Buon Natale (belatedly) and Felice Anno Nuovo to all of you out there who are not lucky enough to be citizena Italiano.
I’m still waiting for my passporti, but I am not going to make any cracks containing the words ‘slow’ and ‘italians’ in the same sentence. Yesterday was an Italian holiday, the feast of St. Stephano (Boxing Day to the Brits). I merely said a prayer to St. Stephen to please light a firecracker under the tushes of the paisons. Before, whenever anyone rang or emailed, the first question was “Have you heard anything about your citizenship?” Now everyone is ringing, constantly, asking “Did you get IT yet?” Gloib mir, you’ll all know.
Anyway, Christmas was quiet. Scary, Montana Karen and I drove up to Armpit, New York, where their Mom lives. Armpit is, coincidentally and very oddly, the very next burg from where Mike and Pat lived in the States. Scary’s Mom speaks Italian, and she has been coaching me. I now know loads of new, really rude words to say to the wankers on JDate.
I had mentioned to Booboo Blondie that Mom continues the tradition of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. Booboo asked what the significance was. Booboo has a very inquiring sort of mind. I had to admit that I didn’t have a clue. We just did it, every year.
I got to pondering about the matter, and decided to do some research on line. The answer: Nobody knows for sure. There are three theories. First is the Seven Sacraments. Second is the Seven Sins of the world. And third is the seven days it took Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem. I was intrigued to discover that the Seven Fishes is a Southern tradition and is only observed from Naples down the boot to Sicily. I am already sneering at Northern Italians; they are just not Italian enough, like those of us from the South.
I repeated the homey saying my aunts always quoted to Mom. (I had to look up how to actually spell it for the blog.) ‘Natale con I tuoi; Pasqua conchi vuoi.” It seems it means ‘Christmas with your family; Easter with whomever you wish’.” I always thought it meant ‘Let the screaming and arguing commence, and remember, at least two people have to storm out in an insulted snit and not talk to anybody else in the family until next Christmas.”
I always prayed on those warm and fuzzy family occasions, when I got old enough to graduate to the grownups’ table and no longer had to eat off a card table shoved in the tool shed with the little cousins that I wouldn’t sit on the side of the table facing ‘The Mural’. My zia’s idea of decorating was a giant garish mural that took up one whole wall of the Dining Room. It was a scene of ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’. I never got the point of staring at tiny Italians being vaporized by some seriously molten lava whilst eating. It quite put me off my raviolis.
Sorry, I went on a little trip down Memory Lane.
I figured that I’d better be prepared for when I actually pick up my passport. Passporti Clerk: “Reginamaria, did you eat Seven Fishes like a true Neapolitan or you can’t have your passporti.” Me: ‘Si! Si!’ Passporti Clerk: ‘Which ones?” Silenzio while I think up a good lie. Me: “I had smelt, calamari, baccala, eel, shrimp, flounder and twenty-six Clams Casino.” (I like Clams Casino.) (I wouldn’t eat the baccala if you held a gun to my head.)
In the strange universe that is ‘Jeano’s World’, we had to book it early Christmas morning back to Mallville. I had a date – a Jewish date with DooWop Guy. While the Italians spend the holiday yelling at one another and eating cannolis, Jews traditionally go to the movies and then eat Chinese food. This is an actual fact. Anyhow, DooWop Guy asked me to go to a Singles party at the JCC; a movie, a lecture and Chinese. I did it for Jerry. Really. I thought he would think it was hysterically funny.
DooWop Guy is a tiny bit anal. “What time?” I asked. “It starts at noon” he answered, “I’ll pick you up at 11:15.” “Steve” I said kindly “It’s a Jewish affair. If it’s called for noon, that’s when you start getting dressed.” I’m an expert on these things. We argued about it, and finally compromised on 11:30. I honestly wonder sometimes if he is really Jewish.
There was a huge crowd, probably 100 people. I have been lucky the last few times I’ve been to the JCC; I have not run into Israeli Guy. My luck ran out on Christmas Day. I literally bumped smack into Moshe at the Pork Lo Mein without the Pork Station. I had forgotten how truly yucky Kosher Chinese is.
Needless to say, I looked stunning. And of course that’s what Israeli Guy said, only he doesn’t ever use the word ‘stunning’. He says it’s too JAP-py. “You look beautiful, like always” is what he actually said. “Yeah, I know” I said modestly. “Steve said the same thing. And, naturally, it’s my ‘raison d’etre’. Do you think I’m shallow?” “Was that sarcasm?” Moshe asked. Honestly, déjà vu all over again. “No” I told him, “Well… just the part about Steve.” Then I got annoyed as he followed me to the General Cho’s Chicken without the general and the pork fried rice without….you get it. “What?” I asked, getting annoyed. Oh my God. He actually said, “I think about you every day.” I immediately thought of seven sarcastic rejoinders (one for each fish on Christmas Eve). And honestly, just between us, I thought it was very fortuitous that he had shaved; it would have been totally not the done thing to jump his bones on top of the Shrimp Egg rolls without the shrimp. He may be a total idiot, but the man is the bloody Energizer Bunny when it comes to…never mind.
He did follow me outside later when I went out for a fag. DooWop Guy absolutely detests smoking and mentions it to me frequently for some peculiar reason so I usually just say I’m going to the loo. I think I won’t share the details of that conversation with Israeli Guy but I left with the guy I came with.
Dearest Sister Pinkie put it best in her Christmas message: ‘Enjoy your last Christmas in the Garden State. Come home and live off Exit 11 of the M25.” You’re damned right I cried.