Friday, June 8, 2012

The perfect cliche

It's so strange sometimes how a very random string of events can lead you to a path you didn't see. Wtf am I talking about?

I got this from Pinterest. It orginated

This morning, I saw this picture. It's funny to me for the obvious reason..the one that makes it funny to EVERYONE. But then I realized that it could realistically be any number of my father's cousins. Truly. That could well be my 2nd or 3rd cousin...the world is really much smaller than we think and once a picture is shared electronically, you have no clue where it's going to land. I have some close experience with THAT one this week. (Amanda....) 

Anyway, back to the picture. I stole it, shared it, and it sparked a smallish conversation with a friend. Now I'm sharing it again because the conversation made me pretty nostalgic for a family intimately mine, but very far away and not intimately known. What's so great about my family is that we don't need to be intimately known to one another to be intimately each other's...and that's something cultural, I believe. 

Italians are a lot of things: loud (this is the first, most obvious, and always most important), obnoxious, opinionated, extremely talkative, secretive, suspicious, ravenous, passionate. You name it, Italians got it. Ten to one, the sins of gluttony and covetry are Divine nods to the boot on the map. But where we have it right on the money is in our idea of kinship.

I met portions of my Italian family on a trip there over 11 years ago. I sat at kitchen tables sharing wine made of leftovers from bottles so long gone, who even knows what we were drinking? ("Does it taste good?" Yes. "Then it's good wine, that's what kind.") We ate simple, clean and perfect food, cooked by hand for us. And we ate it, and ate it and ate it. And then when there were only four bites left, we ate those too, because no one denies the geriatric hostess when she comments, "it would be such a shame, such a shame, to leave just that."

Uncle Talino and Aunt Giuliana, who gave me two afternoons in sweet familiarity, have died now; those two afternoons are all I have and all that I'll ever be getting. But here's the thing: that was the end of our long relationship, not the beginning. I didn't walk into their home as a stranger. I was their niece from the start, and despite never having been together and the barrier of language, I was their intimate family the moment our plane landed, the moment we decided to take the trip...indeed the familial bond was forged in steel the moment I was born, whether they ever met me or not. In MY family, family is family. Because it's family. It's Italian (and I'm sure other cultures share this, but I'm still an American, so I don't have to concern myself with anything other than what I feel like).

So here I am immersed in my memories of 3 hour dinners at Nonna's table, my Nonno roasting the coffee beans on the stove top and grinding them by hand while they were still warm, my uncle winking at me as we conspired to make my Dad mental by ribbing him and picking at his every word and nuance...being four years old and told no by my mother, but then turning around to find that Nonna was sneaking me the sugar cube I so desperately wanted. 

Everyone talked at one time, and we were having 13 different conversations, feeling free to jump from one to the next randomly (think AOL chat room, IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, in real life), feeling like a powder keg was about to blow and then realizing it was dad telling a joke. I remember my Grandpa looking down at his plate, nearly in tears, and lamenting, "This chicken was old when it was killed, I can tell by how it tastes..." and then slowly, ever so slowly, looking at my Grandma to be sure she wasn't holding the butcher knife in her hand, poised to murder the old man. Wine bottles, plates of meat and cheese, heaping bowls of pasta and loaves of bread. The cliches are all true, I swear to you. 

The picture above is a cliche, a joke and dead honest truth. That right there is my family. And man alive, the bitches do love wine.

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