My father was half-Sicilian and half-Neapolitan, but if you asked him, he'd say he was American.

When I visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan a few years ago, I was elated when I learned there was a tour through the Baldizzi family residence.

When I walked inside the preserved tenement building and up the stairs, memories of my father's stories of growing up in a tenement ran through my head. Over the years, he'd shared tales about his childhood. I knew he was Sonny Silano back then, a boxer, and, in high school, a thespian. I knew he loved airplanes, anything to do with flying. The story he told most was how he'd constructed a rudimentary plane, climbed in, and proceeded to jump off a roof.

I was excited to experience something akin to the home in Brooklyn where he grew up.

On the tour,...

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