Back to the bit about me being half Italian. It is entirely my mother's fault. Both her parents are Italian, and their parents are also Italian. All this is why I find myself here in Italy with twelve other family members, namely my mom, my two brothers, and all our respective partners and offspring. It's a family heritage trip to the part of Italy from whence came my mother's maternal grandparents, my Bisnonno and Bisnonna.
I never met my Bisnonna as she died when my mom was a child. But I remember my Bisnonno fairly well; positively ancient and smelling faintly of parmesan he would ask if I thought he'd get into heaven when he died. Being a non-religious and slightly awkward ten year old with zero knowledge of Italian, I figured the best thing to do was to just keep nodding. I'm pretty sure he made it, because he was basically a good guy (though my Grandma did tell me that he slapped her in the face once for talking to a boy when she was a teenager - times have changed, yo) and from what I understand that's where good guys go who are Roman Catholic or whatever. Heaven. In case you got lost.
ANYWAYS. I just thought you guys might be wondering where I've been for the past three weeks. My great-grandparents were from near this part of Italy that I'm surrounded by. At the moment, I'm on a recliner beside a pool laid out in a beautifully landscaped villa property nestled in the Apennines, farmland and hills of Le Marche countryside, probably owned by British people. I say probably because one is never sure about who actually owns a vacation property. Is it the person you negotiated the rental with, or is it the person who's family photos are staring back at you from every horizontal and vertical surface in the main floor common rooms? I hate that! Seriously, one time we stayed in a vacation rental house in New Brunswick and the "in-laws" official silver anniversary photos were hung on the wall above the bed in the master bedroom. Not exactly conducive to sexy-time, if you know what I mean.
My mom went around the villa, collected all the family photos and put them in a cupboard. Sorry property owner family members! (Not really. We've paid enough money to enjoy this vacation in your crib without having you watch us).
When I say "enjoy" I really mean take turns having meltdowns. Here is a graph:
Are you still with me? Try and keep up because there might be a quiz later.
When you put thirteen (I know, I know) people together in a house in paradise, and the people are my family, you're tempting the most disastrous kind of fate. And fate did not shy away, unfortunately, it was most inconveniently forthcoming. Grown men transformed into macho babies, the food and wine that was meant to be an expression of love was turned into a weapon. Egos exploded left and right, bitter accusations borne of baggage long-dragged flew, tears were shed quietly behind closed doors and hearts... were fractured. I thanked the Universe or whatever that I had quit drinking a few months earlier, because I might have otherwise been sucked into the abyss.
And yet...there were gems. The birds, the hills, the people in Le Marche, the coffee, the shoes and handbags, tiny lizards running through the grass, humble corners of cobbled village streets, and the softest sunlight filtering down on everything. It was a sheer joy to watch the kids fling themselves into the food, the family and the pool in spite of the dramaz. My three year old nieceling was cousining for the first time in her young life, surrounded by five mostly teenagers.
But the best? Was hearing my mom speak Italian; the shining faces of the local people looking up to her and seeing one of their own. Ever the lady, unbroken and lovely, here in Italy. A worthy Matriarch.
Also I have a tan. A half-Italian one.
Follow #jcinitaly on my Instagram for more humble pics of Italy. Coming home in a few days. After that...California.