Unwrapping The Italian Connection

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Like Emily at chattingatthesky.com, today I have feverish children and a house in need of work. Which is why I’m so late in posting…yesterday…today…Sleep has not been a close acquaintance in our household the last three weeks. We’re on our second bug, and today I actually had to go pick up Alex from school.

So today I’m going to let my in-laws do the talking. Email forwards are almost universally annoying. But not quite always. I say that because this week, an email forward sparked some great family stories among my in-laws. The original email was called “To Be Italian,” and included such gems as:

  • You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced “sangwich.”
  • You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven. 
  • You thought everyone’s last name ended in a vowel.
  • Your mom’s main hobby is cleaning.
  • You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter.
  • You have at least one relative who came over on the boat. 
  • You thought that talking loud was normal.
  • You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings.
  • You called pasta “macaroni.”

(Each and every one of these, incidentally, I can associate with at least one member of my husband’s family.)

My mother-in-law’s responded by sending her own list, including: 

  • (in response to short grandmothers): My Aunt E___:  black dress, black tie-shoes, bun, all 4 feet of her!
  • Grandma used our attic to dry (cure) long strands of homemade Italian sausage to be later marinated in olive oil, sliced into thin rounds and served with great Italian bread as delicious antipasti before holiday dinners, etc.
  • My dad made his own wine aging in barrels in our basement below the barber shop.  Now you know why there was a portable staircase to the basement in the back part of the barber shop!!
  • (in response to meatless Fridays): Absolutely!  Pizza w/marinara on most Fridays was a nice consolation prize then.
  • (in response to sugared almonds): Now you know why Grandma and I so industriously prepared the “Good Luck” sugared almonds packets for your wedding celebrations. We may not have done this for everyone, thinking people would find it strange or ??.  I shouldn’t have worried about that – I realize this now.

(FYI, we had sugared almonds at our wedding.)

Then she assigned her husband to do the same. He wrote (in part):

OK.  Your mother had a shot at this and she said I have to write my own.  I think it is important that you all understand the correct way to pronounce Chicago and sandwich.

  • I still think the correct way to say sangwich and Shachgo is the way I just spelled it.  Ask any Italian.  Please teach your children so that they can speak correctly as Italians.
  • Every Sunday we ate pasta made by my mother, after coming home from my grandmother who taught me to drink wine (mixed with soda) and tea (with canned milk), which I love to this day.  She also made the best sauce over a wooden stove, dark and rich
  • I love pasta to this day and we always had it on Sunday, leftovers on Monday.  Then fresh pasta on wed and again on fri.  Today I would eat it every day if the sauce was done right.  When I visit, you can never go wrong if you serve pasta.  We called it macaroni, not pasta!
  • Doesn’t everyone’s name end in a vowel?
  • You all know that to this day your mother’s hobby is cleaning.  This has been and will be an Italian mother’s main hobby.  
  • My father not only had wine at all our meals, it was in a gallon jug which was on the floor next to his seat.  As children we were all given a juice glass of wine to keep our blood strong.
  • I was hit once by my sister who got mad and chased me down the front stairs (we lived on the second floor) with a broom and hit me with it.
  • Most of my relatives came from Italy, the stories that my father told me I love. The best one is how the priest in Italy got mad at my father for fooling around and threw a shoe at him and kicked my father out of school in the sixth grade in Italy.  My father never went back.
  • We all spoke up or you would be lost.  However, I can say that this was the men, not so much the women.
  • Not only did we have a crucifix in each room, but my mother always had a cross on and made the sign of the cross whenever she could think of doing it, especially when my brother and I made her mad, like the time we came home from high school and decided to lock my mother in the bathroom so we could play.  Boy did we get yelled at when she got out.
  • I never hear the word pasta until after I was married.  We always called it macaroni. A quick story.  On Sunday, after church, sometimes my family would stop at the corner house by the church and the family would have macaroni hanging on lines drying.  We would buy some and take it home to make for Sunday dinner.

I must say, these Italians sure do know how to create a world apart from the ordinary! How lucky am I to be married into this?

(This post is linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chattingatthesky.com.)

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