October 8, 1970, a day that will go down in infamy. Well, at least in my book anyway. What began as an ordinary day for two unsuspecting teens ended up being the start of a fifty year amusement ride. You see, that was the day I met the boy I’d marry. It was also the beginning of my life with his Italian family. Need I say more.
Meeting him definitely changed the course of my life. I had always been drawn to guys that had a little bad boy edge to them. His image was clean and wholesome so I was surprised that I gravitated toward him. Little did I know that he was a wanna be bad boy. And he wanted to be bad with me. lol. He had a devilish charm about him with a pouty lips smile and a way of singing love songs to me that made him irresistible. I succumbed to his charm.
Whenever we’d talk on the phone, he’d sing those love songs to me which drove his mother crazy. She was a firecracker who could explode at any given moment especially when it came to me and her first born. We both loved her son but she wasn’t quite willing to let him go, especially to me. That should have been my warning sign but noooo I was a gluten for punishment which turned out to make for some of the best stories of our life together.
His mom was a straight off the boat, true Italian mom. She had conjured up in her mind the perfect girl for her son if and when she was willing to let him go. I fit none of the criteria and she never hesitated to let me know. She thought I was a bad influence on him. It was just the opposite. Oh, if she only knew.
Being a third generation American born Italian (I wasn’t a real Italian, ha, ha) and coming from divorced parents Immediately gave two strikes against me. The third strike was that her son was quite infatuated with me and she “no likea dat”. He wasa too younga to makea da serious girlafriend. She no like he pay too mucha attention on me. He saposa go to school and getta da educate. The truth is, he had a mind of his own and I was his scapegoat. He rather liked that because it usually brought sympathy from his mom. He knew just how to work her which somehow gave him the pseudonym of “Poor Augie”. He was afraid of his mom so whenever his did something he knew would upset her…I took the fall because after all, her doll was a good boy. Deep down she knew he was no angel which is why she had a need to protect him. And she had to protect him from the clutches of his American girlafriend. lol
After 4 years of dating we finally got married which in my naive mind I thought meant we could now live a traditional family life the way it was portrayed on TV. You know, a typical “American” family lifestyle. No, our marriage was my initiation into Love Italian Style. I was not ready for that.
On our honeymoon night, his mom informed us that “before you makea da sex, you musta calla and leta me know how mucha everybody putta ina da envelope. We gotta keeps track. Itsa import we know how much everybod givea. She made sure to put a pen and notebook next to the new pajamas she bought for her son to wear on the honeymoon night so he no be cold. We took the pen and book along with the aboost bag of envelopes and diligently wrote down what everybody gave. That list was like sacred scripture. lol. We didn’t call and he didn’t wear the pajamas. We had better things to do like watch the television premier of The Godfather. lol Marlon Brando had nothing on my new mother-in-law. She was full of offers we better not refuse.
One of the offers we couldn’t refuse was to move into a tiny two and a half room apartment in their house. We had been married and living on our own for about eight years. We loved the apartment we were in but our landlord wanted it for himself. Moving to their home would give our two kids the opportunity to go to a better school district so we took the offer. I was leery about moving into his parents house but my husband assured me he’d set ground rules. You don’t set ground rules with Italian moms, you follow their rules or you’ll never hear the end of it. Oh God, what had I done by agreeing to move there?
The apartment we moved into consisted of a small kitchen, a living room which we made our bedroom and a tiny room off the kitchen which we used as a bedroom for our son and daughter. Not an ideal setup but I had to keep reminding myself about the school opportunity. I figured we’d stay a year then get a better apartment in the neighborhood. As I said, I wasn’t to keen on living there but the hubby assured me he would not let his mom interfere in our life. I believed him. Mistake number one.
Our bedroom had a door which led to both the basement and the entranceway to his parents upstairs apartment. The door had a hook and eye lock on it that could be easily opened to peak inside. At 5:45 am on our first night in our new apartment, I heard a noise by that door. Oh, dear God, please don’t let it be what I think it is. I opened my eyes and sure enough what did I see? It wasn’t Santa and his reindeer. Oh no, it was Caterina and her wooden spoon. There she stood in full Italian mom mode. She greeted me with a “Aloe, whata you do? Ima here I watcha you sleep. Itsa time you get upa. I wanna makes da breakafesta for Augie? Get ups yourself. No makea Augie get up. Let’s my doll sleep, he worka so hard yesterday widda da move.
Oh, I wanted to get up all right. I wanted to get up and run far, far away. My father’in-law had also come down to make a trip to the “cellar wine” to casually see if we messed up his bachament with our living room furniture. He started to yell at his wife. “Caterina, whatta you do? Why you gotta makea da spy on Augie? Whatta you craz? Git oudda here? As soon as they left, I turned to my husband and said. I’m moving. He wasn’t moving anywhere. He was home sweet home and was loving every minute of it.
We lived there for seven years. Seven long Italian mom years which felt like an eternity. lol. The plus was that we took a room from their front apartment which gave us a more private bedroom away from that door. The downside to having our new bedroom was that it overlooked my mother-in-laws flower garden. Whenever she was feeling peppy she would go out and tend to her garden. One morning around 3:30-4:00 am, I heard someone whispering my name by my open window. I woke up to her asking why I no comea outside to helps her digga da garden. Oh, I wanted to dig something alright, a giant hole to climb into. lol. I graciously refused her invitation. Then she said: You no makea da sex with a my son now, letta him sleep. I gonna listen by da window. Augie’s a good boy, he worka so hard, my doll. I no wanna you wakea him up. What?????
Another time probably around 5:00 am, I hear her singing Italian love songs out my window. She calls Augies name and asks him to come sing with her while she does the garden. “You comea Singa to me likea daddy used a do in Italy. He yells at her to shut up and she gets mad at me because he said shut up to her. She tells him to go back to sleep and no makea da love to you wife. You need a resta yourself cause you to tired to singa wit me”?!?! Are you following her pattern here? lol
I could go on and on with stories that I’ve compiled over my 50 years with this man and his mom but I’ll end it with these two final stories.
Caterina, would think nothing of coming into our apartment if my front door was open. I kept it locked and bolted lol. One day I was having my neighbor over for lunch. We were sitting in my kitchen when in walks my mother-in-law. She sees were having lunch and says: “oh, you have a da lunch? It smells delicious. You no invitea me so I invitea myself. She then proceeds to sit down and join us. About 40 minutes later, we hear this commotion outside my door as someone is running up her back steps. It was a fireman. Someone had been walking by and saw smoke coming from upstairs so they called the fire department. Apparently, she had been cooking upstairs before she decided to crash my luncheon and forgot that the stove was on. Let’s just say she did some pretty good damage up there. Of course she wanted to know why I no tells her she leavea da pots ona da stove. How would I have known she did? All in all she thought it was pretty funny. My father in law did not. I was hoping he’d ban her from coming downstairs. He did not. He knew she’d never listen.
Finally, one of my all time favorite stories of living in that house was when my father in law came home from work to find her hanging out outside. And I mean that literally. Caterina had a habit of rushing, especially when she was peppy. She also had a habit of falling down steps. This one particular day, she was rushing down her back outside steps when her foot got caught in between the rungs and she wound up dangling upside down. I don’t remember what I was doing at the time. I was probably hiding from her. lol. All of a sudden, I heard my father in law yelling at her. He was just getting home from work when he saw her hanging upside down off the steps. He was saying: “whatta you craz, the people gonna see you hanga dare. Why you no fixa yourself”? How could she fix herself? Her foot was stuck and she was too short to reach up and untangle it so she just hung there laughing. My father in law was not amused. He was more embarrassed for himself than for her.
In retrospect, after all these years, I am so grateful that I became a part of this wonderful Italian family. Think of how boring my life would be had I not fallen for the boy with the Italian mom.
Married 44 years to my hubby whose purpose in life is to prevent me from getting through the “Pearly Gates”. Mother of two, Nanna of four loving granddaughters and retired secretary aka administrative assistant. I went to the University of Hard Knocks where I received my Doctorate. My thesis is titled: How To Survive Life’s Trials Without Killing Yourself or Someone Else. I live by the belief that when life throws you a curve, learn from it rather than use it against yourself. Faith and humor are my survival kit. Appreciate the simple things for they are the true treasures of life.