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  • Mammas and Their Sons
    Italian mothers and their male children have a bond that no one can get between - and that's not always a bad thing
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    JULY 15, 2007 - Italian mammas have been on my mind lately. After spending a few weeks in Ischia with my boyfriend Antonio and his mamma Ilia, I returned home to observe my soon-to-be-married brother John and our mamma Regina. The dynamic between mothers and sons has always been the stuff of novels - and deep psychological analysis in some cases. But the rapport is usually even more profound for Italians.

    Wedding talk has been filling the air at Casa Di Meglio. One of the great debates is which song should be playing when my mother and brother take center stage. Regina was hoping for "Mamma," a classic Italian song about a son who stays with his mother forever and is happiest to be with her. In the version she chose, Luciano Pavarotti and Ricky Martin gave it a more upbeat tempo than usual, so John and Regina could get down and boogie. My father, however, gave the idea a thumbs down. In his opinion, my mother should not be happiest if John stays with her. She should be encouraging his independence and a solid start to his new married life - and therefore she should not be supporting such a song. Now, instead, they have decided to dance to a song, "Portami a ballare," about a son who is explaining to his mother that he'd like to dance with her as he seeks happiness and a change.

    The whole decision-making process for this song says a lot about Italian mothers and sons. Mammas want their sons to stay their little boys forever. Sons want to become men and create their own families, yet they want one last dance (as many as is possible actually) with their beloved mother. Antonio is no different. He loves me truly, madly, and deeply. But he sometimes spends up to an hour greeting his mother after work, and a quick peck on the cheek suffices for me. He doesn't even realize what he's doing, and I have no intention of telling him. Don't you tell him, either.

    Some Italian women make the mistake of being jealous about their spouse's relationship with his mother, or worse they try to do something about it. I appreciate mothers and sons (and might fall into the mamma trap if I ever have a son), and so I let Antonio and his mamma do their own thing.

    Besides, there's no use getting between a mamma and her figlio; the bond is stronger than you could imagine. Just think about it - the woman carried this child in her womb for nine months, and then she clothed, washed and fed him before raising him to a man. She was the one who stayed up with him when he was sick, kissed him when he was hurt, and got sick herself whenever he missed curfew or took risks with his friends. She was his first love, and no other woman - not even Sophia Loren or Monica Bellucci - can compete with that. I know my limits.

    Now, I'm not supporting Italy's mammoni in this argument. Men who are too attached to their mammas - so attached that they refuse to ever leave home and forgo making their own path - have serious issues with which they need to deal. The fact that Italy's population rate is stalling because too few men want to marry because they prefer to stay home with mamma is a serious problem and should not be taken lightly. You can't let your relationship with your parents or even your extended family, no matter how loving they are, get in the way of living your life.

    My nonna Francesca (my father's mother) always said that each chimney had to make its own smoke. Her point was that each of her children had to go off and get married and have children in their own homes away from her. But she occasionally walked all the way to our house to say hello to her son - and she always lit up when she saw him. If he decided to surprise her with a visit (during the week and not for their scheduled Sunday dates at our house), she never complained.

    On the night before nonna Francesca passed away, she fainted. When she came to, she asked to see my father. He rushed over to the house, and she explained that while she was passed out, she saw a vision - her sister who had been dead for a while at that point. Her sister asked nonna to go fishing. But my nonna said no because Pasqualino (my father) didn't know how to fish. She wasn't ready to leave my papa yet. She had nine children, but my father was her baby even if he was already in his forties when she passed away in her sleep the next day. Nonna Francesca has been gone more than 20 years, but my father is still his mother's son. My brother John will always be Regina's boy. And there's no way Antonio will ever be anything but Ilia's bambino. It's time you face the truth, too. Your Italian man likely has another woman in his life, too - mamma! You'll just have to deal with it.

    For more information on all things Italian, visit www.francescadimeglio.com.

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