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Marry into an Italian Family...
…And you'll never be without friends
JULY 29, 2007 - My parents went to a wedding last night with an Italian bride and an American groom. It got me thinking about how lucky most people are when they marry into a nice Italian family. Don't bother sending me e-mails about the bad seeds among us and how terrible your Italian mother-in-law is. I know that there is bad in every group. But, in general, the southern Italian families I know are lovable, strong in quantity and quality, and loyal to their brood.
I always thought that every person had tons of cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents who saw them all the time, took an active role in their lives, and made them feel loved. When I reached high school, I discovered that lots of people don't even see their extended family more than once a year. Some don't have cousins or never meet them. It was mind boggling at first. Without cousins, who do you go to when you have a problem you don't want your parents to know about? Without zie, who drives you crazy about when you're getting married? Without zii, who plants your tomatoes? Without nonni, who watches your kids when you have to work?
On Ischia, the Neapolitan island of my family's origin, there are few houses available. It's a small island and to maintain its reputation as the Green Island, people can no longer construct new homes. Therefore, most people live with their parents or in-laws forever. In my boyfriend Antonio's house, for example, his mother lives with all of her children, their spouses and their children. You share living expenses, lunches and dinners, child care, life's lovely moments, life's ugly moments. And you watch over one another – always.
Even though many of my relatives left Ischia and are scattered throughout the United States, France, Canada, and Australia, we keep in touch often and we're there for each other. Many Italians never lose sight of their roots because you need to nourish the roots to grow. All of us in America have remained especially tight. I might be the only person on the planet whose aunts called as often as her parents to make sure she was eating when she first moved out to go to college!
After the foundation is set, every home needs support to keep up the roof. A family is the same way. Each generation needs to provide the next layer of support. If some of us crumble, the others have to step in for renovation. Italian people often are among the best architects of homes and families. That's why anyone marrying into a traditional Italian family that works the old fashioned way will never be alone or unsupported. That's a pretty good way to start a new life.
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