in New York by default and bided their time until they could find jobs, save money, and move out. Unfortunately for most, temporary became permanent but they impressed upon their children the imperative of moving out to the suburbs or the country. The eagerness of the newly transplanted suburbanites to root themselves in the community made them seem grasping to the firmly established.
Most people who live in cities don’t buy their homes in the city; they don’t really settle in a community for any great length of time. Rather ghettos or slums become a way-station for social climbing ethnic groups causing neighborhoods to change in composition from one generation to the next. What was an Irish neighborhood in the late 1800s became an Italian neighborhood at the turn of the century became a Jewish neighborhood in the thirties, became a black or Puerto Rican neighborhood in the sixties.Nonetheless, he didn’t sleep well on Saturday night. The blood oath disturbed him. No one had ever admonished him against swearing oaths but there was something about the symbolism, not to mention the words which made him feel uneasy.