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  • A Tribute to Italian Families
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    APRIL 4, 2004 - As I was packing my luggage for my trip to Italy (I leave this afternoon), I thought about the relatives I would be seeing in Ischia - and the ones in the United States who would be spending Easter without me. Most Italian families are like any other with their share of happiness and sadness, good and evil, love and war. Mine is no different. I always try to explain this to the babies born into the family. When one of my cousins and his wife had their first daughter, I wrote this poem for her. I thought I would share it with all of you as a tribute to my family - and yours. Buona Pasqua!

    My relatives - with all their flaws
    At my gut, their criticism gnaws

    "You too fat. You too skinny.
    A few years and you lose you pretty.
    Have you founda' the man yet?
    You needa' to getta' you life set."

    Be home by midnight, they will shout
    No matter how responsible or how much you pout

    They don't trust microwaves, cell phones or the Internet
    When you go away on business, they sit and they cry and they fret

    About each other, they complain and whine
    For a brand new family, they sometimes pine

    But if the bad was all I could see
    I'd miss out on the family that was meant for me

    Charming Italian accents and eccentric idiosyncrasies
    Bear hugs, love pinches, the sweet way they tease

    When your heart is broken, in droves they will come
    To remind you love still exists even without "the one"

    They'll hold your hand and slap your face
    All your life, they will do whatever it takes

    To turn you into a strong woman or man
    In dark days, they'll remain your fan

    They'll show you how to work like an immigrant
    Sweat drippin', bone achin' work - "never say you can't"

    And you'll finally meet the one who deserves you and this family
    After church -- a loud, wild dance to honor your destiny

    When babies come, they'll celebrate some more
    They'll tell your children tales and family lore

    About their dog Fox and the shoes they never had,
    How the priest smacked 'em whenever they were bad

    From the pit of their belly, they laugh and love
    And our departed always watch us from above

    This charmed life is the gift we receive
    For in God, they all truly believe

    Yet they fail to notice the secret to this family
    They've hidden it - perhaps in the stars or in leaves of tea

    Over the shouts and complaints and tears you will see
    The family that was meant to be - you and you and me…

    And when God tests them, the secret is revealed:
    Within the circles of each other's lives, they are sealed

    There's no escape when they think they've had enough of each other,
    You are my cousin. You are my friend. You are my brother.

    And I will save your life
    Because I share your strife

    So sweet baby, you're stuck with us
    Don't even try to make a fuss
    In this family you were meant to be
    God intended the splendid destiny

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