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.
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.
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.
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.