Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a stellar weekend-I did. Although, I did not get any writing done, whatsoever. Instead, I was too busy getting ready for Franchesca's 9th birthday party. Again. Yep, we had another 9th birthday celebration for my Franchesca on Saturday night.
Since my brother was traveling for work and some other members of the family were not able to make it to her indoor water park extravaganza, we had another party for her at my sister's house. This may seem like overkill to most people, but in a large, close-knit, Italian family like mine, until every single one of you are available to sit down and eat cake together, your birthday is simply not considered "celebrated". Trust me, I've tried to skirt this tradition before and found the incessant phone calls and asking about "when are we having cake for .....?" will just not stop, until this ritual is performed. It's one of the things that I love (and hate) about my family.
Let me explain. Growing up Italian, there are things that we simply accept as normal operating procedure that to any one else, would seem crazy. We take something as simple as meals, birthday celebrations and normal get togethers and turn them into monumental productions. We don't know how to do it any other way; it's just how we roll. If you invite twenty people over, you must make enough food to feed 100. Or else, God forbid, you might run out of food!?! That, my friends, is a cardinal sin. And the kind of embarrassment an Italian could never live down. No, it's always better to make way more than what you need, that way no one ever leaves your house hungry or empty handed.
An Italian house party, (if you've never been) is simply something I think everyone must experience, at least once in their life. Allow me to recount the same speech I used to give to my "white" friends, whenever I was preparing them to come home and meet the family. (I'd been to most of their houses, and didn't think it fair, to just throw them to the wolves like that, without any preparation of what to expect.)
Here's my list of Italian House Party Do and Don'ts:
(1) Know it will be loud. At any given time, two or three people will be talking over each other, and at you, all at once. They will ask you non-stop, inappropriate, nosy-ass questions they don't really expect you to answer. If you feel you must answer them, then direct your answer to the oldest. That will be respected.
(2) Even in the dead of winter, that house will be HOT. Do not wear a sweater. Don't believe me? Fine, check the windows while you are walking up, they will be sweating just as much as you will be if you don't heed my warning. The heat can't be helped. The ovens have been on for at least two days and with that many people, it's impossible to keep the house cool.
(3) Prepare to be groped. You will be passed around, embraced and kissed incessantly. Just grin and bear it, it will all be over soon. Well, at least until you want to leave. Then it will start up all over again.
(4) If you are allergic to animals of any kind, make sure you take an allergy pill. Not only does the house you are entering have pets, at least two or three party goers will bring their own with. DO not attempt to pet anything without permission. Most of these animals have gone deaf or have lost their ability to bark, but all of them are taught to bite strangers.
(5) Do not eat or drink anything 24 hours prior to arrival. And whatever you do, whenever they ask, deny being hungry. You will thank me for this. Because no matter how many times you deny being hungry, the absurd amount of food and drinks that will still be pressed up on you from the time you arrive to the time you depart will leave you not wanting to even think about food for weeks afterwards.
(5)Wear soft, stretchy pants. This is for your comfort and safety. If you choose to wear jeans or a tight skirt, not only will you be ridiculously sorry and uncomfortable, you will be forced to open the top two buttons on those jeans and/or ditch the panty hose, in order to make it safely through to dessert.
(6) There WILL BE a cousin there who wants to "hook you up". No matter how hard he tries to convince you what a great deal it is he's giving you, for the love of God, DO NOT buy anything from him. No matter how "sweet" he seems, know this, he is ripping you off. If you go through with this sketchy transaction, it's on you. I warned you and will take zero responsibility when are whining to me about how the authorities confiscated your brand new merchandise as Exhibit A, since they were finally able to trace back whatever it is my cousin jacked this time, back to you.
Oh, my list could go on and on. But no amount of warnings could fully prepare my friends for what they were about to witness, unless they saw it firsthand, for themselves. Even still, half of them didn't believe me. It wasn't until my friends and I would be leaving, that they would start shaking their heads and shouting in disbelief (they would be shouting at me not because they were angry, but because their ears were still trying to recover from the dangerous noise levels they just endured, and like a concert, it leaves them temporarily deaf for a day or two) "Oh my gawd Jen, I can't believe it. I thought you were just exaggerating!" But alas, I was not.
Despite their initial reservations and feelings of being a fish out of water, they were only "strangers" once. It always amused me to see how my friends transformed themselves while hanging at my house. Their normal, uptight control thrown out the sweaty window, as they stuffed themselves to the gills with cheese and meat like a giant ravioli. How they started to anticipate and look forward to spending more and more time at my house for parties and holidays. I watched in awe as they learned to bribe the animals not to bite them anymore with little pieces of salami. It warmed my heart to see how they began to cherish and look forward to the hugs and kisses my family lavished on them. And man, it always killed me when out of nowhere, they would ditch their manners and insecurities and start shouting out their opinions, so they could be heard over every one else. My Aunts and Grandmother giving them a nod and a wink, encouraging them on.
So, although the Italian house party is a loud, hot, over the top and monumental production, I find myself continuing these traditions I grew up with in my own home. Honestly, I wouldn't do it any other way. What are your family traditions like? Do you continue in the ways of your parents and theirs? Why or why not?
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- In case any of my friends or family members actually read this Blog, please consider all Names, Characters, Places and Incidents to be the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales are entirely COINCIDENTAL...Muaaah!! Now, really, about me: I bring the crazy wherever I go, so I've been told...I make fun of myself more than anyone else ever could. I hate: the awkward silence in elevators, watches with no numbers, picky eaters, Cancer and legalism. I love: coffee, stalking Hugh Jackman, my Spanx, COMMENTS, sarcasm and writing: Middle Grade, NA, YA Paranormal and Urban Fantasy.