Sunday, May 12, 2013

All in the Family

"Don't make fun of your mother. It's a sin against your soul." -My mom.

I don't call my mom as much as I should. Timing is mostly to blame. That's lame, I know. But sometimes when I think of calling her, it's too late. I know she's either asleep or...

Mom and I at a family wedding a few years ago.
One of the things I find most amusing, but sometimes most aggravating, about my mom is that I can tell how many glasses of wine she's had on a given night by the number of times I have to ask her the same question before I get an answer. The later I call, the more glasses of wine that have been consumed. And the more likely the conversation is, shall I say, colorful. This not only leads to a lot of repeated questions during the conversation, but repeated conversations the next time we talk.

For instance, she actually called me on the Monday AND Tuesday after Easter, to ask me how our Easter with my in-laws was. "Mom," I said on the second call. "What is this, Groundhog Day?" Then she insists we didn't talk yesterday, and the conversation becomes a blow-by-blow account of what we had discussed previously. A little bit of this is age. A lot of it is wine.

Another holiday inspired the following ridiculous exchange, which also proves my wine-to-questions-ratio theory. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I found myself strolling the aisles of my friendly neighborhood supermarket, buying groceries for the big day. When it came time to pick a turkey I called my mom, as I often do to reaffirm knowledge or discover new knowledge about cooking. She continues to teach me things to this day. Here, though, I just needed her to answer a simple question:
Me: "Mom, how big of a turkey do I need for six people?" 
Momma, incredulous: "What?!" (I could tell she was mad we weren't going to my sister's. Even though we rotate every year.)  
Me: "It's our year to be with (My Director's) family for Thanksgiving. How many pounds should the turkey be for 6 people plus Peanut?" 
Momma, mortified: "Who are these 6 people?" (As if Osama bin laden was among the dinner guests.) 
Me: "(My Director's) family and the three of us." 
Momma: "Why are they coming to YOUR house? Don't you go to her aunt's?" 
Me: (Explains family drama that led to us hosting - in the middle of A&P - that I don't need to discuss here.)
Momma, exhibiting rare moment of clarity: "Oh. Right."
Me: "So how big of a turkey do I need for the 7 of us? Six plus Peanut?"
Momma: "At least 10 pounds. Maybe 15." 
Me: "That's what I thought. Thanks. How much wine have you had already? Three glasses?" 
Momma: "Yeah. How did you know?" 
Me: "Because I had to ask you the question three times before you answered me." 
Momma, not amused: "Oh, you're SO funny." 
Me: "Yes. I am."
Momma loves her wine. But it's difficult for me to blame her. She's been living a long time with a broken heart. Without her best friend. She has no interest in seeing other people, even though she pretty much has our blessing. Whatever makes her happy. "I can't do that," she protests. "I'm married to your father." (She pronounces it "ya fathuh.") 

Most of who I am. Most of what I know and do, is because of her. So you have her to blame for this. The cooking. The honesty. The passive aggressiveness. The guilt trips. The narcissism. The loyalty. The love. The strength. The faith. 

My 29th "Smurfday" party. August 2004
For most of my life, until a certain beautiful blonde came along, I was an unabashed, unashamed Momma's Boy. A lot of what we do in our home is inspired by the home she provided for us while dad was working. Fresh, home-cooked meals. Lots of hugs and kisses. Laughter. Singing. The holding of hands and saying of grace before meals. The faith in God and respect for one another. To this day, my siblings and I bicker. Not a day goes by where two of the four of us are at odds for some reason or another. And all my mom says in response is, "I just want my children to get along."

My mom and her children.
At 5'10" I am a giant in my family.
That's all she wants. For us to get along. We do, for the most part. Until we don't. We're stubborn, no-holds-barred, big-mouthed Italians after all. Things happen. Feelings get hurt and apologies are often followed by a big old BUT and a piece of someone's mind for good measure. My mom remains our referee. Our fiercest defender. Our comforter. Our comic relief. Still. She turns 70 this year. But she's still my mom. She will always be my mom and my dad's wife. That's who she is and she's proud of it. 

The other night at dinner, I was telling Peanut about her heritage. About how she's half Italian and a quarter German and Scottish. (What can I say? I married a WASP.) How each of my grandparents were from a different part of Italy. And one of them was royalty. "Like a princess?" She asked. "Yes," I answered. "My grandma's mommy was kind of like a princess." Suddenly, and for the first time, Peanut was proud to be Italian because I was able to relate a story about it to her, on her terms. 

My mom tells that story to My Director a lot, especially after a few wines. It gets a little animated. "I
Peanut and Mema on a ride at Casino Pier last summer.
want my granddaughter to know that she comes from royalty," she insists. She perceives my look of amusement as dismissive. Until that night at the dinner table with Peanut this week, I didn't really comprehend why my mom is so adamant. 

Because it's our story. 
"Was she really a princess, daddy?" Peanut asked doubtfully.
"Yes. And you're a part of her." 
"Because you came from me. And I came from Mema. And Mema came from my grandma, whose mommy was a princess. We're all connected." 
"Cool," she said, smiling.
Yeah. Cool. My mom is so proud of her family. Those of us who are still here, and those of us who aren't anymore. So very proud. That pride in family is now planted in Peanut. Sure, I had to use a princess analogy to plant it there. You got a problem with that? Talk to my mother. She'll straighten you out. She'll pour you a glass of wine before she does too.

Every year, My Director and I carry on a family tradition passed down from my mom. You can read about it HERE.


  1. I love the love you have for your Mom. I love the fabulous way you're instilling family pride in Peanut. I love all of this.
    But fuck you for making me cry ;-)

  2. Loved this buddy. Your Mom is quite the Lady. I wish both her and your wonderful wife an amazing Mother's Day. Now go call your Mom :-)

  3. She sounds like a fantastic lady! I think pride in our families and our heritage is something today's kids are missing, so kudos to you (and your mom) for continuing to teach it to your daughter!

  4. Beautiful tribute to my beautiful cousin and your mom. Loved reading it. Hugs.


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