Francesco and I were in Cassino, Italy, for two weeks for our niece’s communion. For those of you that didn’t grow up Catholic (like I didn’t), it’s a Catholic rite of passage and-let me google it.
Wikipedia says, “In the simplest terms, First Holy Communion is a religious ceremony performed in church by Catholics when a child reaches the age of around 7-8 years and celebrates the first time that they accept the bread and wine (also known as the Eucharist). The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ.” I actually didn’t know that.
Anyway, we showed up late because I take forever to do everything. I threw on the Reformation dress that I’d ordered and had tailored to account for the ten pounds my ass has grown in the past year. I didn’t bother with my hair, threw on some mascara, my sandals, and flew out the door. We ran in the church like crazy people and felt pretty good that the ceremony was just starting. I was making faces at my niece (because she’s eight and my job as her aunt is to be immature and ridiculous with her) when my father-in-law came over to me and said, “Hey! You’re dress! Pin it together! It’s too low for church!” And I was like, “Oh, shit. But my shoulders are covered!” And apparently, that didn’t matter which was confusing because I thought that my loose flowy dress with long sleeves was fine. It did have a deep V neck but I am, uhm, without large boobs, so it wasn’t very revealing. My father-in-law said, “Misty, PIN IT,” again so I desperately searched my bag for something and all I could find was a planned parenthood pin. So, my father-in-law helped me pin my dress closed with it. All was fine in the world. Then he said, “this is crap,” and headed out of the church. F and I were like, “Whoa, wait for us!” and we followed him to a cafe nearby to drink coffee and chat. My FIL never sticks around for religious stuff, which is weird because he’s often pushing religious events that he later bails on. Towards the end of my niece’s ceremony, we wandered back to the church where my MIL gave us the stink eye because I took a picture of my niece, which is a big “no” I guess because only the church photographer is allowed to take pictures of the ritual and then the parents can buy the pictures from him. “It’s a sneaky business,” my FIL whispered.
After the church, we went to a hotel for the reception and I was like, “Oh, this a little wedding!” Because that’s basically what the event resembled from an outsider perspective, but I guess in this case she’d be marrying Jesus. My niece wore a white gown, like a tiny wedding dress in the church followed by a 6-hour lunch reception in a hotel. My niece was into it and I haven’t seen her that happy, like ever, because this is a kid that’s been talking about marriage since she was three.
In between each course, there was a thirty-minute break where the kids would run out and play and the adults would knock back extra glasses of wine or nap (Francesco). I used it as an opportunity to get as much kid time in as possible because we only see our nieces once per year. They were playing in the grass, my sandals were heeled, so I took them off to play tag with the girls.
“ZIA! NO!!!!” my older niece gasped, “you can’t do that!”
My youngest niece giggled uncontrollably and twirled in her dress.
“I can and I will. I come from wild places, honey. Remember Yellowstone?” In the US, especially the west, we spend a lot of time in the mountains, in nature, shoes on or off, like little mountain goblins. As a kid, I only ran barefoot on grass, hair tangled, as I scuttled up trees and searched for tadpoles in the creek near my house. When we took my nieces to Yellowstone last year, I took their shoes and socks off and put their feet in the river so we could eat our sandwiches on the bank, with the cool water on our toes. It was the first time they’d ever put their feet in a river. “Si,” she nodded, “Yellowstone,” and she relaxed. What can I say? I’m a bad influence. After playing tag with the kids for a while we were called back to lunch. On my way, I removed the pin on my dress because it was damaging the fabric.
What can I say? I’m a bad influence. After playing tag with the kids for a while we were called back to lunch. On my way back inside, I removed the pin on my dress because it was damaging the fabric. I ate some ravioli, drank a little wine, and went back outside with Francesco to rest by the pool. I was standing at the edge of the pool, hoping that someone would push me in for some relief from the heat, when my MIL came sprinting towards me like a train that had run off track.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” She screamed, loud enough to get the attention of the other guests outside who all turned to watch.
She lunged forward and grabbed the neckline of my dress and began pulling it together. I politely pushed her hands away but she grabbed my dress again and shook me, “MY SON DOESN’T LIKE IT! THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR MY SON. OH DIO! FIX IT!”
And something in me snapped. I stepped towards her, threw my head back, like a posturing gorilla, “Does it look like I care what you think, or,” I pointed dramatically at everyone outside, “what these people think? I don’t give a shit.” Although, I directly translated this from English but said it in an Italian way so it actually sounded more like, “I don’t take a shit,” which is like, way less forceful and just sounds like a have a public bowel issue. Then I calmly adjusted my dress, “Your son helped me choose this. If he thought it was appropriate, it’s fine.” Then my sister-in-law jumped up next to me and said, “leave her alone, mom.” And my MIL stormed inside the hotel.
I sat down next to Francesco who looked like he was in shock.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked.
“Well, I didn’t know what to say. I was completely caught off guard. And, you definitely looked like you had it under control.”
“That wasn’t okay, what she just did.”
“I know,” he agreed.
Then my MIL came outside again and sat down next to F.
“Mom, you cannot act like that,” he shook his head.
“I’m sorry,” she leaned forward to look at me, “I’m sorry. I thought your dress had ripped and you were just leaving it open.”
“Mom, her dress is long sleeved and to the floor. It’s not that low, there’s nothing wrong with it. You cannot do stuff like this. Just leave her alone.”
“I know,” she said.
We all sat quietly for a while, trying to figure out how to exist within a family.