MIA MAMMA ITALIANA (MY ITALIAN MOTHER)

My parents grew up in the Bronx, New York, as next door neighbors (yes, my mom literally married “the boy next door”), in a neighborhood of fellow Italians.

I’m sure they thought that everybody woke up to the smell of “gravy” cooking on Sunday mornings in preparation for the 3:00 dinner with 19 other relatives. They probably assumed that kids all over the country had meatball sandwiches and pignoli cookies in their lunchbox. That it was normal for families to scream and gesture wildly during meals, and for mothers to chase them around the house with wooden spoons and other impromptu weapons of torture.

And if my parents had stayed in the Bronx, I might have grown up thinking my family was like all the rest. But my parents relocated to Southern California….where it quickly became evident that our family was not the norm.

Let me rephrase that. More specifically, “one of these mothers was not like the others”.

“THINGS OTHER MOMS DIDN’T DO”

1. Other moms did not make their child’s friends WASH THEIR UNDERARMS AND FEET when they came over for a play date after school. “You girls stink”, she would say. “You have B.O. and I don’t know if it’s your underarms or your feet so go wash them both”. And, totally mortified, I would take my friends into the bathroom to wash up. And I would wonder if anyone would ever want to come over to my house again. But somehow, they always came back…probably because we had good snacks.

2. Other moms did not picket at school and start a petition when their youngest daughter was not named 8th grade valedictorian.

3. Other moms did not hire a stripper for their son’s family-friendly 18th birthday party in the backyard. I mean, what boy wouldn’t want his MOTHER there when interacting with a stripper?

On a similar note, other moms did not also hire a stripper for their daughter’s 21st birthday dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Las Vegas, with all four of her grandparents present.

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And finally, other moms definitely did not hire an older, unattractive man to come dressed as a pink monkey for their 3 year old grandson’s birthday party and then….surprise!….take off his monkey suit to double as a stripper for the 21st birthday of her youngest daughter, terrifying all children (and adults)  in attendance.

4.  Other moms did not write a letter to Rosie O’Donnell (who had one of hottest talk shows on TV at the time) where their son has just been hired in the mail room bragging about how talented he is and how he basically should be running her show. Italians calls this the “my son” syndrome.

5.  Other moms did not somehow force the school district to re-route the entire bus schedule so that their child could be dropped off directly in front of their house rather than on the corner bus stop like all the other kids.

6. Other moms did not go against the wishes of their grown daughter and secretly baptize their grandchild in the laundry room sink while babysitting.

7. Other moms did not fill their entire car with lemons and picket in front of the car dealership (standing up through the sunroof with a giant sign that said “Lemon by BMW”) when it had mechanical problems.

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8. Other moms did not bring a bottle of wine to the house of their 17 year-old daughter’s prom date and give it to his mother because “my daughter doesn’t like beer.”

9. Other moms did not tell their daughter’s new boyfriend after knowing him for five minutes that she wants another grandchild, and that at this point she doesn’t care if they get married – she will even raise the child as long as they can just make one for her.

10. Other moms did not block traffic at the roundabout in front of the high school at pick-up time as they stuck themselves out of the sunroof waving a giant bouquet of balloons and honking their horn to wish their daughter a Happy 16th Birthday.

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Yes, my mom did a lot of things other moms didn’t do.

But on second thought, perhaps other people didn’t have a home that was constantly filled with family, friends, food, and laughter. Or a mom who let their kids’ friends live with them when they needed a place to stay.

Maybe other people didn’t have a mother that “adopted” the little old lady that would sit alone in the back of the church every week and invite her to family dinner every Sunday.

Or cook an elaborate dinner for their grown children and grandchildren every Tuesday night, year after year, making nine different dishes so everyone could have their favorites.

My mom stands only 4’11” but my entire life I never thought of my mom as small. Because to me she was always the biggest person in the room (and by biggest, I mean loudest).

But all kidding aside, from your eldest daughter who pours the milk before the cereal, to your only son who hasn’t touched a public door handle in 20 years, to your youngest daughter who will only eat ice cream with a fork – we may have turned out a little quirky, but all in all, I guess you did ok.

So grazie, my crazy Italian mother, for all those childhood memories, for being our fiercest protector, our strongest advocate, and our worst nightmare.

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THINGS I NEVER THOUGHT WOULD HAPPEN…BEFORE I WAS A MOM

Last week my son’s 6th grade science class was scheduled to dissect a sheep’s eye.  Though he loves science, Jack was not looking forward to the dissection, as he tends to get easily grossed out by things of that sort (as does his mother).  Driving home from school that day I asked him about how the dissection went.

“It was actually really, really cool,” he replied.  “It was so cool that I asked my teacher if I could keep a piece of the sheep’s eye and he let me.”

“What do you mean KEEP a piece of the eye?  Like to take home?”

“Yup.”

“So you have it right now?  Where is it?”

“In my lunchbox.”

“In your LUNCHBOX?!”

“Yeah, why?”

“How could you put a sheep’s eye in your lunchbox?  That’s disgusting.  Is it in a bag?  Is it wrapped up?”

“No.  And it’s not the whole eye, it’s just the lens.”

“So there is the lens of a sheep’s eye just rolling around your lunchbox where your food goes?”

Yes, there was.  My son did not see anything wrong with this scenario.  And he also could not locate the piece of the eye when I asked him to get it out so I could sterilize his lunchbox.  So now here I was, frantically looking through his lunchbox and backpack for THE LENS OF A SHEEP’S EYE.  And I thought to myself, “this is one of those moments of motherhood where you realize what a crazy ass job this is.”  I mean, I could not even think of another job in life where I would ever even come across the eye of a sheep.

Here are a few other things I never thought would happen…before I was a mom:

1.  I never thought I would walk around in public for an entire day with postage stamps stuck on my back because my 2 year old used me as a sticker book while I was distractedly working on the computer.  I did not think my husband would be the only person to tell me this when he got home from work, after he stopped laughing of course.  Did people think I was making some sort of statement walking around like that?  Or that I was planning to mail myself somewhere?

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2.  I never thought I would be lying constantly.  “The tooth fairy didn’t come last night?  Oh, right…that’s because it was the third Tuesday of the month and that’s her only night off so everybody knows that if you lose a tooth on the third Tuesday of the month then she comes on Wednesday and leaves you twice as much money!  So you’re actually super lucky.  Sorry, I forgot to mention that yesterday.” Or, “I don’t know why all the Kit Kats and Snickers bars are missing from your Halloween candy…that’s really weird.”

3.  I never thought that I would be asked such a wide range of constant questions by my children, at least half of which I had no acceptable answer for.   Questions such as, “Can I see heaven but not die first?” (Jack, age 4) to “Mom, what’s the population of Greenland?” (Jack, last night)

4.  I never thought I’d consider waking up at 8:00am on the weekends to be “sleeping in”.

5.  I never thought I would let my child nap in a dog bed.

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6.  I never thought to not allow my 2 year old to play with expensive luggage in a luggage store.  Luggage is fun, right?  They can roll it, they can ride on it.  They can also stick their head through the rectangular pull-up handle of a suitcase and not be able to get it out.   And once they realize their head is stuck, they can scream and cry so hard in the fancy luggage store that they proceed to vomit all over the expensive luggage while their head is still stuck through the handle of the suitcase.  No, I never thought THAT would happen, before I was a mom.

7.  I never thought I’d be so calm and collected when my son ran into a parked car while playing tag on our street and cut his eyebrow badly, blood gushing everywhere.  Yes, I was proud of how calm I remained as I cleaned the wound, stuck a band-aid on it, and sent him back outside to play.  Not so proud later on that night when it turned out that the kid actually needed 12 stitches, not a Spiderman band-aid.  Oops.

8.  I never thought I would feel so comfortable peeing in front of other people.  I never thought my greatest goal in life would be to someday pee alone in my bathroom.

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9.  I never thought that watching my daughter go on an extreme roller coaster ride would be more terrifying than going on it myself.

10.  And I never thought the old parenting adage would hold so true, “The days are long but the years are short”…..and I never thought I’d have a job I loved so much.