My in-laws arrived last night around 9:30 p.m. They were more awake than I thought they would be after such a long flight. “Look at that!” They pointed at various things in the Phoenix landscape. “Wow! A Cactus!” my MIL pressed her face against the window.
Back at our house it was all smiles. They went into their room to unpack their bags, unloading about sixty pounds of pecorino and parmasian cheese, “gifts for Misty’s family.” They also brought four bottles of grappa, coffee, and a new pair of pajamas for Francesco.
“That definitely has me thinking of sex” I shook my head at the plaid, blue, get-up.
He shrugged, “It’s normal in Italy.”
“Yeah,” I picked up Oliver to kiss him, “which explains your dramatically low birthrate.”
Or does it?
A few minutes later Francesco’s mother padded out into the living room, refreshed from her shower, wearing a head to toe pink pajama set. On her shoulder, in bedazzled lettering, there were words. I took a closer look because I was pretty sure I was reading it incorrectly. Nope. “SEX AND LOVE,” in English, in sparkling gems.
I whispered to Francesco, “She cannot wear that around my 10 year sister.”
I told her what Sex And Love meant in Italian. She shrugged, “I’m too old for sex or love.” I’ve always liked that Italians can be so relaxed about such things. My step mom would be horrified if she found out she was padding around the house, advertising certain services.
We showed them the house which they liked well enough. Then they moved on to inspecting us like cattle. I was able to check off a few of my list of anticipated feedback. She poked my butt, “You gained weight but only in your ass.” She caressed my cheek, “And is that a mole? You need to have that lasered off.” She moved my hair off of my shoulder, “at least with bangs I can see your face, but you know, that long hair,” she shook her head. For anyone that has lived in Italy, this kind of commentary is relatively normal. Believe it or not, she’s not trying to be mean. She just feels like it’s her duty to ensure that both Francesco and I are always in tip top breeding shape. “When are you guys going to have a baby?” She leaned against our granite top cabinet.
Around midnight I made everyone chamomile tea with honey. Then we all went to bed.
This morning Francesco went to work so it was my job to keep them entertained all day. We made coffee. They ate chocolate chip cookies; I had a banana. Francesco’s dad took Oliver for a walk but returned immediately when a neighbor tried to speak with him. I put a load of laundry in for my MIL who was amazed by the sheer size of the washing machine. “Wow! That’s incredible! Look at that! And a dryer! You have your own dryer!?” She opened and closed the door a dozen times. She found other things fascinating: The electric stove, central heating, and coconut sugar. The vacuume is by far her favorite. She’s hell bent on bringing two back home with her, “the technology!”
We went to Target to buy things they needed like after-shave, face-wash, and a new table runner for my table because, “Why don’t you have a table runner!?” They were giddy, walking up and down the aisles, examining all of the foreign goodies. My MIL was scaring mothers by petting their babies, and offending others by shoulder checking them out of her way so she could examine gift bags. We went to Starbucks where my FIL used a debit card for the first time. He giggled, “WOW! That’s so fast! How do you know it worked?” He demanded the receipt because otherwise how would he know what his balance was? I took photos of them in Starbucks, posing, with their coffee that was, “really gross.”
Then we went to Whole Foods, and this is where shit totally fell apart.
After about three minutes in Whole Foods my in-laws were yelling. How is it possible that apples are 2.99 per pound? Except they didn’t understand what a pound was so they wanted me to weight everything, figure out what it was in kilos, then convert the price to euros. Every.Single. Item. Apples, tomatoes, walnuts, was a fifteen minute discussion where in the end my MIL would throw her hands up, “This is just too expensive! NO! We’re not getting it!” and demand it be put back. We’re not talking about twenty dollars here, we’re talking about 3.00 dollars. Don’t get me wrong, produce is more expensive in the US and Whole Foods totally ass rapes you (I had to take them there, the quality in a normal grocery store would have given them an aneurysm) but it’s not so expensive that it could cause one to die. They’re not poor. After 45 minutes we settled on walnuts, tomatoes, flour, and apples.
After the shock at Whole Foods they were hungry. I gave them some options and my FIL chose mexican because he loves spicy food. My MIL was pissed because she didn’t want “to eat anything that wasn’t Italian. End of story!” This statement was accompanied by foot stomping, the way a toddler might when denied candy. She was in the US to spread her cooking goodwill around to others, damnit! We ended up going to a really great Mexican place. I ordered them tacos while my MIL talked shit about two old women drinking margaritas together. We had a glass of Malbec. When the food came my FIL liked it well enough. He ate two bowls of salsa and two baskets of chips, plus his tacos and all of his refried beans. Every time a brown person walked by my MIL would point and ask, “Is that a Mexican?” When her food arrive she tried it, decided it was disgusting, then went on a long-winded rant about Italian superiority. “I just think that people love Italy and Italians. Our food is just better. I can’t believe that people eat Mexican food. It’s disgusting. You know, I really should open a restaurant across the street…” followed by a long list of “delicious,” foods she would serve to save the people from having to eat other ethnic foods.
Our waitress came over, “What language are they speaking?”
“Oh!” she smiled, “I like to eat spaghetti!” She said, in Italian, “I learned that and a few other phrases in school.”
My FIL was elated that our waitress knew a sentence of his mother-tongue. Since she had flattered him by gracing herself with the Italian language he wanted to repay her by joining her for life to one of his brethren, “You need a nice Italian man,” he told her.
“Oh? Find me one!” She cleared the table.
“I’ll find you a nice boy from Naples! You come to Italy, come find us, and I’ll find you one!” He laughed.
“Great!” She ran towards the kitchen.
He looked at us, “Should I give her our address?”
I taught them how to tip, which my FIL was intrigued by, my MIL was furious. “MORE MONEY!?” She exhaled loudly like a deflating balloon.
Back at my house my FIL went to work cleaning out my vacuum filter using one of our knives from a $200.00 set my sister gave us, jamming it into the depth of our dusty vacuum filter. Then he took to cleaning the air filter for our central air, after I’d vacuumed, tracking dust from one side of the house to the other. “I need to also clean the tiny air filters,” he said, pointing to the heat vent. I explained that it was a vent that produced either hot air or cold air. He wouldn’t find an air filter in each one in every room. This baffled him.
Finally, after I’d vacuumed sixty times, cleaned the stove 200, and fetched 9,000 things for them, the mom settled into the kitchen to make pizza (while mumbling to herself “thank God I can cook, unlike everybody else in this country.”
Around 7 PM I put on an Italian film in Netflix something with Sophia Loren. They settle down into the couch and were entertained until Francesco came home. Only 20 more days to go.