Tanti Auguri with Family Friends

New Year's Lunch

3 January 2014

Another rainy and cloudy day hung over us like a sore thumb. I woke up late and quite miserable, wishing I were home. I hadn’t done any art work as I had wanted, my writing was stale, and my photographing halted by obligations. My vacation became less of a vacation. I try my best to be appreciative that someone paid for my trip. I never had to open my pocket for money. But it made me feel trapped and suffocated.

As my entire week seemed to have been planned already, we were carted off by a driver to visit a family friend, who wanted to throw a nice New Years lunch.

I used to think, wouldn’t it be great to have a driver so I don’t have to drive myself? But I missed walking. I missed taking public transportation. I miss being in control of my own destination.

I have met the M— family the previous visit; Paolo, a geriatric doctor, and Anna Maria, a retired teacher. As I am not well versed in Italian, I entered a room full of old Italian mothers, none of whom spoke English except Paolo, who could see I was struggling to enjoy myself.

Appetizers came out and my face fell. Walnuts, hazelnuts, and cheese filled 3 of the 4 bowls, the last was vinegared mushrooms. There were even fried mozzarella prosciutto kebab. All these food are a waste on me. I took a glass of prosecco and wish I hadn’t because on an empty stomach, wine makes me sleepy and tipsy just by scent.

Anna Maria is lauded as being a great cook. But the first dish was pesto lasagna, which felt like green slime. I’m sure it tasted wonderful if one happens to love cheese. The second was a plate of lentils and cotechino, which reminds me of spam and a slice of chima, veal stuffed with egg, peas, and and ham, then boiled and frozen before serving, a very Genoese dish, but I despise veal as they are baby calves. I keep thinking how they are bred to never walk and the. When ready, their head is crushed and killed for our pleasure. I have since been very turned off to veal. And dessert was a cake of marron glâcè, which tasted like a recipe for turning into a diabetics and I don’t particular eat my sweets that way.

It took all my effort not to vomit these traditional dishes, which everyone loved and enjoyed. The only thing that kept me from passing out from hunger was sneaking an energy bar before and after the meal.

Because everyone spoke Italian and conversations were a mile ahead of translation and jokes had to be translated to me, I felt so frustrated, upset, and disappointed. I know my not speaking Italian disappoints others. It took a lot of effort to pretend to enjoy the surrounding and drink lots of water. It would have been better if my boyfriend’s mother hadn’t scheduled my day and let me hang out in the city instead.

Paolo was kind and sweet, speaking to me with broken English. He didn’t seem to understand many things I said making me wonder if my English is as bad as my Italian or maybe he didn’t even hear me.

A typical Italian charmer, he told us about the first time he met his wife. They were on vacation on the eastern islands and had received news of being an uncle for the first time, his first nephew. His friends congratulated him. At that moment, Anna Maria walks in. His friends stopped her and told her she should congratulate him. Paolo, the devilish man added, it could be your first nephew as well. She thought he was crazy but they ended up spending four days on the beach, and he knew by the end, he was in love. It turned out they were only an hour train ride difference and 2 years later, they married, he eventually took up post as head of internal medicine at a hospital in Genoa. How romantic, indeed.

They remained married still for almost 50 years now. Divorce is rare but not uncommon. However, many of the older generations have much longer marriages, showing either patience, love, or forgiveness. And many I’ve heard never remarry after a death.

Is it romantic or reputation? Is it love or sacrifice? Did they think of others and not themselves? Were they selfless and brave or naive and scared?

Most likely, they endured the marriage, worked it out like partnership, and found some common ground for peace and contentment, instead of giving up at the slightest discomfort.