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Una Mamma Italiana
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by Tiffany Longo
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Una Mamma Italiana
It's kind of like magic --- the way that any two people, from opposite sides of the world - that have NEVER met before - can somehow meet and feel as though they've known each other their entire lives. No, I'm not talking about soul mates or true love. I'm talking about a real, live paisano!
You see, Italians simply have this established connection by sharing the same culture. It's as if you have known each other for years prior, but you really only met a few minutes ago. How can this be, you ask? Consider for a moment the defining characteristics an Italian person's life - good food, a loud family, cousins everywhere….
Sound familiar? If you're Italian, it does. Forget match.com, simply being Italian already ensures your compatibility on the spot! For instance, I have Italian friends who have childhood memories so similar to mine, it's as if we grew up in the same household! Yet, in reality we lived in different states. This is the beauty of meeting a fellow Italian. You can find a true friend in a matter of minutes.
Many paisani I meet can relate to the smell of gravy when you walk into Nonna's after Sunday mass. Others remember their firm but loving grandfather yelling for his sausage and peppers to be ready - for breakfast, no less! That's another thing - we never ate cereal for breakfast when visiting with family. It was fresh, homemade bread, toasted with butter and a few slices of salami or prosciutto on the side. Cereal was for schooldays and med-e-gones - that's it!
Then there were Grandma's two kitchens. This, too, my Italian friends could remember in their families. One was in the basement, where Grandma jarred huge batches of marinara sauce for the cellar shelves. The upstairs kitchen was for the family's daily meals.
Most Italians can also relate to everything having a plastic cover or a doily on it - the kitchen table, the couch - all of it. And every bedroom had at least four rosaries hanging on the bedpost, right by the handmade blanket crocheted by none other than Nonna herself. Then there was the mudroom - full of jugs of Grandpa's favorite red wine, which he would pay us quarters to try!
Recounting these memories with any Italian I meet gives us a sudden bond. It is almost like we understand each other, which is a relief in most relationships these days. Italians don't have to worry about agreeing n the important things, because it's all understood within our culture. Money, religion, politics - the three things you NEVER want to discuss with a newly found friend (or lately, with anyone at all) - are already agreed upon based on your cultural values. When I learned this, I came to one of the most frightening, yet important conclusions of my life.
I always thought marrying an Italian man was the worst thing any woman can do. I now firmly rescind my opinion, and agree that marrying a fellow Italian (man or woman) is one of the smartest things any one could do. You don't have to argue about family gatherings, what to eat, or how you're going to raise the kids. It is all innate; it's in our Italian blood. That is why Italians get along so well with other Italians, and we tend to form these little mafia-like cliques. It's inevitable when you just have that 'connection.'
And so, the memories that I have from my childhood are not mine alone. They belong to so many Italians out there who grew up in this beautiful culture. Our ancestors took their way of life from Italy to America and kept it going. As a result, we Italian-Americans are left with a unique cultural blend. It is one in which American ideals allowed our Italian values to be realized. And that is something kind of like - magic!
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